What Is Malware Analysis? Types and Importance of Malware Analysis

As every user knows, malware or malicious codes is a serious threat to all types of devices, whether you use the device for your personal or organizational purpose. Without appropriate security measures, your device could be an easy target for the malicious actor or attackers. Here comes the malware analysis process, which will help you to take appropriate security measures against the malicious codes and to know about their purposes of them. Keep reading this article to know more about malware analysis.

What Is Malware Analysis

What Is Malware Analysis?

The process of understanding the behavior and the purpose of a suspicious/malicious file, program, or URL is called malware analysis. It aids to detect and mitigate of potential threats. This process ensures device security as well as the safety of a device or network system. Malware analysis process addresses all the vulnerabilities before the malware got out of hand. When you know more about the malware behavior and purpose of malware, it will be easy to mitigate the malicious threat. Moreover, this process will identify the source of the malicious attack and uncovers the hidden indicators of compromise that need to be blocked.  

What Are the Types of Malware Analysis?

Depending on the conducting process, there are three types of malware analysis that can be conducted; static, dynamic, and hybrid malware analysis process. Here is the description of these types of malware analysis processes;

1. Static Malware Analysis

Through static malware analysis, a user or expert can examine files to find the malicious signature. This type of malware analysis process does not require running the malicious codes on a device system. Despite that, it is useful to reveal malicious infrastructure, packed files, and libraries. Technical indicators (e.g. file names, hashes, strings such as IP addresses, domains, and file header) are analyzed through the static malware analysis process. Various disassembler tools and network analyzers have the ability to observe the behaviors of the malicious code without running them. These tools are hugely used in this type of malware analysis process.  

Since this type of malware analysis process does not require running the malicious code, there can be malicious runtime behavior in some sophisticated malicious codes that could remain undetected. For example, a file that generates strings and downloads malicious code on the device system could remain undetected.

2. Dynamic Malware Analysis

Dynamic malware analysis requires running the suspicious file or malicious code in a safe environment that is called the sandbox. It is a virtual machine that is isolated and doesn’t have any physical structure. The sandbox allows the security experts to observe the malicious code closely in action without any risk of system or network infection.

As a secondary benefit, automated sandboxing eliminates the time that can be spent to reverse engineer the malicious file to discover a malicious code. It can be a challenge against smart adversaries who already know sandboxes will be used eventually to analyze malicious codes.

3. Hybrid Malware Analysis

As you already know, the static malware analysis process isn’t reliable against sophisticated malicious codes and the sandbox technology can be avoided by some of them. So, the security experts combined both types of malware analyzing techniques to get the best static and dynamic malware analysis processes. The combination is called Hybrid malware analysis.

This process can detect all types of hidden malicious codes and extract many more indicators of compromise and unseen malicious codes. Moreover, this process is capable to detect the most hidden and unknown threats even the most sophisticated malicious codes.

What Are the Stages of Malware Analysis?

The security experts follow some stages to analyze a malicious sample. Here are the details of the malware sample analysis stages:

1. Static Properties Analysis

Static properties mean strings embedded in the malicious code, the header details, resources, metadata, hashes, and other behavioral things. These properties may be sufficient to create indicators of compromises and can be acquired rather quickly due to the non-execution of the malicious code during the analysis process. The generated insights from the static analysis can determine whether a deeper investigation with more comprehensive techniques is required or not.

2. Interactive Behavior Analysis

This stage helps the experts to observe and interact with the sample of malware that is running in the lab. The experts try to get an understanding of the malicious code sample’s file system, registry, network activities, and process. In this stage, memory forensics is conducted to study how the malware sample uses memory and suspected capabilities are tested out in an isolated environment. This stage can be time-consuming and complicated even for an analyst who possesses advanced skills.

3. Fully Automated Analysis

The fully automated analysis assesses malicious samples in a simple approach. It is helpful in determining potential repercussions in case malware infiltrates the network. Afterward, it generates an easy-to-read report with a quick solution for the experts. This stage is considered the best way to process malware at scale.

4. Manual Code Reversing

At the manual code reversing stage, the expert uses debuggers, compilers, disassemblers, and other specialized tools to reverse engineer the malicious code. This helps to decode the encrypted data, determine the logic behind the malicious algorithm, and uncover all the non-exhibited hidden capabilities of the malicious sample. It requires expertise and rare skills and this stage can take an extensive amount of time. And for these very reasons, this step is often skipped. Though the experts may miss out on plenty of valuable insights into the nature of the malicious sample when this stage is skipped.

What Are the Benefits of Malware Analysis?

Malware analysis is hugely used by security experts or analysts and incident responders. It has some key benefits of analyzing a malware sample. Here are the key benefits of the malicious sample analysis process;

1. Identifying the source and the purposes of the malicious attacks.

2. Determining the damage to the malicious and security threats on a device system.

3. Detecting the exploitation level, vulnerability, and appropriate patching preparations of the malicious sample.

4. Triaging the malicious incidents according to the level of severity of the malicious threat practically.

5. Uncovering the hidden indicators of compromises of the device system that need to be blocked to reduce the malicious impact and improve the efficiency of indicators of compromise, alerts, and notifications.

6. Enriching the context while uncovering the malicious threats.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Does Malware Analysis Benefit Incident Response?

Malware analysis benefits the incident responders to understand the extent of a malware-based incident and rapidly identify additional hosts or systems that could be affected. Also, it helps the responders to take proper steps against malicious attacks.

Can I Use VM for Malware Analysis?

Yes, you can use VM (virtual machine) for analyzing malware. You must need to run the malicious program on the virtual machine while you are using the dynamic malware analysis technique. Also, virtual machines could be used in the hybrid malware analysis process.

What Is Most Malware Written in?

Programming language like C or C++ is mostly used to write malicious scripts or codes. Though, there are multiple examples of malicious scripts and codes written in other programming languages like .NET, Python, Pearl, JavaScript, and PowerShell.

Finishing Lines

Now, you know what is malware analysis and why is it necessary to analyze the malicious codes. The hybrid malware analysis process is the most effective process to analyze malicious code samples. It is always necessary to use an isolated environment while analyzing the malicious codes. That’s all for today, have a great day.

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