Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Mobile

8/31/2011
04:59 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

New Free Tools Simplify Analysis Of Android Malware

What did you do over your summer break? Two graduate students wrote tools that address heightened concern over eventual attacks against the Android platform

The Honeynet Project has helped create two tools aimed at making Android malware analysis simpler and free -- and, ultimately, help better secure the wildly popular mobile platform.

The new open-source tools were developed under the Google Summer of Code project, a program where students from around the world spend their summer breaks writing code for open-source software. Two students under the mentorship of The Honeynet Project focused on Android malware: One wrote a static analysis tool called APKInspector, and the other, a dynamic analysis system called DroidBox -- both of which are aimed at giving researchers a way to easily reverse-engineer Android malware and to observe and dissect malicious Android apps.

"These two tools nicely complement each other and should really be part of one's toolbox [who deals] with mobile malware," says Christian Seifert, chief communications officer for The Honeynet Project. "We believe that mobile malware will flourish, and while similar to malware on the PC, [it has] some unique characteristics that will reflect themselves in unique characteristics of the malware itself."

For one thing, mobile malware can be written to access interfaces on the victim's smartphone that are financially motivated, such as sending premium SMS messages, he says. "There are also some unique challenges in the mobile malware space. It's a very new technology that security researchers are unfamiliar with," and malware analysis is currently resource-intensive, he says.

The Android is a marked mobile platform both for its widespread popularity and its inherent open-source architecture and heritage: It's already being inundated with rogue mobile apps and a plethora of research demonstrating its security and privacy weaknesses.

The Honeynet Project's Ryan Smith, who served as a mentor for APKInspector author and graduate student Cong Zheng, says the new tools fill large gaps in Android attack analysis. The IDA Pro product recently added a static analysis component for the Android, he says, but IDA Pro typically costs somewhere around $900 per license per user.

"[APKInspector] provides similar analysis tools as IDAPro," Smith says. "But ours is the only free and open-source tool that does this for Android applications. It gives researchers the opportunity to pick it up and install it."

The tool also shows where user permissions are being used in the code of a mobile program, he says.

DroidBox is a sandbox of sorts that lets a researcher or analyst safely run and observe a malicious app. "It lets you look and see if the app is doing something [malicious] ... and how it's doing it," Smith says. "Once you have a profile of it, and you want to dig into the how and where in the code it's doing something, then you use APKInspector to review the code."

Both tools are aimed at researchers who perform malware reverse-engineering as well as security analysts, he says. And that's a first step toward better securing the Android platform, according to Smith.

The intelligence could be used for mobile security tools to identify any malicious apps and to block any malicious activity the tools pinpoint, he says.

APKInspector author Zheng says the goal of his static analysis tool -- available here -- is to offer something akin to IDA Pro for the mobile platform. "The primary focus of this project is to provide a visualization layer that’s typically missing in existing Android reverse-engineering tools, as well as to create a unified platform that combines several existing Android reverse-engineering tools into a single unified view and context," he says. "In a word, we just want to create a powerful static analysis tool on Android platform, just as the IDA Pro on the x86 platform."

DroidBox creator and graduate student Patrik Lanz has released an alpha version of his open-source dynamic analysis tool here. (A beta version is in the works.) DroidBox can monitor the app's API calls, for instance.

"My interest in taking on this project mainly depended on the fact that malicious Android apps are a growing concern and the lack of a publicly available tool, such as DroidBox. Another aspect is that Android is open-source, and thus it would be possible to make modifications to the framework," Lanz says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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
DevSecOps: The Answer to the Cloud Security Skills Gap
Lamont Orange, Chief Information Security Officer at Netskope,  11/15/2019
Attackers' Costs Increasing as Businesses Focus on Security
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  11/15/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-19037
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-21
ext4_empty_dir in fs/ext4/namei.c in the Linux kernel through 5.3.12 allows a NULL pointer dereference because ext4_read_dirblock(inode,0,DIRENT_HTREE) can be zero.
CVE-2019-19036
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-21
btrfs_root_node in fs/btrfs/ctree.c in the Linux kernel through 5.3.12 allows a NULL pointer dereference because rcu_dereference(root->node) can be zero.
CVE-2019-19039
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-21
__btrfs_free_extent in fs/btrfs/extent-tree.c in the Linux kernel through 5.3.12 calls btrfs_print_leaf in a certain ENOENT case, which allows local users to obtain potentially sensitive information about register values via the dmesg program.
CVE-2019-6852
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-20
A CWE-200: Information Exposure vulnerability exists in Modicon Controllers (M340 CPUs, M340 communication modules, Premium CPUs, Premium communication modules, Quantum CPUs, Quantum communication modules - see security notification for specific versions), which could cause the disclosure of FTP har...
CVE-2019-6853
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-20
A CWE-79: Failure to Preserve Web Page Structure vulnerability exists in Andover Continuum (models 9680, 5740 and 5720, bCX4040, bCX9640, 9900, 9940, 9924 and 9702) , which could enable a successful Cross-site Scripting (XSS attack) when using the products web server.