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Phuong Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2016.  Automated Generation of Attack Signatures in Attack Graphs.

In this talk, we investigate applications of Factor Graphs to automatically generate attack signatures from security logs and domain expert knowledge. We demonstrate advantages of Factor Graphs over traditional probabilistic graphical models such as Bayesian Networks and Markov Random Fields in modeling security attacks. We illustrate Factor Graphs models using case studies of real attacks observed in the wild and at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Finally, we investigate how factor functions, a core component of Factor Graphs, can be constructed automatically to potentially improve detection accuracy and allow generalization of trained Factor Graph models in a variety of systems.

Presentation for Information Trust Institute Joint Trust and Security/Science of Security Seminar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on November 1, 2016.

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Cuong Pham, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Zachary J. Estrada, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Phuong Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Zbigniew Kalbarczyk, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ravishankar K. Iyer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2014.  Building Reliable and Secure Virtual Machines using Architectural Invariants. IEEE Security and Privacy. 12(5):82-85.

Reliability and security tend to be treated separately because they appear orthogonal: reliability focuses on accidental failures, security on intentional attacks. Because of the apparent dissimilarity between the two, tools to detect and recover from different classes of failures and attacks are usually designed and implemented differently. So, integrating support for reliability and security in a single framework is a significant challenge.

Here, we discuss how to address this challenge in the context of cloud computing, for which reliability and security are growing concerns. Because cloud deployments usually consist of commodity hardware and software, efficient monitoring is key to achieving resiliency. Although reliability and security monitoring might use different types of analytics, the same sensing infrastructure can provide inputs to monitoring modules.

We split monitoring into two phases: logging and auditing. Logging captures data or events; it constitutes the framework’s core and is common to all monitors. Auditing analyzes data or events; it’s implemented and operated independently by each monitor. To support a range of auditing policies, logging must capture a complete view, including both actions and states of target systems. It must also provide useful, trustworthy information regarding the captured view.

We applied these principles when designing HyperTap, a hypervisor-level monitoring framework for virtual machines (VMs). Unlike most VM-monitoring techniques, HyperTap employs hardware architectural invariants (hardware invariants, for short) to establish the root of trust for logging. Hardware invariants are properties defined and enforced by a hardware platform (for example, the x86 instruction set architecture). Additionally, HyperTap supports continuous, event-driven VM monitoring, which enables both capturing the system state and responding rapidly to actions of interest.

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Phuong Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2015.  An Experiement Using Factor Graph for Early Attack Detection. Computer Science.

This paper presents a factor graph based framework (namely AttackTagger) for high accuracy and preemptive detection of attacks. We use security logs on real-incidents that occurred over a six-year period at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to evaluate AttackTagger. Our data consist of attacks that led directly to the target system being compromised, i.e., not detected in advance, either by the security analysts or by intrusion detection systems. AttackTagger detected 74 percent of attacks, a vast majority of them were detected before the system misuse. AttackTagger uncovered six hidden attacks that were not detected by security analysts.

Phuong Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2015.  An Experiment Using Factor Graph for Early Attack Detection. Computer Science.

This paper presents a factor graph based framework (namely AttackTagger)
for high accuracy and preemptive detection of attacks. We use security logs
on real-incidents that occurred over a six-year period at the National Cen-
ter for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign to evaluate AttackTagger. Our data consist of attacks
that led directly to the target system being compromised, i.e., not detected
in advance, either by the security analysts or by intrusion detection sys-
tems. AttackTagger detected 74 percent of attacks, a vast majority of them
were detected before the system misuse. AttackTagger uncovered six hidden
attacks that were not detected by security analysts.

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Phuong Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Eric Badger, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Zbigniew Kalbarczyk, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ravishankar Iyer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2016.  A Framework for Generation, Replay and Analysis of Real-World Attack Variants. Symposium and Bootcamp for the Science of Security (HotSoS 2016).

This paper presents a framework for (1) generating variants of known attacks, (2) replaying attack variants in an isolated environment and, (3) validating detection capabilities of attack detection techniques against the variants. Our framework facilitates reproducible security experiments. We generated 648 variants of three real-world attacks (observed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois). Our experiment showed the value of generating attack variants by quantifying the detection capabilities of three detection methods: a signature-based detection technique, an anomaly-based detection technique, and a probabilistic graphical model-based technique.

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Phuong Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ravishankar Iyer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Zbigniew Kalbarczyk, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Eric Badger, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Surya Bakshi, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Simon Kim, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Adam Slagell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Alex Withers, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2016.  Preemptive Intrusion Detection – Practical Experience and Detection Framework.

Using stolen or weak credentials to bypass authentication is one of the top 10 network threats, as shown in recent studies. Disguising as legitimate users, attackers use stealthy techniques such as rootkits and covert channels to gain persistent access to a target system. However, such attacks are often detected after the system misuse stage, i.e., the attackers have already executed attack payloads such as: i) stealing secrets, ii) tampering with system services, and ii) disrupting the availability of production services.

In this talk, we analyze a real-world credential stealing attack observed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. We show the disadvantages of traditional detection techniques such as signature-based and anomaly-based detection for such attacks. Our approach is a complement to existing detection techniques. We investigate the use of Probabilistic Graphical Model, specifically Factor Graphs, to integrate security logs from multiple sources for a more accurate detection. Finally, we propose a security testbed architecture to: i) simulate variants of known attacks that may happen in the future, ii) replay such attack variants in an isolated environment, and iii) collect and share security logs of such replays for the security research community.

Pesented at the Illinois Information Trust Institute Joint Trust and Security and Science of Security Seminar, May 3, 2016.

Ravishankar K. Iyer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Phuong Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2015.  Preemptive Intrusion Detection: Theoretical Framework and Real-world Measurements.

Presented at the NSA SoS Quarterly Lablet Meeting, January 2015 by Ravi Iyer.

Presented at the Illinois SoS Bi-Weekly Meeting, February 2015 by Phuong Cao.

Phuong Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Eric Badger, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Adam Slagell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Zbigniew Kalbarczyk, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ravishankar Iyer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2015.  Preemptive Intrusion Detection: Theoretical Framework and Real-World Measurements. Symposium and Bootcamp on the Science of Security, (HotSoS 2015).

This paper presents a Factor Graph based framework called AttackTagger for highly accurate and preemptive detection of attacks, i.e., before the system misuse. We use secu- rity logs on real incidents that occurred over a six-year pe- riod at the National Center for Supercomputing Applica- tions (NCSA) to evaluate AttackTagger. Our data consist of security incidents that led to compromise of the target system, i.e., the attacks in the incidents were only identified after the fact by security analysts. AttackTagger detected 74 percent of attacks, and the majority them were detected before the system misuse. Finally, AttackTagger uncovered six hidden attacks that were not detected by intrusion de- tection systems during the incidents or by security analysts in post-incident forensic analysis.

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Eric Badger, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Phuong Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Alex Withers, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Adam Slagell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Zbigniew Kalbarczyk, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ravishankar Iyer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2015.  Scalable Data Analytics Pipeline for Real-Time Attack Detection; Design, Validation, and Deployment in a Honey Pot Environment.

This talk will explore a scalable data analytics pipeline for real-time attack detection through the use of customized honeypots at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Attack detection tools are common and are constantly improving, but validating these tools is challenging. You must: (i) identify data (e.g., system-level events) that is essential for detecting attacks, (ii) extract this data from multiple data logs collected by runtime monitors, and (iii) present the data to the attack detection tools. On top of this, such an approach must scale with an ever-increasing amount of data, while allowing integration of new monitors and attack detection tools. All of these require an infrastructure to host and validate the developed tools before deployment into a production environment.

We will present a generalized architecture that aims for a real-time, scalable, and extensible pipeline that can be deployed in diverse infrastructures to validate arbitrary attack detection tools. To motivate our approach, we will show an example deployment of our pipeline based on open-sourced tools. The example deployment uses as its data sources: (i) a customized honeypot environment at NCSA and (ii) a container-based testbed infrastructure for interactive attack replay. Each of these data sources is equipped with network and host-based monitoring tools such as Bro (a network-based intrusion detection system) and OSSEC (a host-based intrusion detection system) to allow for the runtime collection of data on system/user behavior. Finally, we will present an attack detection tool that we developed and that we look to validate through our pipeline. In conclusion, the talk will discuss the challenges of transitioning attack detection from theory to practice and how the proposed data analytics pipeline can help that transition.

Presented at the Illinois Information Trust Institute Joint Trust and Security/Science of Security Seminar, October 6, 2016.

Presented at the NSA SoS Quarterly Lablet Meeting, October 2015.

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Phuong Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Eric C. Badger, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Zbigniew Kalbarczyk, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ravishankar K. Iyer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Alexander Withers, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Adam J. Slagell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  2015.  Towards an Unified Security Testbed and Security Analytics Framework. Symposium and Bootcamp for the Science of Security (HotSoS 2015).

This paper presents the architecture of an end-to-end secu- rity testbed and security analytics framework, which aims to: i) understand real-world exploitation of known security vulnerabilities and ii) preemptively detect multi-stage at- tacks, i.e., before the system misuse. With the increasing number of security vulnerabilities, it is necessary for secu- rity researchers and practitioners to understand: i) system and network behaviors under attacks and ii) potential ef- fects of attacks to the target infrastructure. To safely em- ulate and instrument exploits of known vulnerabilities, we use virtualization techniques to isolate attacks in contain- ers, e.g., Linux-based containers or Virtual Machines, and to deploy monitors, e.g., kernel probes or network packet captures, across a system and network stack. To infer the evolution of attack stages from monitoring data, we use a probabilistic graphical model, namely AttackTagger, that represents learned knowledge of simulated attacks in our se- curity testbed and real-world attacks. Experiments are be- ing run on a real-world deployment of the framework at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.