Static Malware Analysis Vs Dynamic Malware Analysis
Malware Analysis: An Introduction
Cybercriminals are turning more sophisticated and innovative, new and advanced varieties of malware are coming up and malware detection is turning out to be a real challenge. Malware analysis, which involves analyzing the origin, the functionalities and the potential impact of any malware sample, is of key importance as regards cybersecurity in the modern world.
Security professional rely on malware analysis for various purposes. They could use it to assess the extent of infection whenever there is a malware strike or to identify the nature of the malware involved. Similarly, a proper understanding of the functionalities and impact of any malware sample helps them tackle cyberattacks in a better way.
There are two different kinds of malware analysis, namely static malware analysis and dynamic malware analysis.
Static malware analysis
Static malware analysis involves examining any given malware sample without actually running or executing the code. This is usually done by determining the signature of the malware binary; the signature is a unique identification for the binary file. Calculating the cryptographic hash of the binary file and understanding each of its components helps determine its signature. The executable of the malware binary file is loaded into a disassembler (for example, IDA) and thus the machine-executable code gets converted to assembly language code. Thus, by doing this reverse-engineering on a malware binary file, it’s rendered easy for a person to read and understand. The analyst, by looking at the assembly language code, gets to understand the malware better. A better idea can be formed about the functionalities that it’s programmed to do and the potential impact it can have on any system and network. Analysts use different techniques for static analysis; these include file fingerprinting, virus scanning, memory dumping, packer detection, and debugging.
Dynamic malware analysis
Dynamic malware analysis, unlike static malware analysis, involves analysis while running the code in a controlled environment. The malware is run in a closed, isolated virtual environment and then its behavior studied. The intention is to understand its functioning and behavior and use this knowledge to stop its spread or to remove the infection. Debuggers are used, in advanced dynamic malware analysis, to determine the functionality of the malware executable. Dynamic malware analysis, unlike static analysis, is behavior-based and hence analysts won’t miss out on important behaviors of any malware strain.
Static Vs. Dynamic Malware Analysis: The differences
Let’s try and list out the basic differences between the two different kinds of malware analysis…
- While static malware analysis is signature based, dynamic analysis is behavior-based.
- While the code is not executed during static analysis, the malware code is run in a sandbox environment.
- Static analysis is quite simple and just observes the behavior of the malware and attempts to analyze its capabilities. Dynamic analysis performs a more thorough kind of analysis of the actions, the functionalities and the impact of the malware, with the analyst studying it at each and every phase of its deployment and functioning.
- While static analysis works for the common malware, dynamic analysis, being behavior-based, is needed for the more sophisticated and advanced kind of malware.
Malware analysis is of utmost importance since it helps understand malware infections and stop malware from spreading into other systems, files, directories etc. Malware analysis, static as well as dynamic, helps understand malware and their functioning in a better way and also helps us prevent further attacks in a very effective manner.