Researchers develop next-generation computer antivirus system

August 6, 2008
Researchers develop next-generation computer antivirus system

(PhysOrg.com) -- Antivirus software on your personal computer could become a thing of the past thanks to a new "cloud computing" approach to malicious software detection developed at the University of Michigan. Cloud computing refers to applications and services provided seamlessly on the Internet.

Traditional antivirus software is installed on millions of individual computers around the world but according to researchers, antivirus software from popular vendors is increasingly ineffective. The researchers observed malware --malicious software--detection rates as low as 35 percent against the most recent threats and an average window of vulnerability exceeding 48 days. That means new threats went undetected for an average of seven weeks. The computer scientists also found severe vulnerabilities in the antivirus engines themselves.

The researchers' new approach, called CloudAV, moves antivirus functionality into the "network cloud" and off personal computers. CloudAV analyzes suspicious files using multiple antivirus and behavioral detection programs simultaneously.

"CloudAV virtualizes and parallelizes detection functionality with multiple antivirus engines, significantly increasing overall protection," said Farnam Jahanian, professor of computer science and engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Jahanian, along with doctoral candidate Jon Oberheide and postdoctoral fellow Evan Cooke, both in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, recently presented a paper on the new approach at the USENIX Security Symposium.

To develop this novel approach, the researchers evaluated 12 traditional antivirus software programs against 7,220 malware samples, including viruses, collected over a year. The vendors tested were: Avast, AVG, BitDefender, ClamAV, CWSandbox, F-Prot, F-Secure, Kaspersky, McAfee, Norman Sandbox, Symantec and Trend Micro.

Traditional antivirus software that resides on a personal computer checks documents and programs as they are accessed. Because of performance constraints and program incompatibilities, only one antivirus detector is typically used at a time.

CloudAV, however, can support a large number of malicious software detectors that act in parallel to analyze a single incoming file. Each detector operates in its own virtual machine, so the technical incompatibilities and security issues are resolved, Oberheide said.

CloudAV is accessible to any computer or mobile device on the network that runs a simple software agent. Each time a computer or device receives a new document or program, that item is automatically detected and sent to the antivirus cloud for analysis. The CloudAV system the researchers built uses 12 different detectors that act together to tell the inquiring computer whether the item is safe to open.

CloudAV also caches analysis results, speeding up the process compared with traditional antivirus software. This could be useful for workplaces, for example, where multiple employees might access the same document. The new approach also includes what the developers call "retrospective detection," which scans its file access history when a new threat is identified. This allows it to catch previously-missed infections earlier.

The researchers see promising opportunities in applying CloudAV to cell phones and other mobile devices that aren't robust enough to carry powerful antivirus software.

CloudAV Project Summary: www.eecs.umich.edu/fjgroup/cloudav/

Provided by University of Michigan

Explore further: The Hacking Team and their industry thrive on a climate of fear that they help create

Related Stories

Redirect to SMB vulnerability in Windows discovered

April 14, 2015

News stories on tech spots on Monday reported that the Irvine, California, security company Cylance's SPEAR research team discovered a vulnerability relating to all versions of Windows including the Windows 10 Preview. The ...

A Q&A about the malicious software known as ransomware

April 8, 2015

Ransomware is a growing threat to computer users, who can suddenly find they're unable to open or use their files when their machines are infected. The malicious software can attack any user—an individual, small business, ...

Malware may knock thousands off Internet on Monday

July 5, 2012

Despite repeated alerts, tens of thousands may still lose their Internet service Monday unless they do a quick check of their computers for malware that could have taken over their machines more than a year ago.

Recommended for you

Cellphones can steal data from 'air-gapped computers'

July 28, 2015

Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Cyber Security Research Center have discovered that virtually any cellphone infected with a malicious code can use GSM phone frequencies to steal critical information ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gmurphy
not rated yet Aug 07, 2008
use linux, protection through obscurity!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.