Measuring and defeating anti-instrumentation-equipped malware

Mario Polino*, Andrea Continella, Sebastiano Mariani, Stefano D’Alessio, Lorenzo Fontana, Fabio Gritti, Stefano Zanero

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Malware authors constantly develop new techniques in order to evade analysis systems. Previous works addressed attempts to evade analysis by means of anti-sandboxing and anti-virtualization techniques, for example proposing to run samples on bare-metal. However, state-of the- art bare-metal tools fail to provide richness and completeness in the results of the analysis. In this context, Dynamic Binary Instrumentation (DBI) tools have become popular in the analysis of new malware samples because of the deep control they guarantee over the instrumented binary. As a consequence, malware authors developed new techniques, called anti-instrumentation, aimed at detecting if a sample is being instrumented. We propose a practical approach to make DBI frameworks more stealthy and resilient against anti-instrumentation attacks. We studied the common techniques used by malware to detect the presence of a DBI tool, and we proposed a set of countermeasures to address them. We implemented our approach in Arancino, on top of the Intel Pin framework. Armed with it, we perform the first large-scale measurement of the anti-instrumentation techniques employed by modern malware. Finally, we leveraged our tool to implement a generic unpacker, showing some case studies of the anti-instrumentation techniques used by known packers.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDetection of Intrusions and Malware, and Vulnerability Assessment - 14th International Conference, DIMVA 2017, 2017
EditorsMichalis Polychronakis, Michael Meier
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-60876-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-60875-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event14th International Conference on Detection of Intrusions and Malware, and Vulnerability Assess, DIMVA 2017 - Bonn, Germany
Duration: 6 Jul 20177 Jul 2017
Conference number: 14

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume10327 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference14th International Conference on Detection of Intrusions and Malware, and Vulnerability Assess, DIMVA 2017
Abbreviated titleDIMVA 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Measuring and defeating anti-instrumentation-equipped malware'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this