Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Computer and Security Science

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Professor Craig Valli

Second Advisor

Doctor Andrew Woodward

Abstract

Anti Virus (AV) software generally employs signature matching and heuristics to detect the presence of malicious software (malware). The generation of signatures and determination of heuristics is dependent upon an AV analyst having successfully determined the nature of the malware, not only for recognition purposes, but also for the determination of infected files and startup mechanisms that need to be removed as part of the disinfection process. If a specimen of malware has not been previously extensively analyzed, it is unlikely to be detected by AV software. In addition, malware is becoming increasingly profit driven and more likely to incorporate stealth and deception techniques to avoid detection and analysis to remain on infected systems for a myriad of nefarious purposes.

Malware extends beyond the commonly thought of virus or worm, to customized malware that has been developed for specific and targeted miscreant purposes. Such customized malware is highly unlikely to be detected by AV software because it will not have been previously analyzed and a signature will not exist. Analysis in such a case will have to be conducted by a digital forensics analyst to determine the functionality of the malware.

Malware can employ a plethora of techniques to hinder the analysis process conducted by AV and digital forensics analysts. The purpose of this research has been to answer three research questions directly related to the employment of these techniques as:

1. What techniques can malware use to avoid being analyzed?

2. How can the use of these techniques be detected?

3. How can the use of these techniques be mitigated?

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