Welcome to the second installment of the dynamic analysis section of out blog. In the last post, I discussed why you should use a VM solution and made some recommendations on choosing one. In this post, I will go over some information on building out a the VM's themselves, including recommended operating systems and tools to install.
When considering what virtual machines to install, you must consider what tools you will be running and what operating system the malware is targeted at. For this reason, you will most likely end up with various Microsoft Windows installations along with a few Unix variants, most likely Linux. I will not cover installations themselves as there are plenty of instructions out there for installing operating systems. I will also cover a few classes of tools and make some recommendations for each category.
For your Windows VM's, I recommend having both a current Windows 7 install and an older Windows XP installation. The reason for 7 is that malware is starting to directly target Windows 7, as it is starting to gain critical mass in enterprise and general user environments. For most situations, Windows XP will be sufficient though. Windows will be used both as an analysis platform and the place where you run most of your malware samples.
In regards to Linux, you will primarily be using the VM's for analysis or to provide target services for your malware samples. At this point you might be asking, what is a service for malware? A service in this context is just like any other IT service, such as an IRC or FTP service. Many types of malware use legitimate protocols such as FTP or IRC as transports for communication. While performing dynamic analysis, you want to offer up the services the malware is looking for, as a way to go deeper into your analysis. Pretty much any Linux will work well for these duties, as a result I recommend choosing the distribution that you are most familiar with.
Next I will cover recommended tools. The main classes of tools for dynamic analysis are process monitors, file monitors, and network monitors.
Process Monitors are used to monitor running processes on the system where you are running the malware. These tools tell you such things as memory in use, files open, CPU use, drivers used, and DLL's in use. Two of my favorite process monitor tools are System Internals Process Monitor and Process Hacker. Both tools provide very similar information, however I personally think Process Hacker does a better job than Process Monitor of showing you sub-processes spawned by execution of a file.
File Monitors are tools used to detect changes in files on disk. The primary use of file monitors as it relates to malware analysis is to detect changes to operating system files such as the windows registry or configuration files. The tools I generally recommend for this this task are Tripwire/AIDE and Capture Bat/Regshot. Tripwire and AIDE are general File Integrity scanners, they work by taking an MD5 has of all the files on a system, when a file changes they detect the change by comparing the new MD5 to the original. Capture Bat and Regshot work by taking an initial snap shot of the contents of specific files on the disk and comparing them to a later snapshot. Capture Bat and Regshot are both manual tools that require the user to take the first and second snapshots, and then require you to tell the tools to compare the snapshots.
The last class of tools I will cover are network monitors. Network monitors are tools that either capture packets on the wire or monitor TCP/IP sockets on the lcoal system. My favorite tools in this are are Wireshark and TCP View. Wireshark is a packet capture tool that runs in promiscuous mode on a network interface and captures all packets going across the wire. TCP View on the other hand sits on a local system and lists the TCP/IP ports that are open and the processes that have them open.
This post wraps up our basic analysis station configuration. In the next couple of weeks, I will show how these tools can be used to begin to perform dynamic analysis on sample malware. Stay tuned!