A metamorphic virus is one that can transform based on the ability to translate, edit and rewrite its own code. It is considered the most infectious computer virus, and it can do serious damage to a system if it isn't detected quickly. Antivirus scanners have a difficult time detecting this type of virus because it can change its internal structure, rewriting and reprogramming itself each time it infects a computing system. This is different from a polymorphic virus, which encrypts its original code to keep from being detected. Because of their complexity, creating metamorphic viruses requires extensive programming knowledge.
A metamorphic virus causes serious data loss and lowers a computer system's defenses. It can also infect multiple hosts. Research by San Jose State University found that many antivirus programs currently on the market rely on signature detection, and usually don't have the ability to detect metamorphic viruses. Without the right security tools in place to begin with, a metamorphic virus has the ability to become more sophisticated and do even more damage. The longer it remains in a computer, the more variants are produced, which makes it extremely challenging for antivirus programs to finally detect it and disinfect the system.
Metamorphic viruses can be distributed through email attachments or when users browse through compromised websites. Once it's released, the goal is to steal private information and corporate data to commit extortion, money laundering and other types of fraud. When the virus is found, it can be reported and submitted to Kaspersky Lab to be studied, which will help keep other computer users and organizations from harm. Understanding what's behind the virus may help improve Internet security softwares and antivirus solutions.