Home | | Cryptography and Network Security | Intrusion Detection

Chapter: Cryptography and Network Security Principles and Practice : System Security : Intruders

Intrusion Detection

· Audit Records · Statistical Anomaly Detection · Rule-Based Intrusion Detection · The Base-Rate Fallacy · Distributed Intrusion Detection · Honeypots · Intrusion Detection Exchange Format


Inevitably, the best intrusion prevention system will fail. A system’s second line of defense is intrusion detection, and this has been the focus of much research in recent years. This interest is motivated by a number of considerations, including the following:


1.                                       If an intrusion is detected quickly enough, the intruder can be identified and ejected from the system before any damage is done or any data are compro- mised. Even if the detection is not sufficiently timely to preempt the intruder, the sooner that the intrusion is detected, the less the amount of damage and the more quickly that recovery can be achieved.

2.                                       An effective intrusion detection system can serve as a deterrent, so acting to pre- vent intrusions.

3.                                       Intrusion detection enables the collection of information about intrusion tech- niques that can be used to strengthen the intrusion prevention facility.


Intrusion detection is based on the assumption that the behavior of the intruder differs from that of a legitimate user in ways that can be quantified. Of course, we cannot expect that there will be a crisp, exact distinction between an attack by an intruder and the normal use of resources by an authorized user. Rather, we must expect that there will be some overlap.

Figure 20.1 suggests, in very abstract terms, the nature of the task confronting the designer of an intrusion detection system. Although the typical behavior of an

intruder differs from the typical behavior of an authorized user, there is an overlap in these behaviors. Thus, a loose interpretation of intruder behavior, which will catch more intruders, will also lead to a number of “false positives,” or authorized users identified as intruders. On the other hand, an attempt to limit false positives by a tight interpretation of intruder behavior will lead to an increase in false negatives, or intruders not identified as intruders. Thus, there is an element of compromise and art in the practice of intrusion detection.

In Anderson’s study [ANDE80], it was postulated that one could, with reason- able confidence, distinguish between a masquerader and a legitimate user. Patterns of legitimate user behavior can be established by observing past history, and signifi- cant deviation from such patterns can be detected. Anderson suggests that the task of detecting a misfeasor (legitimate user performing in an unauthorized fashion) is more difficult, in that the distinction between abnormal and normal behavior may be small. Anderson concluded that such violations would be undetectable solely through the search for anomalous behavior. However, misfeasor behavior might nevertheless be detectable by intelligent definition of the class of conditions that suggest unauthorized use. Finally, the detection of the clandestine user was felt to be beyond the scope of purely automated techniques. These observations, which were made in 1980, remain true today.

[PORR92] identifies the following approaches to intrusion detection:


1.                        Statistical anomaly detection: Involves the collection of data relating to the behavior of legitimate users over a period of time. Then statistical tests  are applied to observed behavior to determine with a high level of confidence whether that behavior is not legitimate user behavior.

a.                                       Threshold detection: This approach involves defining thresholds, inde- pendent of user, for the frequency of occurrence of various events.

b.                                       Profile based: A profile of the activity of each user is developed and used to detect changes in the behavior of individual accounts.

2.                        Rule-based detection: Involves an attempt to define a set of rules that can be used to decide that a given behavior is that of an intruder.

a.                                       Anomaly detection: Rules are developed to detect deviation from previ- ous usage patterns.

b.                                       Penetration identification: An expert system approach that searches for suspicious behavior.


In a nutshell, statistical approaches attempt to define normal, or expected, behavior, whereas rule-based approaches attempt to define proper behavior.

In terms of the types of attackers listed earlier, statistical anomaly detection is effective against masqueraders, who are unlikely to mimic the behavior patterns of the accounts they appropriate. On the other hand, such techniques may be unable to deal with misfeasors. For such attacks, rule-based approaches may be able to recog- nize events and sequences that, in context, reveal penetration. In practice, a system may exhibit a combination of both approaches to be effective against a broad range of attacks.

Audit Records

A fundamental tool for intrusion detection is the audit record. Some record of ongoing activity by users must be maintained as input to an intrusion detection system. Basically, two plans are used:

                           Native audit records: Virtually all multiuser operating systems include accounting software that collects information on user activity. The advantage of using this information is that no additional collection software is needed. The disadvantage is that the native audit records may not contain the needed information or may not contain it in a convenient form.

                           Detection-specific audit records: A collection facility can be implemented that generates audit records containing only that information required by the intrusion detection system. One advantage of such an approach is that it could be made vendor independent and ported to a variety of systems. The disad- vantage is the extra overhead involved in having, in effect, two accounting packages running on a machine.

A good example of detection-specific audit records is one developed by Dorothy Denning [DENN87]. Each audit record contains the following fields:

                           Subject: Initiators of actions. A subject is typically a terminal user but might also be a process acting on behalf of users or groups of users. All activity arises through commands issued by subjects. Subjects may be grouped into different access classes, and these classes may overlap.

                           Action: Operation performed by the subject on or with an object; for example, login, read, perform I/O, execute.

                           Object: Receptors of actions. Examples include files, programs, messages, records, terminals, printers, and user- or program-created structures. When a subject is the recipient of an action, such as electronic mail, then that subject is considered an object. Objects may be grouped by type. Object granularity may vary by object type and by environment. For example, database actions may be audited for the database as a whole or at the record level.

                           Exception-Condition: Denotes which, if any, exception condition is raised on return.

                           Resource-Usage: A list of quantitative elements in which each element gives the amount used of some resource (e.g., number of lines printed or displayed, number of records read or written, processor time, I/O units used, session elapsed time).

                           Time-Stamp: Unique time-and-date stamp identifying when the action took place.

Most user operations are made up of a number of elementary actions. For example, a file copy involves the execution of the user command, which includes doing access validation and setting up the copy, plus the read from one file, plus the write to another file. Consider the command



issued by Smith to copy an executable file GAME from the current directory to the

<Library> directory. The following audit records may be generated:

In this case, the copy is aborted because Smith does not have write permission  to


The decomposition of a user operation into elementary actions has three advantages:

1.                        Because objects are the protectable entities in a system, the use of elementary actions enables an audit of all behavior affecting an object. Thus, the system can detect attempted subversions of access controls (by noting an abnormal- ity in the number of exception conditions returned) and can detect successful subversions by noting an abnormality in the set of objects accessible to the subject.

2.                        Single-object, single-action audit records simplify the model and the implemen- tation.

3.                        Because of the simple, uniform structure of the detection-specific audit records, it may be relatively easy to obtain this information or at least part of it by a straightforward mapping from existing native audit records to the detection-specific audit records.


Statistical Anomaly Detection

As was mentioned, statistical anomaly detection techniques fall into two broad categories: threshold detection and profile-based systems. Threshold detection involves counting the number of occurrences of a specific event type over an inter- val of time. If the count surpasses what is considered a reasonable number that one might expect to occur, then intrusion is assumed.

Threshold analysis, by itself, is a crude and ineffective detector of even moder- ately sophisticated attacks. Both the threshold and the time interval must be deter- mined. Because of the variability across users, such thresholds are likely to generate either a lot of false positives or a lot of false negatives. However, simple threshold detectors may be useful in conjunction with more sophisticated techniques.

Profile-based anomaly detection focuses on characterizing the past behavior of individual users or related groups of users and then detecting significant devia- tions. A profile may consist of a set of parameters, so that deviation on just a single parameter may not be sufficient in itself to signal an alert.

The foundation of this approach is an analysis of audit records. The audit records provide input to the intrusion detection function in two ways. First, the designer must decide on a number of quantitative metrics that can be used to mea- sure user behavior. An analysis of audit records over a period of time can be used to determine the activity profile of the average user. Thus, the audit records serve to define typical behavior. Second, current audit records are the input used to detect intrusion. That is, the intrusion detection model analyzes incoming audit records to determine deviation from average behavior.

Examples of metrics that are useful for profile-based intrusion detection are the following:


                           Counter: A nonnegative integer that may be incremented but not decre- mented until it is reset by management action. Typically, a count of certain event types is kept over a particular period of time. Examples include the number of logins by a single user during an hour, the number of times a given command is executed during a single user session, and the number of pass- word failures during a minute.

                           Gauge: A nonnegative integer that may be incremented or decremented. Typically, a gauge is used to measure the current value of some entity. Examples include the number of logical connections assigned to a user appli- cation and the number of outgoing messages queued for a user process.

                           Interval timer: The length of time between two related events. An example is the length of time between successive logins to an account.

                           Resource utilization: Quantity of resources consumed during a specified period. Examples include the number of pages printed during a user session and total time consumed by a program execution.


Given these general metrics, various tests can be performed to determine whether current activity fits within acceptable limits. [DENN87] lists the following approaches that may be taken:


                           Mean and standard deviation


                           Markov process

                           Time series



The simplest statistical test is to measure the mean and standard deviation of a parameter over some historical period. This gives a reflection of the average behav- ior and its variability. The use of mean and standard deviation is applicable to a wide variety of counters, timers, and resource measures. But these measures, by them- selves, are typically too crude for intrusion detection   purposes.

A multivariate model is based on correlations between two or more variables. Intruder behavior may be characterized with greater confidence by considering such correlations (for example, processor time and resource usage, or login fre- quency and session elapsed time).

A Markov process model is used to establish transition probabilities among various states. As an example, this model might be used to look at transitions between certain commands.

A time series model focuses on time intervals, looking for sequences of events that happen too rapidly or too slowly. A variety of statistical tests can be applied to characterize abnormal timing.

Finally, an operational model is based on a judgment of what is considered abnormal, rather than an automated analysis of past audit records. Typically, fixed limits are defined and intrusion is suspected for an observation that is outside the limits. This type of approach works best where intruder behavior can be deduced from certain types of activities. For example, a large number of login attempts over a short period suggests an attempted intrusion.

As an example of the use of these various metrics and models, Table 20.2 shows various measures considered or tested for the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) intrusion detection system (IDES) [DENN87, JAVI91, LUNT88].

The main advantage of the use of statistical profiles is that a prior knowledge of security flaws is not required. The detector program learns what is “normal” behavior and then looks for deviations. The approach is not based on system-dependent characteristics and vulnerabilities. Thus, it should be readily portable among a variety of systems.


Rule-Based Intrusion Detection

Rule-based techniques detect intrusion by observing events in the system and applying a set of rules that lead to a decision regarding whether a given pattern of activity is or is not suspicious. In very general terms, we can characterize all approaches as focusing on either anomaly detection or penetration identification, although there is some overlap in these approaches.

Rule-based anomaly detection is similar in terms of its approach and strengths to statistical anomaly detection. With the rule-based approach, historical audit records are analyzed to identify usage patterns and to generate automatically rules that describe those patterns. Rules may represent past behavior patterns of users, programs, privileges, time slots, terminals, and so on. Current behavior is then observed, and each transaction is matched against the set of rules to determine if it conforms to any historically observed pattern of behavior.

As with statistical anomaly detection, rule-based anomaly detection does not require knowledge of security vulnerabilities within the system. Rather, the scheme is based on observing past behavior and, in effect, assuming that the future will be like the past. In order for this approach to be effective, a rather large database of rules will be needed. For example, a scheme described in [VACC89] contains any-

where from 104 to 106 rules.

Rule-based penetration identification takes a very different approach to intru- sion detection. The key feature of such systems is the use of rules for identifying known penetrations or penetrations that would exploit known weaknesses. Rules can also be defined that identify suspicious behavior, even when the behavior is within the bounds of established patterns of usage. Typically, the rules used in these systems are specific to the machine and operating system. The most fruitful approach to developing such rules is to analyze attack tools and scripts collected on the Internet. These rules can be supplemented with rules generated by knowledge- able security personnel. In this latter case, the normal procedure is to interview

Table 20.2 Measures That May Be Used for Intrusion Detection

system administrators and security analysts to collect a suite of known penetration scenarios and key events that threaten the security of the target system.

A simple example of the type of rules that can be used is found in NIDX, an early system that used heuristic rules that can be used to assign degrees of suspicion to activities [BAUE88]. Example heuristics are the following:

1.                                       Users should not read files in other users’ personal directories.

2.                                       Users must not write other users’ files.

3.                        Users who log in after hours often access the same files they used earlier.

4.                        Users do not generally open disk devices directly but rely on higher-level operat- ing system utilities.

5.                        Users should not be logged in more than once to the same system.

6.                        Users do not make copies of system programs.


The penetration identification scheme used in IDES is representative of the strategy followed. Audit records are examined as they are generated, and they are matched against the rule base. If a match is found, then the user’s suspicion rating is increased. If enough rules are matched, then the rating will pass a threshold that results in the reporting of an anomaly.

The IDES approach is based on an examination of audit records. A weak- ness of this plan is its lack of flexibility. For a given penetration scenario, there may be a number of alternative audit record sequences that could be produced, each varying from the others slightly or in subtle ways. It may be difficult to pin down all these variations in explicit rules. Another method is to develop a higher- level model independent of specific audit records. An example of this is a state transition model known as USTAT [ILGU93]. USTAT deals in general actions rather than the detailed specific actions recorded by the UNIX auditing mecha- nism. USTAT is implemented on a SunOS system that provides audit records on 239 events. Of these, only 28 are used by a preprocessor, which maps these onto 10 general actions (Table 20.3). Using just these actions and the parameters that are invoked with each action, a state transition diagram is developed that charac- terizes suspicious activity. Because a number of different auditable events map into a smaller number of actions, the rule-creation process is simpler. Furthermore, the state transition diagram model is easily modified to accommo- date newly learned intrusion behaviors.



Table 20.USTAT Actions versus SunOS Event Types

The Base-Rate Fallacy

To be of practical use, an intrusion detection system should detect a substantial percentage of intrusions while keeping the false alarm rate at an acceptable level. If only a modest percentage of actual intrusions are detected, the system provides a false sense of security. On the other hand, if the system frequently triggers an alert when there is no intrusion (a false alarm), then either system managers will begin to ignore the alarms, or much time will be wasted analyzing the false alarms.

Unfortunately, because of the nature of the probabilities involved, it is very difficult to meet the standard of high rate of detections with a low rate of false alarms. In general, if the actual numbers of intrusions is low compared to the number of legitimate uses of a system, then the false alarm rate will be high unless the test is extremely discriminating. A study of existing intrusion detection systems, reported in [AXEL00], indicated that current systems have not overcome the prob- lem of the base-rate fallacy. See Appendix 20A for a brief background on the math- ematics of this problem.


Distributed Intrusion Detection

Until recently, work on intrusion detection systems focused on single-system stand- alone facilities. The typical organization, however, needs to defend a distributed collection of hosts supported by a LAN or internetwork. Although it is possible to mount a defense by using stand-alone intrusion detection systems on each host, a more effective defense can be achieved by coordination and cooperation among intrusion detection systems across the network.

Porras points out the following major issues in the design of a distributed intrusion detection system [PORR92]:


                           A distributed intrusion detection system may need to deal with different audit record formats. In a heterogeneous environment, different systems will employ different native audit collection systems and, if using intrusion detec- tion, may employ different formats for security-related audit records.

                           One or more nodes in the network will serve as collection and analysis points for the data from the systems on the network. Thus, either raw audit data or summary data must be transmitted across the network. Therefore, there is a requirement to assure the integrity and confidentiality of these data. Integrity is required to prevent an intruder from masking his or her activities by altering the transmitted audit information. Confidentiality is required because the transmitted audit information could be valuable.

                           Either a centralized or decentralized architecture can be used. With a central- ized architecture, there is a single central point of collection and analysis of all audit data. This eases the task of correlating incoming reports but creates a potential bottleneck and single point of failure. With a decentralized architec- ture, there are more than one analysis centers, but these must coordinate their activities and exchange information.

A good example of a distributed intrusion detection system is one developed at the University of California at Davis [HEBE92, SNAP91]. Figure 20.2 shows the overall architecture, which consists of three main components:


                 Host agent module: An audit collection module operating as a background process on a monitored system. Its purpose is to collect data on security- related events on the host and transmit these to the central manager.

                 LAN monitor agent module: Operates in the same fashion as a host agent module except that it analyzes LAN traffic and reports the results to the central manager.

                 Central manager module: Receives reports from LAN monitor and host agents and processes and correlates these reports to detect intrusion.


The scheme is designed to be independent of any operating system or system auditing implementation. Figure 20.3 [SNAP91] shows the general approach that is taken. The agent captures each audit record produced by the native audit collection system. A filter is applied that retains only those records that are of security interest. These records are then reformatted into a standardized format referred to as the host audit record (HAR). Next, a template-driven logic module analyzes the records for suspicious activity. At the lowest level, the agent scans for notable events that are of interest independent of any past events. Examples include failed file accesses, accessing system files, and changing a file’s access control. At the next higher level, the agent looks for sequences of events, such as known attack patterns (signatures). Finally, the agent looks for anomalous behavior of an individual user based on a historical profile of that user, such as number of programs executed, number of files accessed, and the like.

When suspicious activity is detected, an alert is sent to the central manager. The central manager includes an expert system that can draw inferences from received data. The manager may also query individual systems for copies of HARs to correlate with those from other agents.

The LAN monitor agent also supplies information to the central manager. The LAN monitor agent audits host-host connections, services used, and volume of traf- fic. It searches for significant events, such as sudden changes in network load, the use of security-related services, and network activities such as rlogin.

The architecture depicted in Figures 20.2 and 20.3 is quite general and flexible. It offers a foundation for a machine-independent approach that can expand from stand-alone intrusion detection to a system that is able to correlate activity from a number of sites and networks to detect suspicious activity that would otherwise remain undetected.



A relatively recent innovation in intrusion detection technology is the honeypot. Honeypots are decoy systems that are designed to lure a potential attacker away from critical systems. Honeypots are designed to

                           divert an attacker from accessing critical systems

                           collect information about the attacker’s activity

                           encourage the attacker to stay on the system long enough for administrators to respond

These systems are filled with fabricated information designed to appear valu- able but that a legitimate user of the system wouldn’t access. Thus, any access to the honeypot is suspect. The system is instrumented with sensitive monitors and event loggers that detect these accesses and collect information about the attacker’s activ- ities. Because any attack against the honeypot is made to seem successful, adminis- trators have time to mobilize and log and track the attacker without ever exposing productive systems.

Initial efforts involved a single honeypot computer with IP addresses designed to attract hackers. More recent research has focused on building entire honeypot networks that emulate an enterprise, possibly with actual or simulated traffic and data. Once hackers are within the network, administrators can observe their behav- ior in detail and figure out defenses.


Intrusion Detection Exchange Format

To facilitate the development of distributed intrusion detection systems that can function across a wide range of platforms and environments, standards are needed to support interoperability. Such standards are the focus of the IETF Intrusion Detection Working Group. The purpose of the working group is to define data for- mats and exchange procedures for sharing information of interest to intrusion detection and response systems and to management systems that may need to inter- act with them. The outputs of this working group include:

1.                                       A requirements document, which describes the high-level functional require- ments for communication between intrusion detection systems and requirements for communication between intrusion detection systems and with management systems, including the rationale for those requirements. Scenarios will be used to illustrate the requirements.

2.                                       A common intrusion language specification, which describes data formats that satisfy the requirements.

3.                                       A framework document, which identifies existing protocols best used for com- munication between intrusion detection systems, and describes how the devised data formats relate to them.

As of this writing, all of these documents are in an Internet-draft document stage.

Study Material, Lecturing Notes, Assignment, Reference, Wiki description explanation, brief detail
Cryptography and Network Security Principles and Practice : System Security : Intruders : Intrusion Detection |

Privacy Policy, Terms and Conditions, DMCA Policy and Compliant

Copyright © 2018-2023 BrainKart.com; All Rights Reserved. Developed by Therithal info, Chennai.