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A Study of Malcode-Bearing Documents

Li, Wei-Jen; Stolfo, Salvatore; Stavrou, Angelos; Androulaki, Elli; Keromytis, Angelos D.

By exploiting the object-oriented dynamic composability of modern document applications and formats, malcode hidden in otherwise inconspicuous documents can reach third-party applications that may harbor exploitable vulnerabilities otherwise unreachable by network-level service attacks. Such attacks can be very selective and difficult to detect compared to the typical network worm threat, owing to the complexity of these applications and data formats, as well as the multitude of document-exchange vectors. As a case study, this paper focuses on Microsoft Word documents as malcode carriers. We investigate the possibility of detecting embedded malcode in Word documents using two techniques: static content analysis using statistical models of typical document content, and run-time dynamic tests on diverse platforms. The experiments demonstrate these approaches can not only detect known malware, but also most zero-day attacks. We identify several problems with both approaches, representing both challenges in addressing the problem and opportunities for future research.

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Academic Units
Computer Science
Publisher
Department of Computer Science, Columbia University
Series
Columbia University Computer Science Technical Reports, CUCS-028-07
Published Here
April 27, 2011
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