Polymorphic and Cloning Computer Viruses

Essay by Ender WigginsHigh School, 11th gradeA+, October 1996

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The generation of today is growing up in a fast-growing, high-tech world which allows us to do the impossibilities of yesterday. With the help of modern telecommunications and the rapid growth of the personal computer in the average household we are able to talk to and share information with people from all sides of the globe. However, this vast amount of information transport has opened the doors for the computer 'virus' of the future to flourish. As time passes on, so-called 'viruses' are becoming more and more adaptive and dangerous. No longer are viruses merely a rarity among computer users and no longer are they mere nuisances. Since many people depend on the data in their computer every day to make a living, the risk of catastrophe has increased tenfold. The people who create computer viruses are now becoming much more adept at making them harder to detect and eliminate.

These so-called 'polymorphic' viruses are able to clone themselves and change themselves as they need to avoid detection. This form of 'smart viruses' allows the virus to have a form of artificial intelligence. To understand the way a computer virus works and spreads, first one must understand some basics about computers, specifically pertaining to the way it stores data. Because of the severity of the damage that these viruses may cause, it is important to understand how anti-virus programs go about detecting them and how the virus itself adapts to meet the ever changing conditions of a computer.

In much the same way as animals, computer viruses live in complex environments. In this case, the computer acts as a form of ecosystem in which the virus functions. In order for someone to adequately understand how and why the virus adapts itself, it must first be shown how the environment is...