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  1. Malicious software (malware) is a major cyber threat that has to be tackled with Machine Learning (ML) techniques because millions of new malware examples are injected into cyberspace on a daily basis. However, ML is vulnerable to attacks known as adversarial examples. In this article, we survey and systematize the field of Adversarial Malware Detection (AMD) through the lens of a unified conceptual framework of assumptions, attacks, defenses, and security properties. This not only leads us to map attacks and defenses to partial order structures, but also allows us to clearly describe the attack-defense arms race in the AMD context. We draw a number of insights, including: knowing the defender’s feature set is critical to the success of transfer attacks; the effectiveness of practical evasion attacks largely depends on the attacker’s freedom in conducting manipulations in the problem space; knowing the attacker’s manipulation set is critical to the defender’s success; and the effectiveness of adversarial training depends on the defender’s capability in identifying the most powerful attack. We also discuss a number of future research directions.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 31, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  3. Malware detection and analysis can be a burdensome task for incident responders. As such, research has turned to machine learning to automate malware detection and malware family classification. Existing work extracts and engineers static and dynamic features from the malware sample to train classifiers. Despite promising results, such techniques assume that the analyst has access to the malware executable file. Self-deleting malware invalidates this assumption and requires analysts to find forensic evidence of malware execution for further analysis. In this paper, we present and evaluate an approach to detecting malware that executed on a Windows target and further classify the malware into its associated family to provide semantic insight. Specifically, we engineer features from the Windows prefetch file, a file system forensic artifact that archives process information. Results show that it is possible to detect the malicious artifact with 99% accuracy; furthermore, classifying the malware into a fine-grained family has comparable performance to techniques that require access to the original executable. We also provide a thorough security discussion of the proposed approach against adversarial diversity.
  4. Network intrusion detection systems (NIDS) today must quickly provide visibility into anomalous behavior on a growing amount of data. Meanwhile different data models have evolved over time, each providing a different set of features to classify attacks. Defenders have limited time to retrain classifiers, while the scale of data and feature mismatch between data models can affect the ability to periodically retrain. Much work has focused on classification accuracy yet feature selection is a key part of machine learning that, when optimized, reduces the training time and can increase accuracy by removing poorly performing features that introduce noise. With a larger feature space, the pursuit of more features is not as valuable as selecting better features. In this paper, we use an ensemble approach of filter methods to rank features followed by a voting technique to select a subset of features. We evaluate our approach using three datasets to show that, across datasets and network topologies, similar features have a trivial effect on classifier accuracy after removal. Our approach identifies poorly performing features to remove in a classifier-agnostic manner that can significantly save time for periodic retraining of production NIDS.