Security software company Symantec has been granted a patent on technology it has been using for more than five years to quickly scan for viruses and other malware.
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The award may cause unease among other security suppliers that are using similar technology covered by the patent to quickly scan customer IT systems for viruses.
The US patent office has granted Symantec is for technology allows just parts of threatened pieces of data to be scanned - such as e-mails - instead of full bodies of data.
Older types of industry anti-virus software focus on portions of data portions or scan the full body of data. This has meant that the scanning process was slow or not reliable enough in response to evolving security attacks, such as self-mutating viruses, worms and spyware.
Symantec’s solution was developed and patented by Symantec Research Labs chief architect Carey Nachenberg.
Nachenberg said, "Over the years, viruses, worms and spyware have evolved considerably, making detection by traditional anti-virus software increasingly difficult and time-consuming.
"This invention fundamentally reduces the complexity of detecting malicious software and shortens the response time needed to address new threats, without the need for new product updates or patches."
Symantec has not said whether it will take legal action on rival suppliers who are using similar technologies.