Visible to the public Biblio

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Guo, Wenbo, Mu, Dongliang, Xu, Jun, Su, Purui, Wang, Gang, Xing, Xinyu.  2018.  LEMNA: Explaining Deep Learning Based Security Applications. Proceedings of the 2018 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security. :364–379.
While deep learning has shown a great potential in various domains, the lack of transparency has limited its application in security or safety-critical areas. Existing research has attempted to develop explanation techniques to provide interpretable explanations for each classification decision. Unfortunately, current methods are optimized for non-security tasks ( e.g., image analysis). Their key assumptions are often violated in security applications, leading to a poor explanation fidelity. In this paper, we propose LEMNA, a high-fidelity explanation method dedicated for security applications. Given an input data sample, LEMNA generates a small set of interpretable features to explain how the input sample is classified. The core idea is to approximate a local area of the complex deep learning decision boundary using a simple interpretable model. The local interpretable model is specially designed to (1) handle feature dependency to better work with security applications ( e.g., binary code analysis); and (2) handle nonlinear local boundaries to boost explanation fidelity. We evaluate our system using two popular deep learning applications in security (a malware classifier, and a function start detector for binary reverse-engineering). Extensive evaluations show that LEMNA's explanation has a much higher fidelity level compared to existing methods. In addition, we demonstrate practical use cases of LEMNA to help machine learning developers to validate model behavior, troubleshoot classification errors, and automatically patch the errors of the target models.
Wang, Qinglong, Guo, Wenbo, Zhang, Kaixuan, Ororbia, II, Alexander G., Xing, Xinyu, Liu, Xue, Giles, C. Lee.  2017.  Adversary Resistant Deep Neural Networks with an Application to Malware Detection. Proceedings of the 23rd ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining. :1145–1153.
Outside the highly publicized victories in the game of Go, there have been numerous successful applications of deep learning in the fields of information retrieval, computer vision, and speech recognition. In cybersecurity, an increasing number of companies have begun exploring the use of deep learning (DL) in a variety of security tasks with malware detection among the more popular. These companies claim that deep neural networks (DNNs) could help turn the tide in the war against malware infection. However, DNNs are vulnerable to adversarial samples, a shortcoming that plagues most, if not all, statistical and machine learning models. Recent research has demonstrated that those with malicious intent can easily circumvent deep learning-powered malware detection by exploiting this weakness. To address this problem, previous work developed defense mechanisms that are based on augmenting training data or enhancing model complexity. However, after analyzing DNN susceptibility to adversarial samples, we discover that the current defense mechanisms are limited and, more importantly, cannot provide theoretical guarantees of robustness against adversarial sampled-based attacks. As such, we propose a new adversary resistant technique that obstructs attackers from constructing impactful adversarial samples by randomly nullifying features within data vectors. Our proposed technique is evaluated on a real world dataset with 14,679 malware variants and 17,399 benign programs. We theoretically validate the robustness of our technique, and empirically show that our technique significantly boosts DNN robustness to adversarial samples while maintaining high accuracy in classification. To demonstrate the general applicability of our proposed method, we also conduct experiments using the MNIST and CIFAR-10 datasets, widely used in image recognition research.
Guan, Le, Jia, Shijie, Chen, Bo, Zhang, Fengwei, Luo, Bo, Lin, Jingqiang, Liu, Peng, Xing, Xinyu, Xia, Luning.  2017.  Supporting Transparent Snapshot for Bare-metal Malware Analysis on Mobile Devices. Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Computer Security Applications Conference. :339–349.

The increasing growth of cybercrimes targeting mobile devices urges an efficient malware analysis platform. With the emergence of evasive malware, which is capable of detecting that it is being analyzed in virtualized environments, bare-metal analysis has become the definitive resort. Existing works mainly focus on extracting the malicious behaviors exposed during bare-metal analysis. However, after malware analysis, it is equally important to quickly restore the system to a clean state to examine the next sample. Unfortunately, state-of-the-art solutions on mobile platforms can only restore the disk, and require a time-consuming system reboot. In addition, all of the existing works require some in-guest components to assist the restoration. Therefore, a kernel-level malware is still able to detect the presence of the in-guest components. We propose Bolt, a transparent restoration mechanism for bare-metal analysis on mobile platform without rebooting. Bolt achieves a reboot-less restoration by simultaneously making a snapshot for both the physical memory and the disk. Memory snapshot is enabled by an isolated operating system (BoltOS) in the ARM TrustZone secure world, and disk snapshot is accomplished by a piece of customized firmware (BoltFTL) for flash-based block devices. Because both the BoltOS and the BoltFTL are isolated from the guest system, even kernel-level malware cannot interfere with the restoration. More importantly, Bolt does not require any modifications into the guest system. As such, Bolt is the first that simultaneously achieves efficiency, isolation, and stealthiness to recover from infection due to malware execution. We have implemented a Bolt prototype working with the Android OS. Experimental results show that Bolt can restore the guest system to a clean state in only 2.80 seconds.

Huang, Jian, Xu, Jun, Xing, Xinyu, Liu, Peng, Qureshi, Moinuddin K..  2017.  FlashGuard: Leveraging Intrinsic Flash Properties to Defend Against Encryption Ransomware. Proceedings of the 2017 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security. :2231–2244.

Encryption ransomware is a malicious software that stealthily encrypts user files and demands a ransom to provide access to these files. Several prior studies have developed systems to detect ransomware by monitoring the activities that typically occur during a ransomware attack. Unfortunately, by the time the ransomware is detected, some files already undergo encryption and the user is still required to pay a ransom to access those files. Furthermore, ransomware variants can obtain kernel privilege, which allows them to terminate software-based defense systems, such as anti-virus. While periodic backups have been explored as a means to mitigate ransomware, such backups incur storage overheads and are still vulnerable as ransomware can obtain kernel privilege to stop or destroy backups. Ideally, we would like to defend against ransomware without relying on software-based solutions and without incurring the storage overheads of backups. To that end, this paper proposes FlashGuard, a ransomware tolerant Solid State Drive (SSD) which has a firmware-level recovery system that allows quick and effective recovery from encryption ransomware without relying on explicit backups. FlashGuard leverages the observation that the existing SSD already performs out-of-place writes in order to mitigate the long erase latency of flash memories. Therefore, when a page is updated or deleted, the older copy of that page is anyway present in the SSD. FlashGuard slightly modifies the garbage collection mechanism of the SSD to retain the copies of the data encrypted by ransomware and ensure effective data recovery. Our experiments with 1,447 manually labeled ransomware samples show that FlashGuard can efficiently restore files encrypted by ransomware. In addition, we demonstrate that FlashGuard has a negligible impact on the performance and lifetime of the SSD.

Xu, Jun, Mu, Dongliang, Chen, Ping, Xing, Xinyu, Wang, Pei, Liu, Peng.  2016.  CREDAL: Towards Locating a Memory Corruption Vulnerability with Your Core Dump. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security. :529–540.

After a program has crashed and terminated abnormally, it typically leaves behind a snapshot of its crashing state in the form of a core dump. While a core dump carries a large amount of information, which has long been used for software debugging, it barely serves as informative debugging aids in locating software faults, particularly memory corruption vulnerabilities. A memory corruption vulnerability is a special type of software faults that an attacker can exploit to manipulate the content at a certain memory. As such, a core dump may contain a certain amount of corrupted data, which increases the difficulty in identifying useful debugging information (e.g. , a crash point and stack traces). Without a proper mechanism to deal with this problem, a core dump can be practically useless for software failure diagnosis. In this work, we develop CREDAL, an automatic tool that employs the source code of a crashing program to enhance core dump analysis and turns a core dump to an informative aid in tracking down memory corruption vulnerabilities. Specifically, CREDAL systematically analyzes a core dump potentially corrupted and identifies the crash point and stack frames. For a core dump carrying corrupted data, it goes beyond the crash point and stack trace. In particular, CREDAL further pinpoints the variables holding corrupted data using the source code of the crashing program along with the stack frames. To assist software developers (or security analysts) in tracking down a memory corruption vulnerability, CREDAL also performs analysis and highlights the code fragments corresponding to data corruption. To demonstrate the utility of CREDAL, we use it to analyze 80 crashes corresponding to 73 memory corruption vulnerabilities archived in Offensive Security Exploit Database. We show that, CREDAL can accurately pinpoint the crash point and (fully or partially) restore a stack trace even though a crashing program stack carries corrupted data. In addition, we demonstrate CREDAL can potentially reduce the manual effort of finding the code fragment that is likely to contain memory corruption vulnerabilities.