What to Do When Your SaaS Product is Flagged as Malware by Antivirus Software: Tips and Tricks for Developers

Question:

How to deal with false positive malware detection in our SaaS product?

We are developing a SaaS product that uses an obfuscator and an automatic updater to protect our code and deliver updates. Recently, our antivirus software detected some of our files as trojan malware, even though they were not malicious. We checked the files on VirusTotal and found that some other antivirus companies also flagged them as harmful. Our co-developer said that this was due to the obfuscator and the updater making the files look suspicious, but we are not sure if this is the case. We are worried that this will affect our reputation and our ability to monetize and distribute our product. How can we prevent or resolve this issue? What are the best practices for updating and obfuscating our software without triggering false positive alerts? How can we get our product whitelisted by the antivirus companies?

Answer:

False positive malware detection is a common problem for software developers, especially for those who use obfuscation and automatic updating techniques to protect their code and deliver updates. Obfuscation is the process of transforming the source code into a form that is difficult to read and understand by humans and machines, while preserving its functionality. Automatic updating is the process of checking and installing the latest version of the software from a server, without requiring user intervention. Both techniques are useful for preventing reverse engineering, piracy, and tampering of the software, but they also have some drawbacks.

One of the drawbacks is that obfuscation and automatic updating can make the software look suspicious to antivirus software, which may detect some of the files as trojan malware. Trojan malware is a type of malicious software that disguises itself as a legitimate program, but performs harmful actions on the user’s system, such as stealing data, installing backdoors, or deleting files. Antivirus software uses various methods to identify and block trojan malware, such as signature-based scanning, heuristic analysis, and machine learning. However, these methods are not perfect, and sometimes they can generate false positives, meaning that they flag benign files as malicious.

False positive malware detection can have serious consequences for software developers and users. For developers, it can affect their reputation and their ability to monetize and distribute their product, as users may lose trust and confidence in the software, or may not be able to install or run it due to antivirus interference. For users, it can cause confusion, frustration, and anxiety, as they may not know whether the software is safe or not, or whether they should ignore or follow the antivirus warnings.

Therefore, it is important for software developers to prevent or resolve false positive malware detection in their SaaS product. Here are some possible solutions and best practices:

  • Get a digital signature for your software. A digital signature is a cryptographic mechanism that verifies the identity and integrity of the software. It consists of a certificate issued by a trusted authority, such as Microsoft or Verisign, and a signature generated by the developer using a private key. A digital signature can help antivirus software recognize your software as legitimate and trustworthy, and reduce the chances of false positive detection. However, getting a digital signature can be costly and time-consuming, and it may not guarantee that your software will be accepted by all antivirus software.
  • Contact the antivirus companies and request them to whitelist your software. Whitelisting is the process of adding your software to a list of trusted programs that are allowed to run on the user’s system, without being scanned or blocked by the antivirus software. Whitelisting can help you avoid false positive detection and ensure that your software can run smoothly and safely. However, contacting the antivirus companies can be challenging and tedious, as you may need to provide them with detailed information about your software, such as its name, version, description, purpose, and files. Moreover, you may need to repeat this process every time you update your software, as the antivirus software may not recognize the new version as the same program.
  • Improve your obfuscation and updating techniques. Obfuscation and updating techniques can be improved to make them less likely to trigger false positive detection by the antivirus software. For example, you can use more advanced and sophisticated obfuscation tools that can produce more natural and diverse code, rather than simple and repetitive code that can be easily detected by heuristic analysis. You can also use more secure and reliable updating methods that can prevent unauthorized or malicious modifications of your software, such as using encryption, authentication, and checksums. Furthermore, you can give the user more control and transparency over the updating process, such as allowing them to choose when and how to update the software, and informing them of the changes and the reasons for the update.
  • False

positive malware detection is a frustrating and challenging problem for software developers and users, but it can be prevented or resolved by following some of the solutions and best practices mentioned above. By doing so, you can ensure that your SaaS product can run safely and smoothly, and that you can maintain your reputation and your ability to monetize and distribute your product.

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