Microsoft Defender uses Intel TDT technology against crypto-mining malware

Microsoft Defender uses Intel TDT technology against crypto-mining malware

Microsoft announced an improvement of its Defender antivirus that will leverage Intel’s Threat Detection Technology (TDT) to detect processes associated with crypto-miners.

Microsoft announced that Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, its commercial version of Windows 10 Defender antivirus, implements a new mechanism that leverages Intel’s Threat Detection Technology (TDT) to block cryptojacking malware using

Cryptojacking malware allows threat actors to secretly mine for cryptocurrency abusing computational resources of the infected devices.

The Intel TDT technology allows sharing heuristics and telemetry with security software that could use this data to detect the activity associated with a malicious code. Intel TDT leverages machine learning to analyze low-level hardware telemetry produced by the CPU performance monitoring unit (PMU) and uses it to detect the malware code execution “fingerprint” at runtime. TDT is currently implemented in Intel Core processors and any Intel CPU series that supports Intel vPro technologies, 6th Generation or later.

“Today, we are announcing the integration of Intel Threat Detection Technology (TDT) into Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, an addition that enhances the detection capability and protection against cryptojacking malware.” reads the announcement published by Microsoft. “TDT leverages a rich set of performance profiling events available in Intel SoCs (system-on-a-chip) to monitor and detect malware at their final execution point (the CPU). This happens irrespective of obfuscation techniques, including when malware hides within virtualized guests, without needing intrusive techniques like code injection or performing complex hypervisor introspection. TDT can further offload machine learning inference to the integrated graphics processing unit (GPU), enabling continuous monitoring with negligible overhead.”

Microsoft Defender TDT 2

Microsoft experts pointed out that cryptocurrency miners make heavy use of repeated mathematical operations that are monitored by the PMU. When the computational power used by the malicious code reaches a certain usage threshold, the PMU generates a signal which is analyzed by a machine learning engine to determine if the activity is associated with a miner.

“Since the signal comes exclusively from the utilization of the CPU, caused by execution characteristics of malware, it is unaffected by common antimalware evasion techniques such as binary obfuscation or memory-only payloads.” continues the announcement.

This security technology is very effective against malware that implements sophisticated evasion techniques, it could be also used to detect the activity of a malicious code that operates from inside virtual machines or a container in the attempt to masquerade its presence to AV software sunning on the underlying OS.

“As organizations look to simplify their security investments, we’re committed to our focus on built-in platform-based security technologies, delivering a best-of-breed and streamlined solution that empowers defenders to elevate their security and protect their organizations. This partnership is part of Microsoft’s investment into collaborations with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and technology partners.” concludes Microsoft. “We’re working closely with chipmakers to always explore new possibilities for hardware-based defense hardening and deliver robust and resilient protection against cyber threats.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Microsoft Defender)

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