, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 221-245
Date: 22 Jul 2008

Detection of metamorphic and virtualization-based malware using algebraic specification

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We present an overview of the latest developments in the detection of metamorphic and virtualization-based malware using an algebraic specification of the Intel 64 assembly programming language. After giving an overview of related work, we describe the development of a specification of a subset of the Intel 64 instruction set in Maude, an advanced formal algebraic specification tool. We develop the technique of metamorphic malware detection based on equivalence-in-context so that it is applicable to imperative programming languages in general, and we give two detailed examples of how this might be used in a practical setting to detect metamorphic malware. We discuss the application of these techniques within anti-virus software, and give a proof-of-concept system for defeating detection counter-measures used by virtualization-based malware, which is based on our Maude specification of Intel 64. Finally, we compare formal and informal approaches to malware detection, and give some directions for future research.