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Metamorphic Detection of Repackaged Malware

Shirish Singh and Gail Kaiser. Metamorphic Detection of Repackaged Malware. 6th International Workshop on Metamorphic Testing (MET), co-located with ICSE, Virtual, June 2021, pp. 9-16. https://doi.org/10.1109/MET52542.2021.00009

Machine learning-based malware detection systems are often vulnerable to evasion attacks, in which a malware developer manipulates their malicious software such that it is misclassified as benign. Such software hides some properties of the real class or adopts some properties of a different class by applying small perturbations. A special case of evasive malware hides by repackaging a bonafide benign mobile app to contain malware in addition to the original functionality of the app, thus retaining most of the benign properties of the original app. We present a novel malware detection system based on metamorphic testing principles that can detect such benign-seeming malware apps. We apply metamorphic testing to the feature representation of the mobile app, rather than to the app itself. That is, the source input is the original feature vector for the app and the derived input is that vector with selected features removed. If the app was originally classified benign, and is indeed benign, the output for the source and derived inputs should be the same class, i.e., benign, but if they differ, then the app is exposed as (likely) malware. Malware apps originally classified as malware should retain that classification, since only features prevalent in benign apps are removed. This approach enables the machine learning model to classify repackaged malware with reasonably few false negatives and false positives. Our training pipeline is simpler than many existing ML-based malware detection methods, as the network is trained end-to-end to jointly learn appropriate features and to perform classification. We pre-trained our classifier model on 3 million apps collected from the widely-used AndroZoo dataset. 1 We perform an extensive study on other publicly available datasets to show our approach’s effectiveness in detecting repackaged malware with more than 94% accuracy, 0.98 precision, 0.95 recall, and 0.96 F1 score.

author={Singh, Shirish and Kaiser, Gail},
booktitle={IEEE/ACM 6th International Workshop on Metamorphic Testing (MET), co-located with ICSE},
title={{Metamorphic Detection of Repackaged Malware}},
month = {June},
url = {https://doi.org/10.1109/MET52542.2021.00009},