How can Heuristics Protect You?

By Courtnie Packer
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Thousands of new viruses are developed each day. To prevent these dangerous threats from infecting your computing devices, it is crucial you get extra protection to keep your data safe. Security applications that provide all-in-one computer protection supply the security you need for your computer, tablet and smartphone. However, when you seek out security products, keep in mind the software is only as good as the protection it provides. Some applications offer a powerful layer of protection while others aren't as effective.

Many of the more advanced applications use heuristics to identify malware. This type of detection technology can be difficult to understand but it does an effective job identifying malware that could potentially damage your device and your personal data.

What are heuristics?

Heuristics are rules for understanding behavior. In security software, heuristics are used to recognize characteristics of malware that might otherwise go undetected. Instead of looking for virus signatures, which many security software applications do, heuristic scanning looks at the traits of a file and identifies specific commands or characteristics that could signal a potential threat. This includes things such as the size of the file or additional, seemingly insignificant lines of code.

Heuristics engines often contain a variety of components to help identify threats. These include a memory emulator, parser, flow analyzer, analyzer and a disassembler. Not all of these pieces will be found within each heuristics engine, but many will depending on how advanced the application is.

The whole idea behind a heuristic scan is to examine a file piece by piece. A heuristic scan first examines files to look for unique characteristics that can identify malware. Each piece of the engine is involved in the examining and identifying process.

Why are heuristics important?

Heuristics are important to have on your security application so your software can detect known and unknown threats. When using heuristics, your software can detect if there is anything out of the ordinary by closely examining files one by one. This ever-watchful eye can uncover even brand new and undiscovered threats before they cause damage to your data.

Heuristics are also important because some malware can only be detected using methods such as heuristics. Metamorphic and polymorphic malware are types of malicious programs that can change their codes as they circulate. When the code changes, it's difficult to detect the malicious program through virus signatures. By examining the characteristics and the traits of the program, heuristic scanning can detect malware that would otherwise circumvent virus signatures.

The pros and cons of heuristic technology

As we mentioned before, one of the advantages to performing a heuristic scan is to find unknown threats or metamorphic and polymorphic malware. Unfortunately, there are also a few drawbacks to this type of scan. They are much slower than most scans because the process is much more system intensive and detailed. Also, the scan may identify many perfectly safe files as potentially malicious. This requires more effort on your part because you need to go back and review all of the findings of a heuristic scan to ensure you aren't deleting any crucial files.

Heuristic scans do have a few drawbacks, but overall they provide an extra layer of security that gives you protection for all of your data and keeps your computing devices running smoothly. Remember to look for a security application with heuristic scanning capabilities. Your computer will be safer and your data will remain secure.

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Software » Security & Privacy » Computer Protection Software Review » How can Heuristics Protect You?