Detection Methods

Doctor Web anti-virus solutions use several malicious software detection methods simultaneously, which allows them to perform thorough scans on suspicious files and control software behavior.

Signature Analysis

The scans begin with signature analysis that is performed by comparison of file code segments to the known virus signatures. A signature is a finite continuous sequence of bytes which is necessary and sufficient to identify a specific virus. To reduce the size of the signature dictionary, Dr.Web anti-virus solutions use signature checksums instead of complete signature sequences. Checksums uniquely identify signatures, which preserves correctness of virus detection and neutralization. Dr.Web virus databases are composed so that some entries can be used to detect not just specific viruses, but whole classes of threats.

Origins Tracing

On completion of signature analysis, Dr.Web anti-virus solutions use the unique Origins Tracing method to detect new and modified viruses that use the known infection mechanisms. Thus, Dr.Web users are protected against such threats as notorious blackmailer Trojan.Encoder.18 (also known as gpcode). In addition to detection of new and modified viruses, the Origins Tracing mechanism allows to considerably reduce the number of false triggering of the heuristic analyzer. Objects detected using the Origins Tracing algorithm are indicated with the .Origin extension added to their names.

Execution Emulation

The technology of program code emulation is used for detection of polymorphic and encrypted viruses, when the search against checksums cannot be applied directly, or is very difficult to be performed (due to the impossibility of building secure signatures). The method implies simulating the execution of an analyzed code by an emulator—a programming model of the processor and runtime environment. The emulator operates with protected memory area (emulation buffer), in which execution of the analyzed program is modelled instruction by instruction. However, none of these instructions is actually executed by the CPU. When the emulator receives a file infected with a polymorphic virus, the result of the emulation is a decrypted virus body, which is then easily determined by searching against signature checksums.

Heuristic Analysis

The detection method used by the heuristic analyzer is based on certain knowledge (heuristics) about certain features (attributes) that might be typical for the virus code itself, and vice versa, that are extremely rare in viruses. Each attribute has a weight coefficient which determines the level of its severity and reliability. The weight coefficient can be positive if the corresponding attribute is indicative of a malicious code or negative if the attribute is uncharacteristic of a computer threat. Depending on the sum weight of a file, the heuristic analyzer calculates the probability of unknown virus infection. If the threshold is exceeded, the heuristic analyzer generates the conclusion that the analyzed object is probably infected with an unknown virus.

The heuristic analyzer also uses the FLY-CODE technology, which is a versatile algorithm for extracting files. The technology allows making heuristic assumptions about the presence of malicious objects in files compressed not only by packagers Dr.Web is aware of, but also by new, previously unexplored programs. While checking packed objects, Dr.Web anti-virus solutions also use structural entropy analysis. The technology detects threats by arranging pieces of code; thus, one database entry allows identification of a substantial portion of threats packed with the same polymorphous packager.

As any system of hypothesis testing under uncertainty, the heuristic analyzer may commit type I or type II errors (omit viruses or raise false alarms). Thus, objects detected by the heuristic analyzer are treated as “suspicious”.

While performing any of the scans previously mentioned, Doctor Web anti-virus solutions use the most recent information about known malicious software. As soon as experts of Doctor Web anti-virus laboratory discover new threats, an update for virus database, behavior characteristics and attributes is issued. In some cases updates can be issued several times per hour. Therefore even if a brand new malicious program passes through the Dr.Web for Kerio Connect resident guards and penetrates the system, then after an update the malicious program is detected in the list of processes and neutralized.