[Offtopic] 'CloudAV' next-gen antivirus

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Sun Aug 10 16:16:23 EST 2008

Aug. 5, 2008  http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=6666

Researchers develop next-generation antivirus system
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—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 

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.

The paper is called: CloudAV: N-Version Antivirus in the Network Cloud.

Cheers people
Stephen Loosley
Victoria, Australia

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