Malware Detection in Adversarial Settings: Exploiting Feature Evolutions and Confusions in Android Apps


Existing techniques on adversarial malware generation employ feature mutations based on feature vectors extracted from malware. However, most (if not all) of these techniques suffer from a common limitation: feasibility of these attacks is unknown. The synthesized mutations may break the inherent constraints posed by code structures of the malware, causing either crashes or malfunctioning of malicious payloads. To address the limitation, we present Malware Recomposition Variation (MRV), an approach that conducts semantic analysis of existing malware to systematically construct new malware variants for malware detectors to test and strengthen their detection signatures/models. In particular, we use two variation strategies (i.e., malware evolution attack and malware confusion attack) following structures of existing malware to enhance feasibility of the attacks. Upon the given malware, we conduct semantic-feature mutation analysis and phylogenetic analysis to synthesize mutation strategies. Based on these strategies, we perform program transplantation to automatically mutate malware bytecode to generate new malware variants. We evaluate our MRV approach on actual malware variants, and our empirical evaluation on 1,935 Android benign apps and 1,917 malware shows that MRV produces malware variants that can have high likelihood to evade detection while still retaining their malicious behaviors. We also propose and evaluate three defense mechanisms to counter MRV.

In the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference.