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Canada's CSE Spy Agency Releases Malware Analysis Tool

Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) agency announced this week that the source code for one of its malware detection and analysis tools has been made public.

The Python-based tool released as open source by the spy agency is named Assemblyline and it was created within the CSE’s Cyber Defence program. The organization says this is one of the tools it uses to protect the country’s computer systems against advanced cyber threats.

Assemblyline allows defenders to automate the analysis of malicious files. The analysis process, which has been compared to a conveyor belt, involves assigning a unique identifier to files as they travel through the system, looking for signs of malicious functionality and extracting features for further analysis, generating alerts for malicious files and assigning them a score, and sending data to other protection systems so that identified threats can be neutralized.Assemblyline

Users can also add their own analytics, including custom-built software and antiviruses, to enhance Assemblyline’s capabilities.

“The strength of Assemblyline is the ability of users to scale the system to their needs and the way that Assemblyline automatically rebalances its workload depending on the volume of files. It reduces the number of non-malicious files that security analysts have to inspect, and permits users to focus their time and attention on the most harmful files, allowing them to spend time researching new cyber defence techniques,” CSE said.

The Assemblyline source code is available on BitBucket. Organizations can modify it to suit their needs or integrate it into existing solutions.

The CSE is a security and intelligence organization focused on collecting intel in support of the government’s priorities, and protecting the country’s most critical computer networks. While the spy agency has often been described as “super secret,” some insight into its activities was revealed by documents leaked a few years ago by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The documents showed that the CSE had been analyzing a foreign espionage operation that it had linked to French intelligence. The campaign has since been investigated by many researchers and cybersecurity firms.

The CSE is not the only spy agency to release open source tools. Last year, the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) made available CyberChef, a tool that allows both technical and non-technical people to analyze encryption, compression and decompression, and data formats.

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Eduard Kovacs is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.