•   When: Tuesday, July 28, 2015 from 01:00 PM to 03:00 PM
  •   Speakers: Sharath Hiremagalore
  •   Location: Nguyen Engineering, Room 4801
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Web applications have emerged as the primary means of access to vital and sensitive services such as online payment systems and databases storing personally identifiable information. Unfortunately, the need for ubiquitous and often anonymous access exposes web servers to adversaries. Indeed, network-borne zero-day attacks pose a critical and widespread threat to web servers that cannot be mitigated by the use of signature-based intrusion detection systems.

Content-based Anomaly Detection (AD) techniques are regarded as a promising mechanism to detect `zero-day' attacks. AD sensors have also been shown to perform better than signature based systems in detecting polymorphic attacks. However, the False Positive Rates (FPRs) produced by current AD sensors have been a cause of concern.

In the first part of this work, we present a collaborative approach to quickly detect zero-day attacks. To detect previously unseen attacks, we correlate web requests containing user-submitted content across multiple web servers that is deemed abnormal by local Content Anomaly Detection (CAD) sensors. We are the first to propose the exchange of suspicious (abnormal) request content between sites, which significantly reduces false positives.

The cross-site information exchange happens in real-time leveraging privacy preserving data structures. Moreover, we automatically filter out high entropy and rarely seen legitimate requests, reducing the amount of data and time an operator has to spend sifting through alerts. Our results come from a fully working prototype using eleven weeks of real-world data from production web servers. During that period, we identify at least three application-specific attacks not belonging to an existing class of web attacks as well as a wide range of traditional classes of attacks, including SQL injection, directory traversal, and code inclusion without using human-specified knowledge or input.

In the second part of this work, we introduce and evaluate transAD, a system of payload inspection AD sensors that are based on Transductive Confidence Machines (TCM). Existing TCM based implementations have very high false positive rates and are not suitable for use as NIDS.

Our approach leverages an unsupervised machine learning algorithm to identify anomalous packets; unlike most AD sensors, ours does not require manually labeled data. Also, transAD uses an ensemble of TCM sensors to achieve better detection rates and lower FPRs than single sensor implementations. Therefore, transAD presents a hardened defense against poisoning attacks.

We evaluated our prototype implementation using two real-world data sets collected from a public university's network. Approximately 1.1 million packets containing real attacks were processed by our AD sensor. To compute the ground truth, we manually labeled 18,500 alerts. In the course of scanning millions of packets, our sensor's low false positive rate would significantly reduce the number of false alerts that need to be inspected by an operator while maintaining a high detection rate.

Posted 1 year, 3 months ago