|Platform||Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Vista, Windows 8.1, Windows 10|
|Data Sources||Binary file metadata|
|Defense Bypassed||Anti-virus, heuristic detection, Signature-based detection|
Software packing is a method of compressing or encrypting an executable. Packing an executable changes the file signature in an attempt to avoid signature-based detection. Most decompression techniques decompress the executable code in memory.
Utilities used to perform software packing are called packers. Example packers are MPRESS and UPX. A more comprehensive list of known packers is available,1 but adversaries may create their own packing techniques that do not leave the same artifacts as well-known packers to evade defenses.
- APT29 used UPX to pack files.2
- Group5 packed an executable by base64 encoding the PE file and breaking it up into numerous lines.3
- Night Dragon is known to use software packing in its tools.4
- A Patchwork payload was packed with UPX.5
- H1N1 uses a custom packing algorithm.6
- SeaDuke has been packed with the UPX packer.7
- Trojan.Karagany samples sometimes use common binary packers such as UPX and Aspack on top of a custom Delphi binary packer.8
- Uroburos uses a custom packer.9
Ensure updated virus definitions. Create custom signatures for observed malware. Employ heuristic-based malware detection.
Use file scanning to look for known software packers or artifacts of packing techniques. Packing is not a definitive indicator of malicious activity, because legitimate software may use packing techniques to reduce binary size or to protect proprietary code.
- Executable compression. (n.d.). Retrieved December 4, 2014.
- Dunwoody, M. and Carr, N.. (2016, September 27). No Easy Breach DerbyCon 2016. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
- Scott-Railton, J., et al. (2016, August 2). Group5: Syria and the Iranian Connection. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
- McAfee® Foundstone® Professional Services and McAfee Labs™. (2011, February 10). Global Energy Cyberattacks: “Night Dragon”. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
- Kaspersky Lab's Global Research & Analysis Team. (2016, July 8). The Dropping Elephant – aggressive cyber-espionage in the Asian region. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
- Reynolds, J.. (2016, September 13). H1N1: Technical analysis reveals new capabilities. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
- Grunzweig, J.. (2015, July 14). Unit 42 Technical Analysis: Seaduke. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
- Symantec Security Response. (2014, July 7). Dragonfly: Cyberespionage Attacks Against Energy Suppliers. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
- Symantec. (2015, January 26). The Waterbug attack group. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- Beechey, J. (2010, December). Application Whitelisting: Panacea or Propaganda?. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
- Tomonaga, S. (2016, January 26). Windows Commands Abused by Attackers. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
- NSA Information Assurance Directorate. (2014, August). Application Whitelisting Using Microsoft AppLocker. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
- Corio, C., & Sayana, D. P. (2008, June). Application Lockdown with Software Restriction Policies. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
- Microsoft. (2012, June 27). Using Software Restriction Policies and AppLocker Policies. Retrieved April 7, 2016.