Ding Li works at Peking University.


NODOZE: Combatting Threat Alert Fatigue with Automated Provenance Triage

Large enterprises are increasingly relying on threat detection softwares (e.g., Intrusion Detection Systems) to allow them to spot suspicious activities. These softwares generate alerts which must be investigated by cyber analysts to figure out if they are true attacks. Unfortunately, in practice, there are more alerts than cyber analysts can properly investigate. This leads to a “threat alert fatigue” or information overload problem where cyber analysts miss true attack alerts in the noise of false alarms.In this paper, we present NoDoze to combat this challenge using contextual and historical information of generated threat alert in an enterprise. NoDoze first generates a causal dependency graph of an alert event. Then, it assigns an anomaly score to each event in the dependency graph based on the frequency with which related events have happened before in the enterprise. NoDoze then propagates those scores along the edges of the graph using a novel network diffusion algorithm and generates a subgraph with an aggregate anomaly score which is used to triage alerts. Evaluation on our dataset of 364 threat alerts shows that NoDoze decreases the volume of false alarms by 86%, saving more than 90 hours of analysts’ time, which was required to investigate those false alarms. Furthermore, NoDoze generated dependency graphs of true alerts are 2 orders of magnitude smaller than those generated by traditional tools without sacrificing the vital information needed for the investigation. Our system has a low average runtime overhead and can be deployed with any threat detection software.

NodeMerge: Template Based Efficient Data Reduction For Big-Data Causality Analysis

Today’s enterprises are exposed to sophisticated attacks, such as Advanced Persistent Threats~(APT) attacks, which usually consist of stealthy multiple steps. To counter these attacks, enterprises often rely on causality analysis on the system activity data collected from a ubiquitous system monitoring to discover the initial penetration point, and from there identify previously unknown attack steps. However, one major challenge for causality analysis is that the ubiquitous system monitoring generates a colossal amount of data and hosting such a huge amount of data is prohibitively expensive. Thus, there is a strong demand for techniques that reduce the storage of data for causality analysis and yet preserve the quality of the causality analysis. To address this problem, in this paper, we propose NodeMerge, a template based data reduction system for online system event storage. Specifically, our approach can directly work on the stream of system dependency data and achieve data reduction on the read-only file events based on their access patterns. It can either reduce the storage cost or improve the performance of causality analysis under the same budget. Only with a reasonable amount of resource for online data reduction, it nearly completely preserves the accuracy for causality analysis. The reduced form of data can be used directly with little overhead. To evaluate our approach, we conducted a set of comprehensive evaluations, which show that for different categories of workloads, our system can reduce the storage capacity of raw system dependency data by as high as 75.7 times, and the storage capacity of the state-of-the-art approach by as high as 32.6 times. Furthermore, the results also demonstrate that our approach keeps all the causality analysis information and has a reasonably small overhead in memory and hard disk.

SAQL: A Stream-based Query System for Real-Time Abnormal System Behavior Detection

Recently, advanced cyber attacks, which consist of a sequence of steps that involve many vulnerabilities and hosts, compromise the security of many well-protected businesses. This has led to solutions that ubiquitously monitor system activities in each host (big data) as a series of events and search for anomalies (abnormal behaviors) for triaging risky events. Since fighting against these attacks is a time-critical mission to prevent further damage, these solutions face challenges in incorporating expert knowledge to perform timely anomaly detection over the large-scale provenance data. To address these challenges, we propose a novel stream-based query system that takes as input, a real-time event feed aggregated from multiple hosts in an enterprise, and provides an anomaly query engine that queries the event feed to identify abnormal behaviors based on the specified anomalies. To facilitate the task of expressing anomalies based on expert knowledge, our system provides a domain-specific query language, SAQL, which allows analysts to express models for (1) rule-based anomalies, (2) time-series anomalies, (3) invariant-based anomalies, and (4) outlier-based anomalies. We deployed our system in NEC Labs America, comprising 150 hosts, and evaluated it using 1.1TB of real system monitoring data (containing 3.3 billion events). Our evaluations on a broad set of attack behaviors and micro-benchmarks show that our system has a low detection latency (<2s) and a high system throughput (110,000 events/s; supporting ~4000 hosts), and is more efficient in memory utilization than the existing stream-based complex event processing systems.

Towards a Timely Causality Analysis for Enterprise Security

The increasingly sophisticated Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) attacks have become a serious challenge for enterprise IT security. Attack causality analysis, which tracks multi-hop causal relationships between files and processes to diagnose attack provenances and consequences, is the first step towards understanding APT attacks and taking appropriate responses. Since attack causality analysis is a time-critical mission, it is essential to design causality tracking systems that extract useful attack information in a timely manner. However, prior work is limited in serving this need. Existing approaches have largely focused on pruning causal dependencies totally irrelevant to the attack, but fail to differentiate and prioritize abnormal events from numerous relevant, yet benign and complicated system operations, resulting in long investigation time and slow responses.