Researchers from academia and the corporate-sector rely on scholarly digital libraries to access articles. Attackers take advantage of innocent users who consider the articles' files safe and thus open PDF-files with little concern. In addition, researchers consider scholarly libraries a reliable, trusted, and untainted corpus of papers. For these reasons, scholarly digital libraries are an attractive-Target and inadvertently support the proliferation of cyber-Attacks launched via malicious PDF-files. In this study, we present related vulnerabilities and malware distribution approaches that exploit the vulnerabilities of scholarly digital libraries. We evaluated over two-million scholarly papers in the CiteSeerX library and found the library to be contaminated with a surprisingly large number (0.3-2%) of malicious PDF documents (over 55% were crawled from the IPs of US-universities). We developed a two layered detection framework aimed at enhancing the detection of malicious PDF documents, Sec-Lib, which offers a security solution for large digital libraries. Sec-Lib includes a deterministic layer for detecting known malware, and a machine learning based layer for detecting unknown malware. Our evaluation showed that scholarly digital libraries can detect 96.9% of malware with Sec-Lib, while minimizing the number of PDF-files requiring labeling, and thus reducing the manual inspection efforts of security-experts by 98%.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Computer Science(all)
- Materials Science(all)