The performance of antivirus software is an essential component of the smooth day-to-day running of many people’s professional and personal lives. Malicious programs created by cyber criminals and vandals are in continuous development, and the developers of anti virus software must keep up with their pace and even anticipate the innovations made in harmful programming. An important reference point for this work rests in the recognition of specific viruses. Antivirus software must be fitted to address the security issues raised by the particular ways in which these programs infect computers. The foundation for performing this task lies in the pinpointing of a virus’s signature, referred to as its algorithm or its hash.
A hash consists on the most basic level of the number value represented by a string of code which sets apart a virus from similar program. Another means for identifying a virus lies in its algorithm, though this technique is used more sparingly. In this case anti virus software examines the specific behavior manifested by the virus and identifies it in this way. Having made a judgment about the program, the antivirus software then submits the suspicious-looking object to the computer user for judgment. In various anti virus software programs the identifying marks of potential viruses will be referred to as signatures, definition files, or DAT files, but in every case the essential meaning is the same, of marking out a threat and then removing it.
New viruses can go undetected by antivirus software focused simply on picking up known signatures or DAT files. A useful technique for anti virus software programs goes under the title of heuristic thinking, consisting of an emphasis on quick, “intuitive” decisions rather firmly substantiated facts. In this instance of heuristic thinking as applied to antivirus software functions it can identify a newly formed virus by picking up on just one feature it shares in common with other viruses, and thereby making a summary judgment as to the nature of the potentially threatening program.
One aspect of the maintenance of anti virus software consists of the collection of data on virus signatures. Newly encountered viruses are submitted to testing by antivirus software professionals and entered into a database which allow scanning programs on personally owned computers remain effective. These updates on virus signatures is issued in regular updates to users with subscriptions to anti virus software. A side function of this upkeep is the removal of virus definitions that have become outdated. In some instances the makers of antivirus software will release new virus signatures out of date, if the recently discovered programs are determined to be exceptionally dangerous to computer security. The regular release of new virus definitions is also fitted to the threat presented by a kind of program, so that while the relatively less virulent adware may only require updates on a weekly basis far more malicious programs must be updated more frequently. Quality anti virus software programs can be determined from those that diligently provide this service.