ALOHA: Auxiliary Loss Optimization for Hypothesis Augmentation

Malware detection is a popular application of Machine Learning for Information Security (ML-Sec), in which an ML classifier is trained to predict whether a given file is malware or benignware. Parameters of this classifier are typically optimized such that outputs from the model over a set of input samples most closely match the samples true malicious/benign (1/0) target labels. However, there are often a number of other sources of contextual metadata for each malware sample, beyond an aggregate malicious/benign label, including multiple labeling sources and malware type information (e.g. ransomware, trojan, etc.), which we can feed to the classifier as auxiliary prediction targets. In this work, we fit deep neural networks to multiple additional targets derived from metadata in a threat intelligence feed for Portable Executable (PE) malware and benignware, including a multisource malicious/benign loss, a count loss on multi-source detections, and a semantic malware attribute tag loss. We find that incorporating multiple auxiliary loss terms yields a marked improvement in performance on the main detection task. We also demonstrate that these gains likely stem from a more informed neural network representation and are not due to a regularization artifact of multi-target learning. Our auxiliary loss architecture yields a significant reduction in detection error rate (false negatives) of 42.6% at a false positive rate (FPR) of 10−3 when compared to a similar model with only one target, and a decrease of 53.8% at 10−5 FPR.

Automatic Malware Description via Attribute Tagging and Similarity Embedding

With the rapid proliferation and increased sophistication of malicious software (malware), detection methods no longer rely only on manually generated signatures but have also incorporated more general approaches like machine learning detection. Although powerful for conviction of malicious artifacts, these methods do not produce any further information about the type of threat that has been detected neither allows for identifying relationships between malware samples. In this work, we address the information gap between machine learning and signature-based detection methods by learning a representation space for malware samples in which files with similar malicious behaviors appear close to each other. We do so by introducing a deep learning based tagging model trained to generate human-interpretable semantic descriptions of malicious software, which, at the same time provides potentially more useful and flexible information than malware family names.
We show that the malware descriptions generated with the proposed approach correctly identify more than 95% of eleven possible tag descriptions for a given sample, at a deployable false positive rate of 1% per tag. Furthermore, we use the learned representation space to introduce a similarity index between malware files, and empirically demonstrate using dynamic traces from files’ execution, that is not only more effective at identifying samples from the same families, but also 32 times smaller than those based on raw feature vectors.