Machine Learning With Feature Selection Using Principal Component Analysis for Malware Detection: A Case Study

Jason Zhang

Cyber security threats have been growing significantly in both volume and sophistication over the past decade. This poses great challenges to malware detection without considerable automation. In this paper, we have proposed a novel approach by extending our recently suggested artificial neural network (ANN) based model with feature selection using the principal component analysis (PCA) technique for malware detection. The effectiveness of the approach has been successfully demonstrated with the application in PDF malware detection. A varying number of principal components is examined in the comparative study. Our evaluation shows that the model with PCA can significantly reduce feature redundancy and learning time with minimum impact on data information loss, as confirmed by both training and testing results based on around 105,000 real-world PDF documents. Of the evaluated models using PCA, the model with 32 principal feature components exhibits very similar training accuracy to the model using the 48 original features, resulting in around 33% dimensionality reduction and 22% less learning time. The testing results further confirm the effectiveness and show that the model is able to achieve 93.17% true positive rate (TPR) while maintaining the same low false positive rate (FPR) of 0.08% as the case when no feature selection is applied, which significantly outperforms all evaluated seven well known commercial antivirus (AV) scanners of which the best scanner only has a TPR of 84.53%.

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