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Frankenstein Computer Virus Assembles Itself

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A "Frankenstein" computer virus could assemble itself using pieces of code from common, legitimate software on people's computers, researchers demonstrated. The patchwork malware would be especially difficult for anti-virus software to detect, so it could go into a government-made program that infiltrates others' computers, the New Scientist reported.

Computer scientists have previously theorized that it's possible to create any program by combining gadgets, or bits of code that perform specific tasks. Vishwath Mohan and Kevin Hamlen of the University of Texas at Dallas created a demonstration of such a virus by writing a program that infects a computer, finds gadgets in programs such as Internet Explorer and Notepad, then builds itself two functions. The two functions are simpler versions of what full-blown malware needs to do, showing this method's potential, Hamlen explained to the New Scientist.  

The virus, which Mohan and Hamlen actually named Frankenstein, avoids detection by blending into the computer system. It also switches in new gadgets occasionally, so it never looks exactly the same to an anti-virus program. 

Mohan and Hamlen's research was supported in part by the U.S. Air Force and Hamlen told the New Scientist Frankenstein could be especially helpful to intelligence agencies looking to spy on or disable others' computers. 

Mohan and Hamlen presented their research this month at workshop called WOOT '12, hosted by the Advanced Computing Systems Association.

Source: New Scientist

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Live Science Staff
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