Know your EK: A content and workflow analysis approach for exploit kits

Suren, Emre
Angın, Pelin
The prevalence and non-stop evolving technical sophistication of Exploit Kits (EKs) is one of the most challenging shifts in the modern cybercrime landscape. Over the last few years, malware infection via drive-by-download attacks have been orchestrated with EK infrastructures. An EK serves various types of malicious content via several threat vectors for a variety of criminal attempts, which are mostly monetary-centric. Malicious emails, malicious advertisements, and compromised websites redirect victim browsers to web-based EK families that are assembled to exploit client-side vulnerabilities and finally deliver evil payloads. Examples include mining crypto-currency to generate revenue, encrypting valuable files to demand ransom, stealing sensitive information for fraud, and turning the victim machine to a zombie to make it an instrument for further attacks. In this paper we provide an in-depth discussion of the EK philosophy and internals. We provide content analysis of the EK families from a publicly available dataset of over 2250 URLs using abstract syntax trees and propose strategies for protection from the devastating effects of this increasingly popular threat.