N.C. State researchers devise tool that detects Android malware
Researchers from North Carolina State University have found a way to monitor for Android malware with very low overhead
IDG News Service - With smartphones and tablets increasingly at risk from malware, researchers from North Carolina State University have devised a new and potentially better way to detect it on Android devices.
The tool they have developed, called Practical Root Exploit Containment (PREC), is trained to uncover aberrant code written in the C programming language, the language in which they say most malicious Android code is written.
PREC looks for root exploits, in which a program gains system administration access rights to the entire device, which a malicious hacker can use with ill intent.
The researchers detailed their work, captured in the paper "PREC: Practical Root Exploit Containment for Android Devices," at the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Data and Application Security and Privacy, which was held this week in San Antonio, Texas.
PREC uses a well-known technique for identifying malicious code, called anomaly detection. Anomaly detection compares the expected behavior of an application with how it actually behaves when it is running on a device, in terms of the system calls it makes.
PREC is unique in that it can identify calls made to native C code from a Java program, and check to see if such actions fit into the application's profile for typical usage. The bulk of software programs for Android are written in Java, which other experimental anomaly detectors have focused on.
"We've observed that most all of the existing exploits are coming from C code," said Helen Gu, an associate professor of computer science at NCSU who was involved in the work. "It's hard, if not impossible, to launch exploits in Java code, because it has to go through the virtual machine."
With this approach, PREC has been able to reduce the number of false identifications by an order of magnitude, compared to other anomaly detectors. Focusing on native C code gives PREC a more accurate model of how attacks would differ from standard operations.
The researchers tested a prototype against 150 Android apps, of which 140 were benign and 10 contained root exploits. The experiments were run on a Google Galaxy Nexus and on an emulator. PREC was able to identify all of the root exploits with a minimum number of false alarms.
What the researchers hope to do is convince app stores, such as the Google Play Store, to create a database describing the typical performance characteristics of all their apps. They could use PREC to build these assessments. Then when a user downloads a new app, the Android device can also download the PREC execution profile for that application, and use that profile to monitor for any unusual activity coming from the app.
- Enable secure remote access to 3D data without sacrificing visual perfomance Design and manufacturing companies must adapt quickly to the demands of an increasingly global and competitive economy. To speed time to market for...
- Virtually Delivered High Performance 3D Graphics "A picture is worth a thousand words." That old phrase is as true today as it ever was. Pictures (i.e., those with heavy...
- Best Practices for Securing Hadoop Historically, Apache Hadoop has provided limited security capabilities. To protect sensitive data being stored and analyzed in Hadoop, security architects should use a...
- Top Tips for Securing Big Data Environments: Why Big Data Doesn't Have to Mean Big Security Challenges Organizations must come to terms with the security challenges they introduce. As big data environments ingest more data, organizations will face significant risks...
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Responding to New SSL Cybersecurity Threat The featured Gartner research examines current strategies to address new SSL cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. All Security White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!