The Ultimate Guide for Malware Analysis Tools

October 26, 2023 • Zachary Amos


Cyberattacks are a constant worry for many organizations. One successful attack can cause considerable damage to a company’s reputation and cost them millions of dollars in the process. Fortunately, most cybersecurity professionals are equipped with the necessary resources to stop these attacks from happening.

Cybersecurity staff uses a range of software to protect their organization from cybercriminals. These are applications, such as malware analysis tools. These tools allow them to study the malware attackers use and provide them with the means to develop software that can detect this harmful software.

What Are Malware Analysis Tools?

Malware analysis tools are software that studies malware applications to determine the behavior and effects of the malicious software. These tools can observe the malware without allowing it to run and cause harm to a device. Malware analysis tools can also provide a safe virtual area — a sandbox — to run the harmful software without compromising a system.

A great Sandbox is one where it can create an area that has the same characteristics as a normal device without the malware expressing different behavior. Meaning it is possible the malware could behave differently if it knew it was being studied.

Malware analysis tools can shed light on the following scenarios:

  • Determine how the malware accessed a system, network or device — what weakness it exploited to gain access
  • Determine how advanced the malware is
  • Determine if someone uploaded the malware onto a system
  • Determine how much harm the malware can cause to a system

The 3 Types of Malware Analysis

There are three types of analysis these tools can run. Each one provides its own set of benefits and insights. Here are the three types of malware analysis:

1. Static Malware Analysis

Cyber professionals can perform static analysis without allowing the malicious software to run. This analysis looks at the file and not the code — hence why the software does not need to operate. This method scans files to determine if they have malicious intent and how they work.

This type of analysis can provide further insight about the software, such as the domain, hashes, filenames, file header data and IP addresses. Network analyzer tools and disassemblers can be utilized to inspect the malware.

2. Dynamic Malware Analysis

Instead of focusing on the files, this analysis runs the malware’s code. This allows cybersecurity workers to understand how the malicious software operates.

A sandbox is introduced with dynamic analysis, preventing the device from being harmed. Dynamic analysis is especially useful because it eliminates the need to reverse engineer the software to understand its operation.

3. Hybrid Malware Analysis

Hybrid analysis is a combination of static and dynamic analysis in one. This means the file is scanned and the malware is opened in a Sandbox. This comprehensive method is the most recommended.

With the previous two types of analysis, the cyber professional can’t always detect the malware’s code — especially if it is more advanced — and it can also hide or behave differently when in a Sandbox. With both methods being utilized, the cyber worker can detect the code the malware is trying to conceal.

Use Cases of Malware Analysis Tools

There are many use cases for malware analysis tools. Here are a few cases where cybersecurity workers can use these tools:

  • Malware inspection and detection: Analysis tools can detect malware on a system, which allows the cyber worker to effectively study the inner workings of the harmful software. Inspecting and studying malware provides more insight into how they work. With this information, cyber professionals can develop tools to detect and stop these malicious software in their tracks.
  • Threat hunting: Threat hunters can use malware analysis tools to detect unknown threats. This is due to these tools picking up behavior patterns. These patterns can reveal other threats that were concealing themselves.
  • Threat alerts and triage: These analysis tools provide a deeper understanding of how malware threats work and also bestow cybersecurity teams with alerts when it detects threats. These alerts allow cyberteams to focus on dangers that require their immediate attention.
  • Incident response: The purpose of incident response teams (IR) is to determine the cause of the attack, the severity and provide solutions to remedy the situation. These analysis tools greatly assist IR teams with this matter.

What to Look For In Malware Analysis Tools

Not all malware analysis tools are the same. Some provide unique benefits and have a low learning curve. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting your malware analysis software:

  • User-friendly: The tool you select needs to provide a great user experience. Some of these tools are incredibly complicated to use — utilizing one that does not require tedious amounts of training will allow cyber professionals to save time and be more confident.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): AI and machine learning can provide great insights to cybersecurity workers. Understanding malware behavior, with the help of machine learning that compares it to previous threats, allows cyber teams to combat malicious software effectively.
  • Open source software: Open source usually means it is free — although this is a great benefit, this is not the main attraction of open source software. With these types of software, developers can access the code and develop useful add-ons or integrations for the application.
  • Known threat collection size: With the aid of signature-based detection — where it scans through network traffic and compares it to known patterns of malicious software and notifies the user when a match occurs — malware analysis tools use a threat library to detect known threats. This means the more extensive the library the tool has to scan through, the better it is to detect potential dangers.

Top 3 Malware Analysis Tools

There are many malware analysis tools available. Here are three popular ones many cybersecurity professionals use:

1. Wireshark

Many cybersecurity workers rely on this tool daily. They use Wireshark for analyzing network traffic and uses deep packet inspection (DPI), which is extremely useful for finding malware trying to conceal itself. One of the many attractions of this tool is that it is open source and free to use — which means it has an impressive list of integrations and add-ons to choose from.

2. CrowdStrike Falcon Insight

CrowdStrike Falcon Insight is an excellent tool as it is an endpoint detection and response( EDR) software — which means it monitors activity on endpoints to look for malware and cyber attackers. This analysis tool is extremely popular and is known as one of the best for endpoint detection.

3. Cuckoo Sandbox

Cuckoo is free to use and is a very popular analysis tool. One reason for its popularity is due to it being extremely user-friendly with a low learning curve. The malware simply needs to be added into Cuckoo and after scanning it, the tool will provide a detailed report of the compromising software.

The Necessity of Analysis Tools

Malware attacks are common in our technological world and can be devastating, if not crippling. With analysis tools, cybersecurity professionals can study how these malicious software operate and build solutions to stop attacks. With cyberattackers creating more advanced software, malware analysis tools are becoming a daily necessity for cyber workers to protect their organizations effectively.