Publication Date

Spring 5-20-2019

Degree Type

Master's Project

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Computer Science

First Advisor

Thomas Austin

Second Advisor

Mark Stamp

Third Advisor

Philip Heller


Various factors like defects in the operating system, email attachments from unknown sources, downloading and installing a software from non-trusted sites make computers vulnerable to malware attacks. Current antivirus techniques lack the ability to detect metamorphic viruses, which vary the internal structure of the original malware code across various versions, but still have the exact same behavior throughout. Antivirus software typically relies on signature detection for identifying a virus, but code morphing evades signature detection quite effectively.

JavaScript is used to generate metamorphic malware by changing the code’s Abstract Syntax Tree without changing the actual functionality, making it very difficult to detect by antivirus software. As JavaScript is prevalent almost everywhere, it becomes an ideal candidate language for spreading malware.

This research aims to detect metamorphic malware using various machine learning models like K Nearest Neighbors, Random Forest, Support Vector Machine, and Naïve Bayes. It also aims to test the effectiveness of various morphing techniques that can be used to reduce the accuracy of the classification model. Thus, this involves improvement on both fronts of generation and detection of the malware helping antivirus software detect morphed codes with better accuracy. In this research, JavaScript based metamorphic engine reduces the accuracy of a trained malware detector. While N-gram frequency based feature vectors give good accuracy results for classifying metamorphic malware, HMM feature vectors provide the best results.