Malware Analysis: Techniques for Identifying and Analyzing Malicious Software

Malware Analysis: Techniques for Identifying and Analyzing Malicious Software

Worldwide, over 5.4 billion malware attacks occur, and many of these attacks are against small and large businesses. As a cybersecurity company in Miami, we take a multi-pronged approach to:

  • Identify malware
  • Analyze the malicious software

However, before dissecting our techniques and approaches to dealing with malware analysis, it’s important to understand what is categorized as malicious software.

What is Malware?

Malware is a term that is used as a “catch-all” for numerous forms of malicious software. The definition includes the following:

  • Adware 
  • Backdoors
  • Spyware
  • Trojan horses
  • Viruses
  • Worms

Security analysts will analyze the type of software that is infecting your system to better understand what steps must be taken to protect your data and potential identity.

Static Malware Analysis

Static analysis is time-consuming and resource-intensive, but it’s one of the safest forms of analysis. First, the expert will try to gather information on the file(s) without executing them. If the file is never executed, it cannot run the malicious commands that it is developed to execute.

The expert will examine the file to learn about:

  • Metadata
  • MD5 checksum

Often, the checksum will be checked against a large database of checksums to determine if this type of malicious file has been encountered before. If the search produces a positive result, the expert can then do more research on the malware, including the necessary steps to remove it.

If the static analysis doesn’t work, the expert may disassemble the code to dissect it and understand what it has been designed to do.

However, with the increase in hacker efforts to obfuscate their intentions, static analysis may not produce any results. If the static analysis fails, moving on to dynamic techniques may be the best option.

Dynamic Malware Analysis

A more advanced form of malware analysis is called “dynamic malware analysis.” When a security expert performs a dynamic analysis, they will:

  • Create a virtual environment called a “sandbox”
  • Transfer the file(s) to the sandbox
  • Execute the file

In the sandbox, the file cannot access the rest of the network and will not impact productivity when the file is executed. The security expert will run the file and then gather as much information as possible on how the software operates, such as:

  • Registry key modifications
  • File paths it accesses
  • IP addresses that information is sent to by the program

If the file is communicating with another server, the hacker is trying to gather sensitive information. In addition, debuggers can be executed when the file is running to understand every step the file follows and the actions that it is designed to perform.

With a better understanding of the malware’s operations, it’s possible to take corrective action and prevent the damage the file is designed to cause.

The main goal of malware analysis is to uncover the damage that the software is causing to your system. Analysis empowers security experts to understand the damage that the malware is causing and how to remove it with as little impact as possible on your system.

If you need cybersecurity in Miami or anywhere in the nearby area, contact us to speak to one of our security experts.