Towards an Automated Pipeline for Detecting and Classifying Malware through Machine Learning

Nicola Loi, Claudio Borile, Daniele Ucci

The constant growth in the number of malware - software or code fragment potentially harmful for computers and information networks - and the use of sophisticated evasion and obfuscation techniques have seriously hindered classic signature-based approaches. On the other hand, malware detection systems based on machine learning techniques started offering a promising alternative to standard approaches, drastically reducing analysis time and turning out to be more robust against evasion and obfuscation techniques. In this paper, we propose a malware taxonomic classification pipeline able to classify Windows Portable Executable files (PEs). Given an input PE sample, it is first classified as either malicious or benign. If malicious, the pipeline further analyzes it in order to establish its threat type, family, and behavior(s). We tested the proposed pipeline on the open source dataset EMBER, containing approximately 1 million PE samples, analyzed through static analysis. Obtained malware detection results are comparable to other academic works in the current state of art and, in addition, we provide an in-depth classification of malicious samples. Models used in the pipeline provides interpretable results which can help security analysts in better understanding decisions taken by the automated pipeline.

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