Updated March 27, 2023
Introduction to Malware Analysis
The single term used for malicious software is malware. The malicious programs designed by cybercriminals can be collectively called malware. The malicious programs gain access to computing devices by creating a backdoor entry to steal personal information, confidential data, etc. Analysis of malware must be conducted to understand the types of malware, nature of malware and the attacking methodologies of malware, as malware attacks are increasing day by day. The process of analyzing and determining the purpose and functionality of the malware is called malware analysis. The information obtained by malware analysis can be used to develop techniques of detection for malware.
How to Conduct Malware Analysis?
It is used to deal with the intrusion of the network by providing the necessary information. Determining what happened exactly and locating the files and machines that are infected by malware is the main goal. When we are analyzing the infected machines or files, our goals must be:
- To understand what the suspected malware is capable of.
- How to detect the malware in the network.
- Determine how to measure and manage the damage it is going to cause.
- After identifying the files that are infected, signatures must be developed to detect malware infections on the network.
- Signatures that are host-based or indicators are used to detect malware on the computers.
- The indicators of malware determine the effect of malware on the system.
- Network signatures or indicators are used to detect the malware by monitoring the traffic on the network.
Stages of Malware Analysis
There are four stages of malware analysis. The stages are in the form of a pyramid and as we go higher in the pyramid, the complexity of the analysis stage increases. The stages are:
1. Fully Automated Analysis
Fully automated tools must be used to scan and assess a program that is suspicious. Fully automated tools are capable of understanding what the malware infecting the network is capable of. A report in detail is generated by the fully automated tools about the traffic in the network, file activity, and registry keys. Analyst provides more information when compared to fully automated analysis, but it is the fastest method to scan the malware in large quantities.
2. Static Properties Analysis
We must look at the static properties of malware in order to get a deeper look at malware. It is easy to access the static properties of malware because running the malware takes a longer time. Hashes, embedded strings, header information, etc. are the static properties of malware.
3. Interactive Behavior Analysis
The malware or the malicious file is put under observation by putting it in a separate laboratory and observing the effects of malware on the laboratory. The laboratory is under complete observation by the analysts to check if the malware is attaching any hosts. From the information obtained by this observation, the analyst will recreate the situation to understand what the malware does when it is connected to the host.
4. Manual Code Reversing
The encrypted data stored by the sample can be decoded by reversing the code of the malicious file, understand the logic of the code and the file capabilities that were not found during behavioral analysis. The malware analysis tools such as debuggers and disassemblers are required to reverse the code manually. It is hard to find the skills required for reversing the code manually, but they are very important.
Malware Analysis Use Cases
The following points explain the use of Malware Analysis:
1. Computer Security Incident Management
If an organization finds out that malware is infecting their systems, they have a response team to respond to the situation. As part of the response, all of the suspicious malware files identified will be put under malware analysis to determine if it is really malware, if yes, what type of malware is it and what is the effect of that malware on the systems in the organization.
2. Malware Research
The researchers of malware perform malware analysis in an academic or industry forum to understand better how the malware works and the methods used to create this malware.
3. Indicator of Compromise (IOC) Extraction
It is conducted in bulk by the software solutions and product sellers to determine new indicators of malware attack. This helps the organizations to protect themselves from malware attacks.
Following are some importance of malware analysis.
- For all sorts of analysis related to crimes in the organization, it is very much necessary. There is too much malware that can easily get into the information technology domain of an organization with the growth of malicious codes and files increasing day by day.
- Most of the malware is disguised to be useful programs to the organization while the real purpose of them is to infect the systems in the organization. Firewall and anti-malware software can be used against malware attacks but just firewall and anti-malware software are not enough to prevent malware attacks and that is when malware analysis comes into the picture. Serious reverse engineering must be done to understand the malware and just blocking the firewall is not of much help. The analyst must understand assembly language and should know what must be identified.
- The malware industry is there for a long time and it is a business with great profit. This is one of the attractive reasons to study malware. It is a combination of psychology, technology, and commerce and this makes malware analysis interesting.
- According to the studies, new malware is created for every 4.2 seconds. For all the emerging malware, the malware analysts develop defenses and the attackers must create new malware to overcome the defense created by the analysts to infect the system. Though the detection of malware and removal capabilities are improving day by day, destructive software has been created every day. This explains the need for malware analysis.
This process requires many skill sets that can give rise to many professions. Malware analysts must be comfortable with using different programming languages, understand the internal operation of windows and understand what makes a user a power user on several applications which can be used to investigate the malicious code in malwares.
This is a guide to Malware Analysis. Here we discuss the basic concept, how to conduct Malware Analysis along with importance, 4 stages, and use cases. You can also go through our other related articles to learn more –