Mirage: Toward a Stealthier and Modular Malware Analysis Sandbox for Android


Nowadays, malware is affecting not only PCs but also mobile devices, which became pervasive in everyday life. Mobile devices can access and store personal information (e.g., location, photos, and messages) and thus are appealing to malware authors. One of the most promising approach to analyze malware is by monitoring its execution in a sandbox (i.e., via dynamic analysis). In particular, most malware sandboxing solutions for Android rely on an emulator, rather than a real device. This motivates malware authors to include runtime checks in order to detect whether the malware is running in a virtualized environment. In that case, the malicious app does not trigger the malicious payload. The presence of differences between real devices and Android emulators started an arms race between security researchers and malware authors, where the former want to hide these differences and the latter try to seek them out. In this paper we present Mirage, a malware sandbox architecture for Android focused on dynamic analysis evasion attacks. We designed the components of Mirage to be extensible via software modules, in order to build specific countermeasures against such attacks. To the best of our knowledge, Mirage is the first modular sandbox architecture that is robust against sandbox detection techniques. As a representative case study, we present a proof of concept implementation of Mirage with a module that tackles evasion attacks based on sensors API return values.

European Symposium on Research in Computer Security