Feeds

Symantec gains heuristic patent

Belated recognition won't spur fresh legal spat, says AV firm

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Symantec yesterday announced that it has been granted a patent on antivirus heuristic (automatic detection) technology by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Symantec's patented heuristic technology (US patent number 6,357,008), which is used within its range of AV products, "detects new and unknown viruses without traditional virus fingerprints", the firm announced yesterday.

Heuristic technology identifies new threats by directly examining files for suspicious behaviour, without the need for fingerprints. It acts as a complement to traditional signature-based antivirus software by providing protection against new malicious threats before definitions are available.

But wait a minute, you ask, isn't heuristic technology used throughout the anti-virus industry already? And wasn't the technology we're talking about here developed five years ago?

Good questions - to which the simple answers are yes, and yes.

McAfee, Trend Micro, F-Secure et al make extensive use of heuristics in their respective technologies, and that's not even mentioning managed services outfits like MessageLabs, which has developed a heuristic engine called Skeptic especially to detect email-borne viruses. Even Sophos, which warns that heuristics can lead to false alarms, makes limited use of the approach.

Symantec spokesman Richard Saunders admitted as much but said other AV vendors use a different approach to heuristics, which they may want to patent themselves (if they're happy enough to wait around for five that is).

Patents normally suggest technical innovation but as far as the antiviral market goes history has shown the US patents have been more commonly used as legal and marketing weapons in a fiercely competitive market. For example, Symantec and McAfee lawyers spent years in the late 90s arguing about the scope of their respective patents for years, and ultimately users end up footing the bill for this legal bunfight.

"This is all past history when both firms had different chief executives," Saunders told us.

Saunders said Symantec had no legal action pending in this case nor plans to license technology based on the patent, which is doubtless looking rather dated by now in such a fast moving industry.

Symantec was one of the first to develop heuristic technology (its implementation is called Bloodhound) and the point of the patent is that it recognises its development work and "promotes Symantec's ability to innovate", he added. ®

Related Stories

NAI patents virus update over the Internet
McAfee files patents for security as a service
Symantec under attack over security patents
Trend gets security patent for Java code defence

External links

Symantec's patent

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.