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Polymorphic Viruses - Implementation, Detection, and Protection

Tarkan Yetiser
January 1993

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Abstract

This paper discusses the subject of polymorphic engines and viruses. It looks at general characteristics of polymorphism as currently implemented. It tries to maintain a practical presentation of the subject matter rather than an academic and abstract approach that would confuse many people. Basic knowledge of the Intel 80x86 instruction set will be highly useful in understanding the material presented. A very detailed discussion is avoided not to have the side effect of "teaching" how to create polymorphic engines or viruses. The purpose is to help computer professionals understand this trend of virus development and the threats it poses. It should serve as a starting point for individuals who would like to get an idea about the polymorphic viruses and how they are implemented. Long gone are the days of innocence, when any schoolboy could write a virus scanner using a few signatures extracted from captured virus samples. The subject of polymorphism can be extended to other areas such as anti-reverse-engineering or anti-direct-attacks, and it can be argued to be useful in that context. This paper only looks at the use of polymorphism in PC viruses to avoid simple detection techniques.

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