CharBot: A Simple and Effective Method for Evading DGA Classifiers

J. Peck
C. Nie
R. Sivaguru
C. Grumer
F. Olumofin
B. Yu
A. Nascimento, University of Washington Tacoma
M. De Cock, University of Washington Tacoma


Domain generation algorithms (DGAs) are commonly leveraged by malware to create lists of domain names, which can be used for command and control (C&C) purposes. Approaches based on machine learning have recently been developed to automatically detect generated domain names in real-time. In this paper, we present a novel DGA called CharBot, which is capable of producing large numbers of unregistered domain names that are not detected by state-of-the-art classifiers for real-time detection of the DGAs, including the recently published methods FANCI (a random forest based on human-engineered features) and LSTM.MI (a deep learning approach). The CharBot is very simple, effective, and requires no knowledge of the targeted DGA classifiers. We show that retraining the classifiers on CharBot samples is not a viable defense strategy. We believe these findings show that DGA classifiers are inherently vulnerable to adversarial attacks if they rely only on the domain name string to make a decision. Designing a robust DGA classifier may, therefore, necessitate the use of additional information besides the domain name alone. To the best of our knowledge, the CharBot is the simplest and most efficient black-box adversarial attack against DGA classifiers proposed to date.