A general definition of malware

Simon Kramer, Julian Bradfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose a general, formal definition of the concept of malware (malicious software) as a single sentence in the language of a certain modal logic. Our definition is general thanks to its abstract formulation, which, being abstract, is independent of—but nonetheless generally applicable to—the manifold concrete manifestations of malware. From our formulation of malware, we derive equally general and formal definitions of benware (benign software), anti-malware (“antibodies” against malware), and medware (medical software or “medicine” for affected software). We provide theoretical tools and practical techniques for the detection, comparison, and classification of malware and its derivatives. Our general defining principle is causation of (in)correctness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-114
Number of pages10
JournalJournal in Computer Virology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2010

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