Old Tech New Patent: Microsoft Patents Proactive Virus Protection
rpshen | May 21, 2008 at 01:53 pmby
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Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has just snared a U.S. patent for proactive virus protection, which is how security software helps secure your PC when it encounters shape-shifting malware not already in its antivirus definition file.
So just how does Microsoft's "System and method for proactive computer virus protection" work? Namely, that when the security software sees potential malware in action, it compares it against your PC's stored list of antivirus definitions. If it's in there, bingo, you've got a match, but that'd officially be the regular, nonproactive portion of the security software taking charge. No match, then the proactive analysis kicks in. Here, the code is looking to see whether the malware is similar to an old virus, on the theory that similarity might be sisterhood and, again, bingo, you've got your match.
Microsoft's patent is interesting and valuable stuff. But did they invent proactive virus protection? One wonders, given that McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro, and Kaspersky all offer products implementing proactive protection (as do Microsoft's own Sybari security products). Microsoft's patent application was filed on Feb. 20, 2004 (the patent was awarded on May 20, 2008.) A cursory Google search turns up the fact that there were indeed proactive virus products on the market in 2003 -- Norton and McAfee appear in the first page of results. This would seem to suggest that prior art existed, which, again, would throw up at least some questions about the Microsoft patent.
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