Anomalous payload-based network intrusion detection

Anomalous Payload-Based Network Intrusion Detection
Ke Wang and Salvatore J. Stolfo
Computer Science Department, Columbia University
500 West 120th Street, New York, NY, 10027 {kewang,sal}
Abstract. We present a payload-based anomaly detector, we call PAYL, for in-trusion detection. PAYL models the normal application payload of network traffic in a fully automatic, unsupervised and very effecient fashion. We first compute during a training phase a profile byte frequency distribution and their standard deviation of the application payload flowing to a single host and port. We then use Mahalanobis distance during the detection phase to calculate the similarity of new data against the pre-computed profile. The detector compares this measure against a threshold and generates an alert when the distance of the new input exceeds this threshold. We demonstrate the surprising effectiveness of the method on the 1999 DARPA IDS dataset and a live dataset we collected on the Columbia CS department network. In once case nearly 100% accuracy is achieved with 0.1% false positive rate for port 80 traffic.
1 Introduction
There are many IDS systems available that are primarily signature-based detectors. Although these are effective at detecting known intrusion attempts and exploits, they fail to recognize new attacks and carefully crafted variants of old exploits. A new generation of systems is now appearing based upon anomaly detection. Anomaly Detection systems model normal or expected behavior in a system, and detect devia¬tions of interest that may indicate a security breach or an attempted attack.
Some attacks exploit the vulnerabilities of a protocol, other attacks seek to survey a site by scanning and probing. These attacks can often be detected by analyzing the network packet headers, or monitoring the network traffic connection attempts and session behavior. Other attacks, such as worms, involve the delivery of bad payload (in an otherwise normal connection) to a vulnerable service or application. These may be detected by inspecting the packet payload (or the ill-effects of the worm payload execution on the server when it is too late after successful penetration). State of the art systems designed to detect and defend systems from these malicious and intrusive events depend upon “signatures” or “thumbprints” that are developed by human ex¬perts or by semi-automated means from known prior bad worms or viruses. They do not solve the “zero-day” worm problem, however; the first occurrence of a new unleashed worm or exploit.
Systems are protected after a worm has been detected, and a signature has been developed and distributed to signature-based detectors, such as a virus scanner or a firewall rule. Many well known examples of worms have been described that propa¬gate at very high speeds on the internet. These are easy to notice by analyzing the rate of scanning and probing from external sources which would indicate a worm propa¬gation is underway. Unfortunately, this approach detects the early onset of a propaga¬tion, but the worm has already successfully penetrated a number of victims, infected it and started its damage and its propagation. (It should be evident that slow and stealthy worm propagations may go unnoticed if one depends entirely on the detec¬tion of rapid or bursty changes in flows or probes.)
Our work aims to detect the first occurrences of a worm either at a network system gateway or within an internal network from a rogue device and to prevent its propa¬gation.