Mar Castro

Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Cyber Operations (PhDCO)


Computer Science

First Advisor

Austin O'Brien

Second Advisor

Yong Wang

Third Advisor

Cherie Noteboom


Many malware classifications include viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, bots, adware, spyware, rootkits, file-less downloaders, malvertising, and many more. Each type may share unique behavioral characteristics with its methods of operations (MO), a pattern of behavior so distinctive that it could be recognized as having the same creator. The research shows the extraction of malware methods of operation using the step-by-step process of Artificial-Based Intelligence (ABI) with built-in Density-based spatial clustering of applications with noise (DBSCAN) machine learning to quantify the actions for their similarities, differences, baseline behaviors, and anomalies. The collected data of the research is from the ransomware sample repositories of Malware Bazaar and Virus Share, totaling 1300 live malicious codes ingested into the CAPEv2 malware sandbox, allowing the capture of traces of static, dynamic, and network behavior features. The ransomware features have shown significant activity of varying identified functions used in encryption, file application programming interface (API), and network function calls. During the machine learning categorization phase, there are eight identified clusters that have similar and different features regarding function-call sequencing events and file access manipulation for dropping file notes and writing encryption. Having compared all the clusters using a “supervenn” pictorial diagram, the characteristics of the static and dynamic behavior of the ransomware give the initial baselines for comparison with other variants that may have been added to the collected data for intelligence gathering. The findings provide a novel practical approach for intelligence gathering to address ransomware or any other malware variants’ activity patterns to discern similarities, anomalies, and differences between malware actions under study.