An analysis of android malware classification services Articles uri icon

publication date

  • August 2021

start page

  • 5671

end page

  • 5702


  • 16


  • 21

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1424-3210

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1424-8220


  • The increasing number of Android malware forced antivirus (AV) companies to rely on automated classification techniques to determine the family and class of suspicious samples. The research community relies heavily on such labels to carry out prevalence studies of the threat ecosystem and to build datasets that are used to validate and benchmark novel detection and classification methods. In this work, we carry out an extensive study of the Android malware ecosystem by surveying white papers and reports from 6 key players in the industry, as well as 81 papers from 8 top security conferences, to understand how malware datasets are used by both. We, then, explore the limitations associated with the use of available malware classification services, namely VirusTotal (VT) engines, for determining the family of an Android sample. Using a dataset of 2.47 M Android malware samples, we find that the detection coverage of VT's AVs is generally very low, that the percentage of samples flagged by any 2 AV engines does not go beyond 52%, and that common families between any pair of AV engines is at best 29%. We rely on clustering to determine the extent to which different AV engine pairs agree upon which samples belong to the same family (regardless of the actual family name) and find that there are discrepancies that can introduce noise in automatic label unification schemes. We also observe the usage of generic labels and inconsistencies within the labels of top AV engines, suggesting that their efforts are directed towards accurate detection rather than classification. Our results contribute to a better understanding of the limitations of using Android malware family labels as supplied by common AV engines.


  • Computer Science


  • android; antivirus; classification; clustering; family; labels; malware; virustotal