Windows malware detectors based on machine learning are vulnerable to adversarial examples, even if the attacker is only given black-box query access to the model. The main drawback of these attacks is that: ( i ) they are query-inefficient, as they rely on iteratively applying random transformations to the input malware; and ( ii ) they may also require executing the adversarial malware in a sandbox at each iteration of the optimization process, to ensure that its intrusive functionality is preserved. In this paper, we overcome these issues by presenting a novel family of black-box attacks that are both query-efficient and functionality-preserving, as they rely on the injection of benign content (which will never be executed) either at the end of the malicious file, or within some newly-created sections. Our attacks are formalized as a constrained minimization problem which also enables optimizing the trade-off between the probability of evading detection and the size of the injected payload. We empirically investigate this trade-off on two popular static Windows malware detectors, and show that our black-box attacks can bypass them with only few queries and small payloads, even when they only return the predicted labels. We also evaluate whether our attacks transfer to other commercial antivirus solutions, and surprisingly find that they can evade, on average, more than 12 commercial antivirus engines. We conclude by discussing the limitations of our approach, and its possible future extensions to target malware classifiers based on dynamic analysis.

Functionality-Preserving Black-Box Optimization of Adversarial Windows Malware

Demetrio, Luca;Lagorio, Giovanni;Roli, Fabio;Armando, Alessandro
2021-01-01

Abstract

Windows malware detectors based on machine learning are vulnerable to adversarial examples, even if the attacker is only given black-box query access to the model. The main drawback of these attacks is that: ( i ) they are query-inefficient, as they rely on iteratively applying random transformations to the input malware; and ( ii ) they may also require executing the adversarial malware in a sandbox at each iteration of the optimization process, to ensure that its intrusive functionality is preserved. In this paper, we overcome these issues by presenting a novel family of black-box attacks that are both query-efficient and functionality-preserving, as they rely on the injection of benign content (which will never be executed) either at the end of the malicious file, or within some newly-created sections. Our attacks are formalized as a constrained minimization problem which also enables optimizing the trade-off between the probability of evading detection and the size of the injected payload. We empirically investigate this trade-off on two popular static Windows malware detectors, and show that our black-box attacks can bypass them with only few queries and small payloads, even when they only return the predicted labels. We also evaluate whether our attacks transfer to other commercial antivirus solutions, and surprisingly find that they can evade, on average, more than 12 commercial antivirus engines. We conclude by discussing the limitations of our approach, and its possible future extensions to target malware classifiers based on dynamic analysis.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11567/1083650
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