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.

Konstantin Berlin
Richard Harang
Ethan Rudd

Learning from Context: Exploiting and Interpreting File Path Information for Better Malware Detection

Machine learning (ML) used for static portable executable (PE) malware detection typically employs per-file numerical feature vector representations as input with one or more target labels during training. However, there is much orthogonal information that can be gleaned from the \textit{context} in which the file was seen. In this paper, we propose utilizing a static source of contextual information — the path of the PE file — as an auxiliary input to the classifier. While file paths are not malicious or benign in and of themselves, they do provide valuable context for a malicious/benign determination. Unlike dynamic contextual information, file paths are available with little overhead and can seamlessly be integrated into a multi-view static ML detector, yielding higher detection rates at very high throughput with minimal infrastructural changes. Here we propose a multi-view neural network, which takes feature vectors from PE file content as well as corresponding file paths as inputs and outputs a detection score. To ensure realistic evaluation, we use a dataset of approximately 10 million samples — files and file paths from user endpoints of an actual security vendor network. We then conduct an interpretability analysis via LIME modeling to ensure that our classifier has learned a sensible representation and see which parts of the file path most contributed to change in the classifier’s score. We find that our model learns useful aspects of the file path for classification, while also learning artifacts from customers testing the vendor’s product, e.g., by downloading a directory of malware samples each named as their hash. We prune these artifacts from our test dataset and demonstrate reductions in false negative rate of 32.3% at a 10−3 false positive rate (FPR) and 33.1% at 10−4 FPR, over a similar topology single input PE file content only model.

Adarsh Kyadige
Ethan Rudd
Konstantin Berlin

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.

Felipe Ducau
Ethan Rudd
Konstantin Berlin

Deep Neural Network Based Malware Detection Using Two Dimensional Binary Program Features

Malware remains a serious problem for corporations, government agencies, and individuals, as attackers continue to use it as a tool to effect frequent and
costly network intrusions. Today malware detection
is still done mainly with heuristic and signature-based
methods that struggle to keep up with malware evolution. Machine learning holds the promise of automating
the work required to detect newly discovered malware
families, and could potentially learn generalizations
about malware and benign software (benignware) that
support the detection of entirely new, unknown malware
families. Unfortunately, few proposed machine learning based malware detection methods have achieved the
low false positive rates and high scalability required to
deliver deployable detectors.
In this paper we introduce an approach that addresses these issues, describing in reproducible detail
the deep neural network based malware detection system that Invincea has developed. Our system achieves
a usable detection rate at an extremely low false positive rate and scales to real world training example volumes on commodity hardware. Specifically, we show
that our system achieves a 95% detection rate at 0.1%
false positive rate (FPR), based on more than 400,000
software binaries sourced directly from our customers
and internal malware databases. We achieve these results by directly learning on all binaries, without any
filtering, unpacking, or manually separating binary files
into categories. Further, we confirm our false positive
rates directly on a live stream of files coming in from
Invincea’s deployed endpoint solution, provide an estimate of how many new binary files we expected to see
a day on an enterprise network, and describe how that
relates to the false positive rate and translates into an
intuitive threat score.
Our results demonstrate that it is now feasible to
quickly train and deploy a low resource, highly accurate
∗Authors contributed equally to the work.
machine learning classification model, with false positive rates that approach traditional labor intensive signature based methods, while also detecting previously
unseen malware. Since machine learning models tend
to improve with larger data-sizes, we foresee deep neural network classification models gaining in importance
as part of a layered network defense strategy in coming

Joshua Saxe
Konstantin Berlin