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A Study of the Packer Problem and Its Solutions

Teddy Rogers

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An increasing percentage of malware programs distributed in the wild are packed by packers, which are programs that transform an input binary'sĀ appearance without affecting its execution semantics, to create new malware variants that can evade signature-based malware detection tools. This paper reports the results of a comprehensive study of the extent of the packer problem based on data collected at Symantec and the effectiveness of existing solutions to this problem. Then the paper presents a generic unpacking solution called Justin (Just-In-Time AV scanning), which is designed to detect the end of unpacking of a packed binary's run and invoke AV scanning against the process image at that time. For accurate end-to-unpacking detection, Justin incorporates the following heuristics: Dirty Page Execution, Unpacker Memory Avoidance, Stack Pointer Check and Command-Line Argument Access. Empirical testing shows that when compared with SymPack, which contains a set of manually created unpackers for a collection of selective packers, Justin's effectiveness is comparable to SymPack for those binaries packed by these supported packers, and is much better than SymPack for binaries packed by those that SymPack does not support.

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