Vulnerabilities / Threats
8/4/2014
03:20 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

How Malware Writers Cheat AV Zero-Day Detection

A researcher reverse engineers AVG's code emulation engine after easily bypassing other major antivirus software products.

As an experiment, Kyle Adams wrote what he describes as "ridiculously obvious" malware that most major antivirus products ultimately failed to detect. The only AV product that caught his malware was the freebie AVG, whose code-emulation feature sniffed it out.

So Adams, chief software architect for Junos Webapp Secure at Juniper Networks, kicked it up a notch and reverse engineered AVG's code emulation engine. Then he was able to bypass AVG's engine, as well, but he also noticed what attackers could do in that situatoin. On Tuesday, Aug. 5, at BSides Las Vegas, Adams will demonstrate how he cheated various AV products and how AV's code emulation feature for catching zero-day exploits has some weaknesses of its own.

"You start to realize things [the engines] can't handle, and if you explore them, you start to uncover compromises they didn't recognize," Adams says. However, "I didn't find anything that let me compromise the [code emulation engine] simply by [having the malware] scanned."

He plans to expose some of the engine weaknesses and name some of the major AV products his malware cheated in the first phase of his experiment. "If you know how the engine works, you can get around it."

His research shows that code emulation needs to be improved in AV products. "In some aspects, how code emulation works could be grounds for new exploits."

Adams says he's definitely not the first person to cheat an AV engine -- bad guys do it regularly -- but he wants to educate the security community on the problem. "I'd like to show how the malware authors approach the problem. I'm going to show building a virus from scratch… and testing it against the AV products like attackers do as they try to figure out how not to get detected."

His research shows that code emulation and sandboxing aren't really working anymore. "Now you can start to attack code emulators and sandboxes" themselves. At least 10% of attacks are attempting this today.

The malware Adams wrote and will demonstrate is a command-and-control bot. The JavaScript malcode he wrote runs on Windows. "It could be put together by anyone."

What can AV vendors do to beef up their code emulation? For one thing, "they should start penetration-testing their own AV software."

Adams will propose other solutions for improving code emulation. And he says he's definitely not picking on AVG, which he tried to contact before his presentation. "This is not a jab against AVG, as they get enormous credit for including such a powerful tool in a free antivirus client," he wrote in an abstract for his BSides talk.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
1.9 Billion Data Records Exposed in First Half of 2017
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/20/2017
Get Serious about IoT Security
Derek Manky, Global Security Strategist, Fortinet,  9/20/2017
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Security Vulnerabilities: The Next Wave
Just when you thought it was safe, researchers have unveiled a new round of IT security flaws. Is your enterprise ready?
Flash Poll
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
Enterprises are spending more of their IT budgets on cybersecurity technology. How do your organization's security plans and strategies compare to what others are doing? Here's an in-depth look.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.