Advanced Polymorphic Worms: Evading IDS by Blending in with Normal Traffic
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Normal traffic can provide worms with a very good source of information to camouflage themselves. In this paper, we explore the concept of polymorphic worms that mutate based on normal traffic. We assume that a worm has already penetrated a system and is trying to hide its presence and propagation attempts from an IDS.We focus on stealthy worms that cannot be reliably detected by increases in traffic because of their low propagation factor.We first give an example of a simple polymorphic worm. Such worms can evade a signature-based IDS but not necessarily an anomaly-based IDS. We then show that it is feasible for an advanced polymorphic worm to gather a normal traffic profile and use it to evade an anomaly-based IDS.We tested the advanced worm implementation with three anomaly IDS approaches: NETAD, PAYL and Service-specific IDS. None of the three IDS approaches were able to detect the worm reliably. We found that the mutated worm can also evade other detection methods, such as the Abstract Payload Execution. The goal of this paper is to advance the science of IDS by analyzing techniques polymorphic worms can use to hide themselves. While future work is needed to present a complete solution, our analysis can be used in designing possible defenses. By showing that polymorphic worms are a practical threat, we hope to stimulate further research to improve existing IDS.