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Abstracting and correlating heterogeneous events to detect complex scenarios

Panichprecha, Sorot (2009) Abstracting and correlating heterogeneous events to detect complex scenarios. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The research presented in this thesis addresses inherent problems in signaturebased intrusion detection systems (IDSs) operating in heterogeneous environments. The research proposes a solution to address the difficulties associated with multistep attack scenario specification and detection for such environments. The research has focused on two distinct problems: the representation of events derived from heterogeneous sources and multi-step attack specification and detection. The first part of the research investigates the application of an event abstraction model to event logs collected from a heterogeneous environment. The event abstraction model comprises a hierarchy of events derived from different log sources such as system audit data, application logs, captured network traffic, and intrusion detection system alerts. Unlike existing event abstraction models where low-level information may be discarded during the abstraction process, the event abstraction model presented in this work preserves all low-level information as well as providing high-level information in the form of abstract events. The event abstraction model presented in this work was designed independently of any particular IDS and thus may be used by any IDS, intrusion forensic tools, or monitoring tools. The second part of the research investigates the use of unification for multi-step attack scenario specification and detection. Multi-step attack scenarios are hard to specify and detect as they often involve the correlation of events from multiple sources which may be affected by time uncertainty. The unification algorithm provides a simple and straightforward scenario matching mechanism by using variable instantiation where variables represent events as defined in the event abstraction model. The third part of the research looks into the solution to address time uncertainty. Clock synchronisation is crucial for detecting multi-step attack scenarios which involve logs from multiple hosts. Issues involving time uncertainty have been largely neglected by intrusion detection research. The system presented in this research introduces two techniques for addressing time uncertainty issues: clock skew compensation and clock drift modelling using linear regression. An off-line IDS prototype for detecting multi-step attacks has been implemented. The prototype comprises two modules: implementation of the abstract event system architecture (AESA) and of the scenario detection module. The scenario detection module implements our signature language developed based on the Python programming language syntax and the unification-based scenario detection engine. The prototype has been evaluated using a publicly available dataset of real attack traffic and event logs and a synthetic dataset. The distinct features of the public dataset are the fact that it contains multi-step attacks which involve multiple hosts with clock skew and clock drift. These features allow us to demonstrate the application and the advantages of the contributions of this research. All instances of multi-step attacks in the dataset have been correctly identified even though there exists a significant clock skew and drift in the dataset. Future work identified by this research would be to develop a refined unification algorithm suitable for processing streams of events to enable an on-line detection. In terms of time uncertainty, identified future work would be to develop mechanisms which allows automatic clock skew and clock drift identification and correction. The immediate application of the research presented in this thesis is the framework of an off-line IDS which processes events from heterogeneous sources using abstraction and which can detect multi-step attack scenarios which may involve time uncertainty.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 26737
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Mohay, George, Clark, Andrew, & Zimmermann, Jacob
Keywords: intrusion detection, signature-based intrusion detection, event correlation, event abstraction, time uncertainty, multi-step attack detection, unification
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 07 Aug 2009 06:04
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:53

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