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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence




There exists a never-ending “arms race” between malware analysts and adversarial malicious code developers as malevolent programs evolve and countermeasures are developed to detect and eradicate them. Malware has become more complex in its intent and capabilities over time, which has prompted the need for constant improvement in detection and defence methods. Of particular concern are the anti-analysis obfuscation techniques, such as packing and encryption, that are employed by malware developers to evade detection and thwart the analysis process. In such cases, malware is generally impervious to basic analysis methods and so analysts must use more invasive techniques to extract signatures for classification, which are inevitably not scalable due to their complexity. In this article, we present a hybrid framework for malware classification designed to overcome the challenges incurred by current approaches. The framework incorporates novel static and dynamic malware analysis methods, where static malware executables and dynamic process memory dumps are converted to images mapped through space-filling curves, from which visual features are extracted for classification. The framework is less invasive than traditional analysis methods in that there is no reverse engineering required, nor does it suffer from the obfuscation limitations of static analysis. On a dataset of 13,599 obfuscated and non-obfuscated malware samples from 23 families, the framework outperformed both static and dynamic standalone methods with precision, recall and accuracy scores of 97.6%, 97.6% and 97.6% respectively.