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  1. Fuzzing reliably and efficiently finds bugs in software, including operating system kernels. In general, higher code coverage leads to the discovery of more bugs. This is why most existing kernel fuzzers adopt strategies to generate a series of inputs that attempt to greedily maximize the amount of code that they exercise. However, simply executing code may not be sufficient to reveal bugs that require specific sequences of actions. Synthesizing inputs to trigger such bugs depends on two aspects: (i) the actions the executed code takes, and (ii) the order in which those actions are taken. An action is a high-level operation, such as a heap allocation, that is performed by the executed code and has a specific semantic meaning. ACTOR, our action-guided kernel fuzzing framework, deviates from traditional methods. Instead of focusing on code coverage optimization, our approach generates fuzzer programs (inputs) that leverage our understanding of triggered actions and their temporal relationships. Specifically, we first capture actions that potentially operate on shared data structures at different times. Then, we synthesize programs using those actions as building blocks, guided by bug templates expressed in our domain-specific language. We evaluated ACTOR on four different versions of the Linux kernel, including two well-tested and frequently updated long-term (5.4.206, 5.10.131) versions, a stable (5.19), and the latest (6.2-rc5) release. Our evaluation revealed a total of 41 previously unknown bugs, of which 9 have already been fixed. Interestingly, 15 (36.59%) of them were discovered in less than a day. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 9, 2024
  2. Despite remarkable improvements, automatic speech recognition is susceptible to adversarial perturbations. Compared to standard machine learning architectures, these attacks are significantly more challenging, especially since the inputs to a speech recognition system are time series that contain both acoustic and linguistic properties of speech. Extracting all recognition-relevant information requires more complex pipelines and an ensemble of specialized components. Consequently, an attacker needs to consider the entire pipeline. In this paper, we present VENOMAVE, the first training- time poisoning attack against speech recognition. Similar to the predominantly studied evasion attacks, we pursue the same goal: leading the system to an incorrect and attacker-chosen transcription of a target audio waveform. In contrast to evasion attacks, however, we assume that the attacker can only manipulate a small part of the training data without altering the target audio waveform at runtime. We evaluate our attack on two datasets: TIDIGITS and Speech Commands. When poisoning less than 0.17% of the dataset, VENOMAVE achieves attack success rates of more than 80.0%, without access to the victim’s network architecture or hyperparameters. In a more realistic scenario, when the target audio waveform is played over the air in different rooms, VENOMAVE maintains a success rate of up to 73.3%. Finally, VENOMAVE achieves an attack transferability rate of 36.4% between two different model architectures. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2024
  3. Malicious software (malware) poses a significant threat to the security of our networks and users. In the ever-evolving malware landscape, Excel 4.0 Office macros (XL4) have recently become an important attack vector. These macros are often hidden within apparently legitimate documents and under several layers of obfuscation. As such, they are difficult to analyze using static analysis techniques. Moreover, the analysis in a dynamic analysis environment (a sandbox) is challenging because the macros execute correctly only under specific environmental conditions that are not always easy to create. This paper presents SYMBEXCEL, a novel solution that leverages symbolic execution to deobfuscate and analyze Excel 4.0 macros automatically. Our approach proceeds in three stages: (1) The malicious document is parsed and loaded in memory; (2) Our symbolic execution engine executes the XL4 formulas; and (3) Our Engine concretizes any symbolic values encountered during the symbolic exploration, therefore evaluating the execution of each macro under a broad range of (meaningful) environment configurations. SYMBEXCEL significantly outperforms existing deobfuscation tools, allowing us to reliably extract Indicators of Compromise (IoCs) and other critical forensics information. Our experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach, especially in deobfuscating novel malicious documents that make heavy use of environment variables and are often not identified by commercial anti-virus software. 
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  4. This paper presents SAILFISH, a scalable system for automatically finding state-inconsistency bugs in smart contracts. To make the analysis tractable, we introduce a hybrid approach that includes (i) a light-weight exploration phase that dramatically reduces the number of instructions to analyze, and (ii) a precise refinement phase based on symbolic evaluation guided by our novel value-summary analysis, which generates extra constraints to over-approximate the side effects of whole-program execution, thereby ensuring the precision of the symbolic evaluation. We developed a prototype of SAILFISH and evaluated its ability to detect two state-inconsistency flaws, viz., reentrancy and transaction order dependence (TOD) in Ethereum smart contracts. Our experiments demonstrate the efficiency of our hybrid approach as well as the benefit of the value summary analysis. In particular, we show that SAILFISH outperforms five state-of the-art smart contract analyzers (SECURIFY, MYTHRIL, OYENTE, SEREUM and VANDAL) in terms of performance, and precision. In total, SAILFISH discovered 47 previously unknown vulnerable smart contracts out of 89,853 smart contracts from ETHERSCAN. 
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  5. Security monitoring systems detect potentially malicious activities in IT infrastructures, by either looking for known signatures or for anomalous behaviors. Security operators investigate these events to determine whether they pose a threat to their organization. In many cases, a single event may be insufficient to determine whether certain activity is indeed malicious. Therefore, a security operator frequently needs to correlate multiple events to identify if they pose a real threat. Unfortunately, the vast number of events that need to be correlated often overload security operators, forcing them to ignore some events and, thereby, potentially miss attacks. This work studies how to automatically correlate security events and, thus, automate parts of the security operator workload. We design and evaluate DEEPCASE, a system that leverages the context around events to determine which events require further inspection. This approach reduces the number of events that need to be inspected. In addition, the context provides valuable insights into why certain events are classified as malicious. We show that our approach automatically filters 86.72% of the events and reduces the manual workload of security operators by 90.53%, while underestimating the risk of potential threats in less than 0.001% of cases. 
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  6. Exploring many execution paths in a binary program is essential to discover new vulnerabilities. Dynamic Symbolic Execution (DSE) is useful to trigger complex input conditions and enables an accurate exploration of a program while providing extensive crash replayability and semantic insights. However, scaling this type of analysis to complex binaries is difficult. Current methods suffer from the path explosion problem, despite many attempts to mitigate this challenge (e.g., by merging paths when appropriate). Still, in general, this challenge is not yet surmounted, and most bugs discovered through such techniques are shallow. We propose a novel approach to address the path explosion problem: A smart triaging system that leverages supervised machine learning techniques to replicate human expertise, leading to vulnerable path discovery. Our approach monitors the execution traces in vulnerable programs and extracts relevant features—register and memory accesses, function complexity, system calls—to guide the symbolic exploration. We train models to learn the patterns of vulnerable paths from the extracted features, and we leverage their predictions to discover interesting execution paths in new programs. We implement our approach in a tool called SyML, and we evaluate it on the Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC) dataset—a well-known dataset of vulnerable programs—and on 3 real-world Linux binaries. We show that the knowledge collected from the analysis of vulnerable paths, without any explicit prior knowledge about vulnerability patterns, is transferrable to unseen binaries, and leads to outperforming prior work in path prioritization by triggering more, and different, unique vulnerabilities. 
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  7. Prof. Ninghui Li Editor in Chief, ACM Transactions (Ed.)
    Malware analysis is an essential task to understand infection campaigns, the behavior of malicious codes, and possible ways to mitigate threats. Malware analysis also allows better assessment of attacker’s capabilities, techniques, and processes. Although a substantial amount of previous work provided a comprehensive analysis of the international malware ecosystem, research on regionalized, country, and population-specific malware campaigns have been scarce. Moving towards addressing this gap, we conducted a longitudinal (2012-2020) and comprehensive (encompassing an entire population of online banking users) study of MS Windows desktop malware that actually infected Brazilian bank’s users. We found that the Brazilian financial desktop malware has been evolving quickly: it started to make use of a variety of file formats instead of typical PE binaries, relied on native system resources, and abused obfuscation technique to bypass detection mechanisms. Our study on the threats targeting a significant population on the ecosystem of the largest and most populous country in Latin America can provide invaluable insights that may be applied to other countries’ user populations, especially those in the developing world that might face cultural peculiarities similar to Brazil’s. With this evaluation, we expect to motivate the security community/industry to seriously considering a deeper level of customization during the development of next generation anti-malware solutions, as well as to raise awareness towards regionalized and targeted Internet threats. 
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  8. We present a novel approach to automatically recover information about the address space layout of remote processes in the presence of Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR). Our system, dubbed Sleak, performs static analysis and symbolic execution of binary executable programs, and identifies program paths and input parameters leading to partial (i.e., only a few bits) or complete (i.e., the whole address) information disclosure vulnerabilities, revealing addresses of known objects of the target service or application. Sleak takes, as input, the binary executable program, and generates a symbolic expression for each program output that leaks information about the addresses of objects, such as stack variables, heap structures, or function pointers. By comparing these expressions with the concrete output of a remote process executing the same binary program image, our system is able to recover from a few bits to whole addresses of objects of the target application or service. Discovering the address of a single object in the target application is often enough to guess the layout of entire sections of the address space, which can be leveraged by attackers to bypass ASLR. 
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  9. Malware detection plays a vital role in computer security. Modern machine learning approaches have been centered around domain knowledge for extracting malicious features. However, many potential features can be used, and it is time consuming and difficult to manually identify the best features, especially given the diverse nature of malware. In this paper, we propose Neurlux, a neural network for malware detection. Neurlux does not rely on any feature engineering, rather it learns automatically from dynamic analysis reports that detail behavioral information. Our model borrows ideas from the field of document classification, using word sequences present in the reports to predict if a report is from a malicious binary or not. We investigate the learned features of our model and show which components of the reports it tends to give the highest importance. Then, we evaluate our approach on two different datasets and report formats, showing that Neurlux improves on the state of the art and can effectively learn from the dynamic analysis reports. Furthermore, we show that our approach is portable to other malware analysis environments and generalizes to different datasets. 
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