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Proceedings Paper

Detecting a malicious executable without prior knowledge of its patterns
Author(s): Dongming Michael Cai; James Theiler; Maya Gokhale
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Paper Abstract

To detect malicious executables, often spread as email attachments, two types of algorithms are usually applied under instance-based statistical learning paradigms: (1) Signature-based template matching, which finds unique tell-tale characteristics of a malicious executable and thus is capable of matching those with known signatures; (2) Two-class supervised learning, which determines a set of features that allow benign and malicious patterns to occupy a disjoint regions in a feature vector space and thus probabilistically identifies malicious executables with the similar features. Nevertheless, given the huge potential variety of malicious executables, we cannot be confident that existing training sets adequately represent the class as a whole. In this study, we investigated the use of byte sequence frequencies to profile only benign data. The malicious executables are identified as outliers or anomalies that significantly deviate from the normal profile. A multivariate Gaussian likelihood model, fit with a Principal Component Analysis (PCA), was compared with a one-class Support Vector Machine (SVM) model for characterizing the benign executables. We found that the Gaussian model substantially outperformed the one-class SVM in its ability to distinguish malicious from benign files. Complementing to the capabilities in reliably detecting those malicious files with known or similar features using two aforementioned methods, the one-class unsupervised approach may provide another layer of safeguard in identifying those novel computer viruses.

Paper Details

Date Published: 28 March 2005
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 5812, Data Mining, Intrusion Detection, Information Assurance, and Data Networks Security 2005, (28 March 2005); doi: 10.1117/12.603174
Show Author Affiliations
Dongming Michael Cai, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)
James Theiler, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)
Maya Gokhale, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 5812:
Data Mining, Intrusion Detection, Information Assurance, and Data Networks Security 2005
Belur V. Dasarathy, Editor(s)

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