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How can a Bayesian network be used to perform attack analysis of web traffic? I read an interesting article on its application. "Web Application Defense with Bayesian Attack Analysis" but I was not clear about its methodology.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Bayesian networks are a form of probabilistic model, whereby a set of conditions can be used to predict whether an assertion is true or false.

For example, let's suppose there are two conditions we are using to predict whether a disk is dying.

  1. Disk writes are slow.
  2. Traffic is abnormally high.

We might formulate the probabilities like this:

  Slow Writes | High Traffic | Disk failing?
--------------+--------------+-- T --|-- F ---
      F       |      F       | 0.05  | 0.95
      F       |      T       | 0.01  | 0.99
      T       |      F       | 0.90  | 0.10
      T       |      T       | 0.45  | 0.55

This can be interpreted as follows:

  • If writes are not slow, and traffic is not high, there is a 0.95 probability that the disk is not failing.
  • If writes are not slow, and traffic is not high, there is a 0.99 probability that the disk is not failing.
  • If writes are slow, and traffic is not high, there is a 0.90 probability that the disk is failing.
  • If writes are slow, and traffic is high, there is a 0.55 probability that the disk is not failing.

We can take this type of model and apply self-learning to it. We take a large set of data where the outcomes are known, and use this to build a probability model.

For example, in a network we might have tests such as:

  • >10Mbps TCP traffic coming from internet?
  • >10Mbps UDP traffic coming from internet?
  • >5 failed logins to RDP in last 10 minutes?
  • >5 failed logins to SSH in last 10 minutes?
  • Number of TCP connections to SQL server is >5?
  • Number of TCP connections to HTTP server is >500?
  • Firewall has logged >100 events in the last minute?
  • Time is currently within office (9-5) hours?
  • etc.

We run these tests over a set of known traffic on the network, and inform the model of times where a breach has or has not been attempted. It can then check which tests were most likely to correlate with a particular type of target event, and build a probability model like we did above.

When we detect further breaches, we tell the model "this was a breach", and it can attempt to improve its model. We can also tell it when it falsely alerted us to a breach.

These models can become extremely complex when dealing with large numbers of question and huge datasets, especially when the model contains test questions that are fed from sub-models, or other forms of analysis. As such, they can provide an excellent pattern-matching approach to intrusion detection.

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It is classifying the requests / packets / messages into good / bad ones and this classification is based on a database, which is created during training process, so you need to classify the initial batch yourself, and then it goes on self-learning.

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