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IEEE expands malware initiatives

Clearing-house for software metadata

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Standards body the IEEE has launched two new anti-malware initiatives designed to help software and security vendors spot malware that's been inserted into other software, and improve the performance of malware detection by cutting down on false positives.

The organisation's Anti-Malware Support Service (AMSS) is designed to fight back against malware authors who hijack software from legitimate vendors, and also wants to help mitigate the spread and impact of malware.

There are two components of the service: a Clean file Metadata eXchange (CMX) and the Taggant system.

CMX lets software publishers create and publish the metadata of an application at the time of final build. That way, if a malware author takes the “real” program and modifies it to carry malware, it's easier to detect, while at the same time hopefully reducing the number of false positives reported by anti-virus software.

The metadata would include hashes (like MD5, SHA-1 or SHA-256) of the final-build software, the installed filename of a program, its destination path, digital signature data (if used) and file version information.

Large vendors will be invited to take part, while others will be able to submit the metadata with a Class 3 code signing certificate. The program will also allow vetted organisations to provide metadata for third parties. The program is being hosted at Avira in Germany, which will provide the metadata to registered users.

For users of the CMX – those wanting to validate software against the system, including anti-malware vendors – CMX Consumer membership is $US8,000 a year.

The Taggat System “places a cryptographically secure marker in the packed and obfuscated files created by commercial software distribution packaging programs (packers).”

Designed for software packer vendors (SPVs, who provide commercial software obfuscation and packing programs) and software security vendors, Taggant identifies packer user's license key that's been used to create an instance of packed malware.

Future files that match the packer user will be marked as suspicious and the user blacklisted.

Back in 2009, the IEEE created a multi-vendor alliance designed to improve the sharing of malware between outfits like McAfee, AVG, Sophos, Symantec and Trend Micro. ®

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