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
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading December Tech Digest
Experts weigh in on the pros and cons of end-user security training.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-5395
Published: 2014-11-21
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in Huawei HiLink E3276 and E3236 TCPU before V200R002B470D13SP00C00 and WebUI before V100R007B100D03SP01C03, E5180s-22 before 21.270.21.00.00, and E586Bs-2 before 21.322.10.00.889 allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of users ...

CVE-2014-7137
Published: 2014-11-21
Multiple SQL injection vulnerabilities in Dolibarr ERP/CRM before 3.6.1 allow remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the (1) contactid parameter in an addcontact action, (2) ligne parameter in a swapstatut action, or (3) project_ref parameter to projet/tasks/contact.php; (4...

CVE-2014-7871
Published: 2014-11-21
SQL injection vulnerability in Open-Xchange (OX) AppSuite before 7.4.2-rev36 and 7.6.x before 7.6.0-rev23 allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary SQL commands via a crafted jslob API call.

CVE-2014-8090
Published: 2014-11-21
The REXML parser in Ruby 1.9.x before 1.9.3 patchlevel 551, 2.0.x before 2.0.0 patchlevel 598, and 2.1.x before 2.1.5 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (CPU and memory consumption) a crafted XML document containing an empty string in an entity that is used in a large number of nes...

CVE-2014-8469
Published: 2014-11-21
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in Guests/Boots in AdminCP in Moxi9 PHPFox before 4 Beta allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the User-Agent header.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Now that the holiday season is about to begin both online and in stores, will this be yet another season of nonstop gifting to cybercriminals?