Polymorphic malware: Are you already familiar with this protective measure in the fight against dangerous malware?

Polymorphic malware is a novel, hard-to-detect threat that is becoming increasingly sophisticated thanks to AI tools. Find out here how you can thwart the “shape-shifting malware” and minimize the risk of damage.

What is polymorphic malware?

Polymorphic malware is malware that is able to change its code independently. These changes are made without affecting the basic functionality of the malware, which makes detection – for example by traditional antivirus programs and EDR systems – more difficult.

Why is polymorphic malware so dangerous?

The main danger of polymorphic malware lies in its ability to evade detection by signature-based programs and systems. By constantly changing their code, such malware variants can remain undetected and therefore active for longer.

This means that attackers have more time to cause damage – for example through data theft, espionage or blackmailing. The risk of attacks that are detected too late having far-reaching and costly consequences for your company is increasing by the minute.

Malware Developer (Bild: Freepik Pikasa)

What role does AI play in polymorphic malware?

The creation of polymorphic malware is simplified by the use of artificial intelligence. AI systems can analyze patterns in the detection software and generate algorithms that adapt their malware source code base accordingly.

This does not even require special AI tools, even ChatGPT is sufficient to create polymorphic malware and, above all, to adapt it to the malware’s runtime.

Why does System Hardening help against polymorphic malware?

Malware of any kind can only cause damage if it can be infiltrated into systems on the one hand and if it hits unprotected areas, functions and applications on the other.

However, if you configure your operating systems and applications in such a way that there are significantly fewer attack surfaces and security gaps, polymorphic malware also loses its terror. Thanks to Secure Configuration Management and System Hardening, malware can cause little or, in the best case, no damage at all.

In a podcast discussion with the German Alliance for Cyber Security, Florian Bröder (Managing Director of FB Pro) emphasizes why System Hardening is so effective: “At the end of the day, a vulnerability is exploited. No matter what the source code looks like – this thing is the attack vector. But if I use System Hardening, then the attack vector is gone.”

Bröder continues: “No matter how often malware changes the source code, no matter whether it is detected or not – there is no attack vector!” This means that you no longer have to rely on detecting anomalies. Instead, IT systems are – metaphorically speaking – locked and bolted down.

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Images: Adobe Firefly, Freepik Pikaso

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