DSN 2020
Conference paper

Scarecrow: Deactivating Evasive Malware via Its Own Evasive Logic

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Security analysts widely use dynamic malware analysis environments to exercise malware samples and derive virus signatures. Unfortunately, malware authors are becoming more aware of such analysis environments. Therefore, many have embedded evasive logic into malware to probe execution environments before exposing malicious behaviors. Consequently, such analysis environments become useless and evasive malware can damage victim systems with unforeseen malicious activities. However, adopting evasive techniques to bypass dynamic malware analysis is a double-edged sword. While evasive techniques can avoid early detection through sandbox analysis, it also significantly constrains the spectrum of execution environments where the malware activates. In this paper, we exploit this dilemma and seek to reverse the challenge by camouflaging end-user execution environments into analysis-like environments using a lightweight deception engine called SCARECROW. We thoroughly evaluate SCARECROW with real evasive malware samples and demonstrate that we can successfully deactivate 89.56% of evasive malware samples and the variants of ransomware (e.g., WannaCry and Locky) with little or no impact on the most commonly used benign software. Our evaluation also shows that SCARECROW is able to steer state-of-the-art analysis environment fingerprinting techniques so that end-user execution environments with SCARECROW and malware analysis environments with SCARECROW become indistinguishable.