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Malicious Cryptography: Exposing Cryptovirology by Moti Yung, Adam Young

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Chapter 5

Cryptocounters

A common trigger used in viruses to decide when to attack is a counter value. Such viruses typically do not trigger until it has propagated itself a certain minimum number of times. The Den Zuk virus contains such a trigger [289]. When counters are used only to measure the number of viruses in the wild, a good approach is to utilize two different generation counters. One counter would store the generation number of the virus that is incremented by one in each child a given virus has. This would provide the height h of the family tree. The other counter would be used to measure the average number of children that each virus has (see Chapter 1). This mechanism could be used as a tool for measuring replication performance of viruses in real-world infections.

However, antiviral analysts would likely benefit more than virus writers from the incorporation of counters in virus code since they would receive better population samplings. To solve this malware problem, a method is needed to implement such counters in a way that the viruses can increment the counters but that only the virus writer can read the actual counter values. A cryptocounter is a cryptographic primitive that solves this problem.

In this chapter a simple cryptocounter scheme is presented based on the ElGamal public key cryptosystem. Drawbacks to this approach are then given, followed by an improved ...

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