Evasive Malware Analysis and Handling Playbook

December 17, 20234 min read

Playbook Objectives:

  • To enhance the capabilities of the Incident Response Team (IRT) in identifying, analyzing, and mitigating evasive malware threats.
  • To test and refine the organization’s existing protocols for detecting and responding to sophisticated malware that may utilize obfuscation, polymorphism, or other evasion techniques.
  • To educate cybersecurity personnel on the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of advanced threat actors deploying evasive malware.
  • To validate the effectiveness of current security controls and the ability to trace and extract indicators of compromise (IoCs) from a simulated complex malware infection.
  • To develop a coordinated response involving multiple departments, including IT, security, legal, and public relations, for comprehensive incident management.

Difficulty Level:

  • Advanced: This exercise assumes that participants have prior knowledge of malware analysis, network security, and incident response procedures.


  • Company: TechnoPioneers Inc., an innovative software development firm specializing in artificial intelligence applications. Key Personnel:
  • Alice, the CISO;
  • Bob, a Senior Malware Analyst;
  • Carol, the Network Administrator;
  • Dave, the PR Manager.
  • TechnoPioneers Inc. has recently become the target of sophisticated cyber-attacks aimed at stealing intellectual property. The threat actors are suspected of deploying evasive malware that has managed to bypass traditional antivirus solutions. The company needs to enhance its security posture by equipping its staff to handle more advanced threats, which could potentially damage its reputation and lead to financial loss.


  • Cyber Defense: Evasive Malware Analysis

Exercise Attack Steps:

  • Initial Compromise:
    • The threat actor sends a spear-phishing email to a select group of employees, including Bob, with a seemingly legitimate attachment containing the evasive malware.
  • Establishing Foothold:
    • An employee opens the attachment, inadvertently executing the secretive malware, which uses a zero-day exploit to gain access to the system.
  • Evasion Techniques:
    • The malware employs code obfuscation and polymorphic capabilities to evade signature-based detection and establishes communication with a command-and-control (C2) server.
  • Lateral Movement:
    • Utilizing stolen credentials, the malware attempts to spread across the network, targeting servers hosting sensitive research data.
  • Data Exfiltration:
    • The malware begins to compress and encrypt sets of classified documents preparing them for transmission back to the C2 server.
  • Detection and Analysis:
    • Network monitoring tools alert Carol to unusual outbound traffic patterns, prompting an investigation.
    • Bob captures network traffic and conducts behavioral analysis, identifying aberrant system processes.
  • Containment and Eradication:
    • Carol isolates affected systems, preventing further lateral movement.
    • Bob creates custom signatures based on IoCs found during the behavioral analysis to aid in identifying and removing the malware.
  • Recovery:
    • Bob and Carol work together to restore systems from backups and apply patches for the exploited vulnerabilities.
  • Post-Incident Reporting:
    • Alice oversees the creation of a detailed incident report, outlining the attack vector, its impact, and the response actions taken.
    • Dave prepares communication strategies to manage potential public relations fallouts and reassure clients and stakeholders of the firm’s resilience.
  • Lessons Learned and Future Steps:
    • The team reviews the exercise, identifies gaps in the existing security controls, and lays out a roadmap for improvements to prevent similar future incidents.
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