Biological ideas

There are several similarities between biological viruses and computer viruses. While biological viruses invade cells to survive and propagate, computer viruses piggyback on files in a computer’s system to thrive and spread. Both types of viruses can also manipulate and corrupt their host’s code to make copies of themselves. A subset of computer malware called polymorphic malware, carries another characteristic from their biological counterpart’s arsenal: mutation. Polymorphism in malware design refers to the ability of a virus to mutate or change its code, making it more difficult for anti-virus software to detect and eliminate it. This is achieved by using a technique called code obfuscation, which changes the structure of the virus code without altering its functionality. As a result, each time the virus replicates, it creates a slightly different version of itself, making it extremely difficult for standard anti-virus software to keep up.

A favorite of hackers

Hackers like to use polymorphic viruses because they are highly effective at evading detection and spreading quickly. When a virus infects a system, it begins to replicate and spread to other computers, often using email or other network connections. If the virus is detected and removed by anti-virus software, the replication and spread are stopped. However, if the virus has polymorphic capabilities, it can mutate and create new versions of itself, which can evade detection and continue to spread.


One of the reasons hackers use polymorphic viruses is that they are relatively easy to create. There are many virus creation tools available online that can be used to create a basic virus, and adding polymorphic capabilities to the virus is not difficult. Additionally, because the virus mutates each time it replicates, it can be challenging for anti-virus software to keep up, making it an attractive option for hackers who want to stay ahead of security measures.

Another advantage of using polymorphic viruses is that they can be used to launch targeted attacks. For example, a hacker might use a polymorphic virus to target a specific organization or individual, and because the virus is constantly changing, it can be difficult for the target to detect and defend against the attack. This makes polymorphic viruses particularly effective in spear-phishing attacks, where a hacker uses social engineering techniques to trick a target into clicking on a link or downloading an infected file.

Defending against polymorphic threats

While polymorphic viruses are a significant threat to computer security, there are many steps that individuals and organizations can take to protect themselves, including:

  1. Using a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) at the perimeter of your network.
  2. Keeping software & firmware up to date.
  3. Protecting your cloud applications and email.
  4. Backing up your critical data.
  5. Using advanced endpoint protection (EDR).
  6. Practicing good cyber hygiene.

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About the Author

We are team Black Belt, cybersecurity specialists working in North Texas and beyond. We provide comprehensive cybersecurity services and consulting for businesses in many different industries, providing dependable solutions.

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