Lines Of Malicious Code: Insights Into The Malicious Software Industry


Martina Lindorfer, Alessandro Di Federico, Federico Maggi, Paolo Milani Comparetti, Stefano Zanero


Proceedings of the 28th Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC), December 2012


Malicious software installed on infected computers is a fundamental component of online crime. Malware development thus plays an essential role in the underground economy of cyber-crime. Malware authors regularly update their software to defeat defenses or to support new or improved criminal business models. A large body of research has focused on detecting malware, defending against it and identifying its functionality. In addition to these goals, however, the analysis of malware can provide a glimpse into the software development industry that develops malicious code. In this work, we present techniques to observe the evolution of a malware family over time. First, we develop techniques to compare versions of malicious code and quantify their differences. Furthermore, we use behavior observed from dynamic analysis to assign semantics to binary code and to identify functional components within a malware binary. By combining these techniques, we are able to monitor the evolution of a malware’s functional components. We implement these techniques in a system we call BEAGLE, and apply it to the observation of 16 malware strains over several months. The results of these experiments provide insight into the effort involved in updating malware code, and show that BEAGLE can identify changes to individual malware components.


  title     = {{Lines Of Malicious Code: Insights Into The Malicious Software Industry}},
  author    = {Lindorfer, Martina and Di Federico, Alessandro and Maggi, Federico and Comparetti, Paolo Milani and Zanero, Stefano},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of the 28th Annual Computer Security Applications Conference},
  series    = {ACSAC},
  month     = {December},
  year      = {2012}