Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) 2012

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VAMO: Towards a Fully Automated Malware Clustering Validity Analysis

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Roberto Perdisci
University of Georgia
United States

ManChon U
University of Georgia
United States

Abstract:
Malware clustering is commonly applied by malware analysts to cope with the increasingly growing number of distinct malware variants collected every day from the Internet.
While malware clustering systems can be useful for a variety of applications, assessing the quality of their results is intrinsically hard. In fact, clustering can be viewed as an unsupervised learning process over a dataset for which the complete ground truth is usually not available. Previous studies propose to evaluate malware clustering results by leveraging the labels assigned to the malware samples by multiple anti-virus scanners (AVs). However, the methods proposed thus far require a (semi-)manual adjustment and mapping between labels generated by different AVs, and are limited to selecting a reference sub-set of samples for which an agreement regarding their labels can be reached across a majority of AVs.
This approach may bias the reference set towards "easy to cluster" malware samples, thus potentially resulting in an overoptimistic estimate of the accuracy of the malware clustering results.

In this paper we propose VAMO, a system that provides a fully automated quantitative analysis of the validity of malware clustering results. Unlike previous work, VAMO does not seek a majority voting-based consensus across different AV labels, and does not discard the malware samples for which such a consensus cannot be reached.
Rather, VAMO explicitly deals with the inconsistencies typical of multiple AV labels to build a more representative reference set, compared to majority voting-based approaches. Furthermore, VAMO avoids the need of a (semi-)manual mapping between AV labels from different scanners that was required in previous work. Through an extensive evaluation in a controlled setting and a real-world application, we show that VAMO outperforms majority voting-based approaches, and provides a better way for malware analysts to automatically assess the quality of their malware clustering results.

 

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