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Bou-Harb, E., Debbabi, M., Assi, C..  2014.  Behavioral analytics for inferring large-scale orchestrated probing events. Computer Communications Workshops (INFOCOM WKSHPS), 2014 IEEE Conference on. :506-511.

The significant dependence on cyberspace has indeed brought new risks that often compromise, exploit and damage invaluable data and systems. Thus, the capability to proactively infer malicious activities is of paramount importance. In this context, inferring probing events, which are commonly the first stage of any cyber attack, render a promising tactic to achieve that task. We have been receiving for the past three years 12 GB of daily malicious real darknet data (i.e., Internet traffic destined to half a million routable yet unallocated IP addresses) from more than 12 countries. This paper exploits such data to propose a novel approach that aims at capturing the behavior of the probing sources in an attempt to infer their orchestration (i.e., coordination) pattern. The latter defines a recently discovered characteristic of a new phenomenon of probing events that could be ominously leveraged to cause drastic Internet-wide and enterprise impacts as precursors of various cyber attacks. To accomplish its goals, the proposed approach leverages various signal and statistical techniques, information theoretical metrics, fuzzy approaches with real malware traffic and data mining methods. The approach is validated through one use case that arguably proves that a previously analyzed orchestrated probing event from last year is indeed still active, yet operating in a stealthy, very low rate mode. We envision that the proposed approach that is tailored towards darknet data, which is frequently, abundantly and effectively used to generate cyber threat intelligence, could be used by network security analysts, emergency response teams and/or observers of cyber events to infer large-scale orchestrated probing events for early cyber attack warning and notification.

Bou-Harb, E., Debbabi, M., Assi, C..  2014.  Cyber Scanning: A Comprehensive Survey. Communications Surveys Tutorials, IEEE. 16:1496-1519.

Cyber scanning refers to the task of probing enterprise networks or Internet wide services, searching for vulnerabilities or ways to infiltrate IT assets. This misdemeanor is often the primarily methodology that is adopted by attackers prior to launching a targeted cyber attack. Hence, it is of paramount importance to research and adopt methods for the detection and attribution of cyber scanning. Nevertheless, with the surge of complex offered services from one side and the proliferation of hackers' refined, advanced, and sophisticated techniques from the other side, the task of containing cyber scanning poses serious issues and challenges. Furthermore recently, there has been a flourishing of a cyber phenomenon dubbed as cyber scanning campaigns - scanning techniques that are highly distributed, possess composite stealth capabilities and high coordination - rendering almost all current detection techniques unfeasible. This paper presents a comprehensive survey of the entire cyber scanning topic. It categorizes cyber scanning by elaborating on its nature, strategies and approaches. It also provides the reader with a classification and an exhaustive review of its techniques. Moreover, it offers a taxonomy of the current literature by focusing on distributed cyber scanning detection methods. To tackle cyber scanning campaigns, this paper uniquely reports on the analysis of two recent cyber scanning incidents. Finally, several concluding remarks are discussed.