A praise for defensive programming: Leveraging uncertainty for effective malware mitigation

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College of Computing


A promising avenue for improving the effectiveness of behavioral-based malware detectors is to leverage two-phase detection mechanisms. Existing problem in two-phase detection is that after the first phase produces borderline decision, suspicious behaviors are not well contained before the second phase completes. This paper improves CHAMELEON, a framework to realize the uncertain environment. CHAMELEON offers two environments: standard–for software identified as benign by the first phase, and uncertain–for software received borderline classification from the first phase. The uncertain environment adds obstacles to software execution through random perturbations applied probabilistically. We introduce a dynamic perturbation threshold that can target malware disproportionately more than benign software. We analyzed the effects of the uncertain environment by manually studying 113 software and 100 malware, and found that 92% malware and 10% benign software disrupted during execution. The results were then corroborated by an extended dataset (5,679 Linux malware samples) on a newer system. Finally, a careful inspection of the benign software crashes revealed some software bugs, highlighting CHAMELEON's potential as a practical complementary antimalware solution.

Publication Title

IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing