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1159010_McIntosh,T_2019.pdf (2.29 MB)

Masquerade attacks against security software exclusion lists

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-03-03, 01:31 authored by Timothy McIntoshTimothy McIntosh, J Jang-Jaccard, Paul WattersPaul Watters, T Susnjak

Security software, commonly known as Antivirus, has evolved from simple virus scanners to become multi-functional security suites. To combat ever-growing malware threats, modern security software utilizes both static and dynamic analysis to assess malware threats, inevitably leading to occasional false positive and false negative reports. To mitigate this, existing state-of-the-art security software offers the feature of Exclusion Lists to allow users to exclude specified files and folders from being scanned or monitored. Through rigorous evaluation, however, we found that some of such products stored their Exclusion Lists as unencrypted cleartexts either in known or predictable locations. In this paper we empirically demonstrate how easy it is to exploit the Exclusion Lists by launching masquerade attacks. We argue that the Exclusion Lists should be better implemented such as using application whitelisting, the contents of the lists to be better safeguarded, and only be readable by authorized entities within a strong access control scheme.


This work was made possible by the support of a grant (UOCX1720) from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment of New Zealand, September 2017 Catalyst: Strategic Investment Round.


Publication Date



Australian Journal of Intelligent Information Processing Systems





Article Number



8p. (p. 1-8)


Australian National University



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