Visible to the public Biblio

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Venkatesan, S., Albanese, M., Amin, K., Jajodia, S., Wright, M..  2016.  A moving target defense approach to mitigate DDoS attacks against proxy-based architectures. 2016 IEEE Conference on Communications and Network Security (CNS). :198–206.

Distributed Denial of Service attacks against high-profile targets have become more frequent in recent years. In response to such massive attacks, several architectures have adopted proxies to introduce layers of indirection between end users and target services and reduce the impact of a DDoS attack by migrating users to new proxies and shuffling clients across proxies so as to isolate malicious clients. However, the reactive nature of these solutions presents weaknesses that we leveraged to develop a new attack - the proxy harvesting attack - which enables malicious clients to collect information about a large number of proxies before launching a DDoS attack. We show that current solutions are vulnerable to this attack, and propose a moving target defense technique consisting in periodically and proactively replacing one or more proxies and remapping clients to proxies. Our primary goal is to disrupt the attacker's reconnaissance effort. Additionally, to mitigate ongoing attacks, we propose a new client-to-proxy assignment strategy to isolate compromised clients, thereby reducing the impact of attacks. We validate our approach both theoretically and through simulation, and show that the proposed solution can effectively limit the number of proxies an attacker can discover and isolate malicious clients.

Venkatesan, S., Sugrim, S., Izmailov, R., Chiang, C. J., Chadha, R., Doshi, B., Hoffman, B., Newcomb, E. Allison, Buchler, N..  2018.  On Detecting Manifestation of Adversary Characteristics. MILCOM 2018 - 2018 IEEE Military Communications Conference (MILCOM). :431–437.

Adversaries are conducting attack campaigns with increasing levels of sophistication. Additionally, with the prevalence of out-of-the-box toolkits that simplify attack operations during different stages of an attack campaign, multiple new adversaries and attack groups have appeared over the past decade. Characterizing the behavior and the modus operandi of different adversaries is critical in identifying the appropriate security maneuver to detect and mitigate the impact of an ongoing attack. To this end, in this paper, we study two characteristics of an adversary: Risk-averseness and Experience level. Risk-averse adversaries are more cautious during their campaign while fledgling adversaries do not wait to develop adequate expertise and knowledge before launching attack campaigns. One manifestation of these characteristics is through the adversary's choice and usage of attack tools. To detect these characteristics, we present multi-level machine learning (ML) models that use network data generated while under attack by different attack tools and usage patterns. In particular, for risk-averseness, we considered different configurations for scanning tools and trained the models in a testbed environment. The resulting model was used to predict the cautiousness of different red teams that participated in the Cyber Shield ‘16 exercise. The predictions matched the expected behavior of the red teams. For Experience level, we considered publicly-available remote access tools and usage patterns. We developed a Markov model to simulate usage patterns of attackers with different levels of expertise and through experiments on CyberVAN, we showed that the ML model has a high accuracy.

Pham, L. H., Albanese, M., Chadha, R., Chiang, C.-Y. J., Venkatesan, S., Kamhoua, C., Leslie, N..  2020.  A Quantitative Framework to Model Reconnaissance by Stealthy Attackers and Support Deception-Based Defenses. :1—9.

In recent years, persistent cyber adversaries have developed increasingly sophisticated techniques to evade detection. Once adversaries have established a foothold within the target network, using seemingly-limited passive reconnaissance techniques, they can develop significant network reconnaissance capabilities. Cyber deception has been recognized as a critical capability to defend against such adversaries, but, without an accurate model of the adversary's reconnaissance behavior, current approaches are ineffective against advanced adversaries. To address this gap, we propose a novel model to capture how advanced, stealthy adversaries acquire knowledge about the target network and establish and expand their foothold within the system. This model quantifies the cost and reward, from the adversary's perspective, of compromising and maintaining control over target nodes. We evaluate our model through simulations in the CyberVAN testbed, and indicate how it can guide the development and deployment of future defensive capabilities, including high-interaction honeypots, so as to influence the behavior of adversaries and steer them away from critical resources.