Computer Sciences Dept.

Static Analysis of Executables to Detect Malicious Patterns

Mihai Christodorescu, Somesh Jha

Malicious code detection is a crucial component of any defense mechanism. In this paper, we present a unique viewpoint on malicious code detection. We regard malicious code detection as an obfuscation-deobfuscation game between malicious code writers and researchers working on malicious code detection. Malicious code writers attempt to obfuscate the malicious code to subvert the malicious code detectors, such as anti-virus software. We tested the resilience of three commercial virus scanners against code obfuscation attacks. The results were surprising: the three commercial virus scanners could be subverted by very simple obfuscation transformations. We present an architecture for detecting malicious patterns in executables that is resilient to common obfuscation transformations. Experimental results demonstrate the efficacy of our prototype tool, SAFE (a static analyzer for executables).

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