Protecting Anti-Virus Software Under Viral Attacks

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PROTECTING ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE UNDER VIRAL ATTACKS by Raghunathan Srinivasan

A Thesis Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Science

ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY August 2007

PROTECTING ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE UNDER VIRAL ATTACKS by Raghunathan Srinivasan

has been approved July 2007

Graduate Supervisory Committee: Partha Dasgupta, Chair Charles Colbourn Aviral Shrivastava

ACCEPTED BY THE GRADUATE COLLEGE

ABSTRACT Computers are an important part of everyday life to many people across the world. Computers in the hands of consumers who lack the knowledge of protection tools and who have limited administrator skills are vulnerable to virus attacks. These systems are extremely valuable to intruders as they have lot of secret personal information about the users. Attackers exploit vulnerabilities in the software layers to install malicious programs on user machines to steal secret data for financial gains. Security protocols have been in place for some time to counter the threat posed by the attacks. However, despite the presence of such measures, the number of attacks on consumer computers is growing rapidly. A recent trend in attacks has been the attempt to disable security protocols in place at the host machine. This type of attack leaves the host computer completely defenseless and vulnerable to many further exploits through the Internet. To ensure the continuous functioning of the security protocols, a software-based solution is proposed in this thesis. The solution involves camouflaging the security processes to avoid being detected and disabled by malicious programs. To protect the program in the memory from being tampered or altered with, various modules are employed in this solution. The modules provide obscurity, diversity, randomization and migration of code to hide the location and presence of the security processes.

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In memory of my parents who helped me fight my viruses

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I have had the chance to spend two years at Arizona State University pursuing my MS degree. Now that I look back to see how far I have come since completing my undergraduate studies in India, I feel I have learnt so many things towards my career and life, and yet, I feel that there is so much more to learn. I have finally reached the point where I wanted to be two years back. As I stand here hours from the fulfillment of my dreams, I would like to take time and thank the individuals who helped me along my way. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Partha Dasgupta for giving me an opportunity to work on this novel topic and for providing me with valuable guidance, encouragement and support. I remain highly obliged to Dr. Charles Colbourn and Dr. Aviral Shrivastava for the useful ideas and feedback they gave as part of my thesis committee. I would also like to thank Dr. Dijiang Huang for agreeing to attend my thesis defense. I would like to thank my friends Lifu Wang and Satyajayant Mishra for helping me with programs and ideas. It has been a wonderful experience working with all my colleagues in the Distributed Operating Systems group at ASU and I would like to thank them for helping and making the whole process of research so much fun. I would like to thank all my friends and roommates for making it all worthwhile. Finally, I am ever grateful to my family, especially my sister and my uncle for their unconditional support, inspiration and love I received from them.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Page LIST OF TABLES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.1. Security in Consumer Computing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.2. Malware Threats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3. Background on Malware . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3.1. Types...
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