Saying to catch a thief you have to think like one, researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have created their "monster" that can cloak itself as it steals and reconfigures information in a computer program.
In a nod to the potentially destructive nature of their technology, the researchers have named the software Frankenstein after Mary Shelley's novel.
"Shelley's story is an example of a horror that can result from science, and similarly, we intend our creation as a warning that we need better detections for these types of intrusions," said professor of computer science Kevin Hamlen, who created the software along with his doctoral student Vishwath Mohan.
Anti-virus software typically scans for sequences of code that are known to be suspicious but Frankenstein evades this scanning mechanism, the researchers said, by taking code from programs already on a computer and repurposing it, stringing it together to accomplish a malicious task with new instructions.
"Just as Shelley's monster was stitched from body parts, our Frankenstein also stitches software from original program parts, so no red flags are raised," he said. "It looks completely different, but its code is consistent with something normal."
"Criminals may already know how to create this kind of software, so we examined the science behind the danger this represents, in hopes of creating countermeasures," Hamlen said.