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The Antivirus Hacker's Handbook by Elias Bachaalany, Joxean Koret

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Chapter 5The Update System

Antivirus software is updated more often than most types of software on your computer. Every couple of hours, or at least once a day, new virus definition files are released by AV companies and downloaded by customers in order to protect them against the latest threats.

All modern antivirus software implements some sort of auto-updating feature. The components that are updated include the core kernel files, signature files, GUI, tools, libraries, or other product files. Depending on how the AV product is configured, automatic updates occur from once to several times per day. The antivirus update strategy depends on the frequency of the update requests. For example, a daily update usually involves pushing daily signatures to the clients. On the other hand, a weekly update involves a big revision download that updates a number of stable signatures.

These update rules are not set in stone, because sometimes when an update is performed, the entire set of signatures and plug-in files is changed. The size of the updates and the components that are updated depend largely on the plug-ins and signature schemes used: if the AV company uses a container for plug-ins and signatures, the entire container is downloaded each time the antivirus is updated. However, if the company distributes each component separately, only the modified components are downloaded.

This chapter discusses the various update protocols that are implemented by antivirus companies and their ...

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