When my wife studied her MA in graphic design and branding she got a lot of interesting home work. One of them was… ‘The square’. She spent a lot of time brainstorming and eventually produced a large collection of ideas that got her a good mark. Now, the simple purpose of that exercise was to play around with the idea of… ideas. As simple as it sounds, the moment you start exploring one ‘simple’ subject you will soon find yourself deep in a forest.
As I am adding support for many Quarantine files now (to DeXRAY) I suddenly found myself in a world of Antivirus analysis. One thing that somehow connects all of AV products is not their functionality, or Utopian vision of full protection, but… the EICAR file.
I decided to explore the topic of this file a bit – same as my wife was exploring the square. Yup, here’s a boring story SLASH a bunch of ideas associated with EICAR SLASH and other topics like this …
First of all – in case you don’t know – EICAR is a small file that is used as a test for security products (in the past it was mainly antivirus, but nowadays it should apply to any security solution that looks at files/content of any sort really). Once you deploy/install the solution/product, you can drop the EICAR file all over the place and see if solution picks it up. Notably, some AV vendors apparently do not understand what EICAR’s purpose is and decided not to detect it. I won’t be pointing fingers, but upload EICAR file to VirusTotal and you will know who I am talking about.
Naming conventions in AV is a subject to many debates over many years. EICAR looks like a no-brainer though as it’s an artificial file created with a single purpose and its origin and name are well-documented. It doesn’t help though… it would seem that vendors can’t agree on one, single name. Here is a histogram of names used by AV:
EICAR-Test-File (not a virus) 4
Eicar test file 3
EICAR (v) 2
EICAR Test File (NOT a Virus!) 1
EICAR-Test-File (not a virus) (B) 1
EICAR Test String 1
NORMAL:EICAR-Test-File!84776 [F] 1
EICAR Test-NOT virus!!! 1
And the bonus: one of these even has a typo. Can you spot it?
EICAR is a very strange phenomenon.
It is an organization. It is a file. It has a dedicated web site. It haz a dedicated con. Its original name is inclusive of Europe, and exclusive of other continents (EICAR stands for ‘European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research’; deprecated name, but always…).
Anagrams of EICAR are ERICA, CERIA and AREIC. They serve no purpose in this article.
File size: 68 bytes
Eicar is a DOS file and can be executed… but only under old versions of Windows.
The source code is using the same tricks as shellcodes:
- it is a self-modifying code (patching itself)
Does your sandbox solution accept EICAR? Test it.
There exist tools that help you to generate EICAR file and its cousins (file formats embedding EICAR).
There exist a close friend of EICAR called AMTSO (Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization) that focuses on testing antimalware methods. It produces some more test files to support the original idea introduced by EICAR f.ex. Potentially Unwanted Application equivalent of EICAR:
with the histogram of detection names as follows (VT detection rate: 43/56 – mind you that the file was compiled on 2013-04-04 21:26:07 (Thursday)):
Riskware ( 0040eff71 ) 2
RiskTool.EICAR-Test-File.r5 (Not a Virus) 1
RiskTool.Win32.AMTSOTestFile (not malicious) 1
PE:Malware.Generic/QRS!1.9E2D [F] 1
Win32/PUAtest.B potentially unwanted 1
Win32:AmtsoTest-A [PUP] 1
AMTSO-PUA-Test (PUA) 1
AMTSO Test File PUA (Not a Virus!) 1
…and the cloudish EICAR file as well. Here’s the histogram of names given to the cloudish EICAR file (only 23/56 vendors detect it on VT; compilation date: 2010-07-08 23:02:46 (Thursday), ouch!):
AMTSO Test File (NOT a Virus!) 1
There also exist a close friend fo EICAR called GTUBE (Generic Test for Unsolicited Bulk Email) for testing anti-spam solutions. It is also 68 bytes long.
Last, but not least – there exists a shorter version of EICAR and it is 12 bytes SHORTER than the original!
The Base64-encoded EICAR looks like this:
You may come across it as it is being used in various tests and… it is a method used by Esafe to save Quarantine files. And… maybe you can’t read this post in case your security product is over protective and detected the BASE64-encoded EICAR string. Well, if it does… it shouldn’t, as I included ‘DIDYOUSPOTTHIS’ in the BASE64 encoding above. Well, did you spot that DIDYOUSPOTTHIS?
EICAR is a tool. I use it to test Quarantine files’ encryption. When I find no encryption, or trivial encryption/encoding – I love EICAR. When I have to dig into some actual code to find out how they transform the original EICAR bytes into sth terrible I absolutely hate this little piece of hybrid data/code ;).