Ransomware Detection Using Stacked Autoencoder for Feature Selection

Mike Nkongolo Wa Nkongolo, Mahmut Tokmak

Abstract


In response to the escalating malware threats, we propose an advanced ransomware detection and classification method. Our approach combines a stacked autoencoder for precise feature selection with a Long Short-Term Memory classifier which significantly enhances ransomware stratification accuracy. The process involves thorough preprocessing of the UGRansome dataset, training an unsupervised stacked autoencoder for optimal feature selection, and fine-tuning via supervised learning to elevate the Long Short-Term Memory model's classification capabilities. We meticulously analysed the autoencoder's learned weights and activations to pinpoint essential features for distinguishing 17 ransomware families from other malware and created a streamlined feature set for precise classification. Our results demonstrate the exceptional performance of the stacked autoencoder-based Long Short-Term Memory model across the 17 ransomware families. This model exhibits high precision, recall, and F1 score values. Furthermore, balanced average scores affirm its ability to generalize effectively across various malware types. To optimise the proposed model, we conducted extensive experiments, including up to 400 epochs, and varying learning rates and achieved an exceptional 98.5% accuracy in ransomware classification. These results surpass traditional machine learning classifiers. Moreover, the proposed model surpasses the Extreme Gradient Boosting (XGBoost) algorithm, primarily due to its effective stacked autoencoder feature selection mechanism and demonstrates outstanding performance in identifying signature attacks with a 98.5% accuracy rate. This result outperforms the XGBoost model, which achieved a 95.5% accuracy rate in the same task. In addition, a prediction of the ransomware financial impact using the proposed model reveals that while Locky, SamSam, and WannaCry still incur substantial cumulative costs, their attacks may not be as financially damaging as those of NoobCrypt, DMALocker, and EDA2.

Keywords


Ransomware Classification and Detection, Machine Learning, Cybersecurity, Cryptology, Cyberintelligence

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