"Visual Analysis of Malware Behavior Using Treemaps and Thread Graphs"

I continue the series of recently or upcoming papers with a paper we will publish at VizSec'09 entitled "Visual Analysis of Malware Behavior Using Treemaps and Thread Graphs". In the recent years, we saw a lot of progress in the area of automated malware analysis. Nowadays tools such as CWSandbox, Anubis, ThreatExpert, or Norman Sandbox are available. These tools analyze a given binary and generate a report which contains a summary of the observed behavior while executing the sample. Such reports are often quite long, it is for example not uncommon for a CWSandbox report to be longer than 100 lines. An analyst thus has to read the report in order to get an understanding of what a given sample is doing. In this paper we present an approach to visualize the behavior report with treemaps and behavior graphs (i.e., visualizing the behavior of the individual threads over time). This helps to get a quick overview of what a given sample does and also samples from one malware family have a similar looking treemap/behavior graph.

As an example, consider the following three pictures which each show the treemap generated for three distinct samples of the Bagle worm:

Each picture shows a treemap of the behavior: the x-axis depicts the type of action performed, e.g., whether the sample performed actions related to the filesystem, the registry, or the network. The y-axis devides the actions into operations, i.e., whether it was a read or write access to the registry. As you can see, the behavior of the Bagle sample is (more or less) consistent across different samples from the same family. Below you can find the visualization of two Swizzor samples and one Allaple sample.

Samples from the same family have a similar visualization, while samples from different families look different. This could help an analyst to quickly identify if the sample is interesting or just another small variant of a well-known family. This research will be integrated in the frontend of http://cwsandbox.org.

Abstract: We study techniques to visualize the behavior of malicious software (malware). Our aim is to help human analysts to quickly assess and classify the nature of a new malware sample. Our techniques are based on a parametrized abstraction of detailed behavioral reports automatically generated by sandbox environments. We then explore two visualization techniques: treemaps and thread graphs. We argue that both techniques can effectively support a human analyst (a) in detecting maliciousness of software, and (b) in classifying malicious behavior.


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