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The Source of Viruses
Since a virus can be rather small, its code can be "hidden" inside other larger and more complicated programs. Two hundred lines of a virus could be separated into one hundred packets of two lines of code and a jump each; these one hundred packets could be easily hidden inside a compiler, a database manager, a file manager, or some other large utility.
Virus discovery could be aided by a procedure to determine if two programs are equivalent. However, theoretical results in computing are very discouraging when it comes to the complexity of the equivalence problem. The general question "Are these two programs equivalent?" is undecidable (although that question can be answered for many specific pairs of programs). Even ignoring the general undecidability problem, two modules may produce subtly different results that mayor may notbe security relevant. One may run faster, or the first may use a temporary file for workspace whereas the second performs all its computations in memory. These differences could be benign, or they could be a marker of an infection. Therefore, we are unlikely to develop a screening program that can separate infected modules from uninfected ones.
Although the general is dismaying, the particular is not. If we know that a particular virus may infect a computing system, we can check for it and detect it if it is there. Having found the virus, however, we are left with the task of cleansing the system of it. Removing the virus in a running system requires being able to detect and eliminate its instances faster than it can spread.
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