Countering kernel malware in virtual execution environments
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We present a rootkit prevention system, namely DARK that tracks suspicious Linux loadable kernel modules (LKM) at a granular level by using on-demand emulation, a technique that dynamically switches a running system between virtualized and emulated execution. Combining the strengths of emulation and virtualization, DARK is able to thoroughly capture the activities of the target module in a guest operating system (OS), while maintaining reasonable run-time performance. To address integrity-violation and confidentiality-violation rootkits, we create a group of security policies that can detect all available Linux rootkits. It is shown that normal guest OS performance is unaffected. The performance is only decreased when rootkits attempt to run, while most rootkits are detected at installation. Next, we present a sandbox-based malware analysis system called Rkprofiler that dynamically monitors and analyzes the behavior of Windows kernel malware. Kernel malware samples run inside a virtual machine (VM) that is supported and managed by a PC emulator. Rkprofiler provides several capabilities that other malware analysis systems do not have. First, it can detect the execution of malicious kernel code regardless of how the monitored kernel malware is loaded into the kernel and whether it is packed or not. Second, it captures all function calls made by the kernel malware and constructs call graphs from the trace files. Third, a technique called aggressive memory tagging (AMT) is proposed to track the dynamic data objects that the kernel malware visits. Last, Rkprofiler records and reports the hardware access events of kernel malware (e.g., MSR register reads and writes). Our evaluation results show that Rkprofiler can quickly expose the security-sensitive activities of kernel malware and thus reduces the effort exerted in conducting tedious manual malware analysis.