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Virus Definitions

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

What are Virus Definitions?

A virus definition (also known as a virus signature) is a unique string of bits, or the binary pattern, of the machine code of a virus. The term "virus definitions" typically refers to the database of all current virus signature files used by a particular anti virus software for virus detection. Virus definitions are the primary method of detection for most anti virus software programs.

How are Virus Definitions Used?

During a virus scan, anti virus software compares the content on a computer (including the hard disk, boot sectors, RAM, and removable drives) against its virus defintion database. In the virus defintition database, each defintion, or pattern of binary code is unique to each variant of a virus. This enables anti virus software to effectively detect viruses upon the discovery of any of the code included in the virus defintion database.

Why are Virus Definitions Important?

For anti virus software to provide effective protection, it is essential that the virus definition database used is comprehensive and frequently updated. Virus authors are constantly creating new variants and new viruses in attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in user’s systems. All it takes is one worm or virus to wreak havoc and cause major destruction to a system or network. In order for anti virus software to provide maximum protection, it should be able to detect all known viruses, including the latest threats.

Examples of trusted anti virus software products that utilize an extensive database of continuously updating virus definitions include: McAfee and Norton. Both of these anti virus products also provide automatic virus definition updating, ensuring that users stay up-to-date with the latest threats.

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