new technical report “Peek Inside the Closed World: Evaluating Autoencoder-Based Detection of DDoS to Cloud ”

We have released a new technical report “Peek Inside the Closed World: Evaluating Autoencoder-Based Detection of DDoS to Cloud” as an ArXiv technical report 1912.05590, available at https://www.isi.edu/~hangguo/papers/Guo19a.pdf

We study 4 cloud IPs (SR1VP1 to 3 and SR2VP1) that are under attack. SR1VP3 sees a large number of mostly short DDoS events (71% of its 49 events being 1 second or less). SR1VP1 and SR1VP2 see smaller numbers of longer DDoS events (median duration for their 20 and 27 events are 121 and 140 seconds). SR2VP1 sees DDoS events of broad range of durations (from 1 second to more than 14 hours).

From the abstract of our technical report:

From the abstract:

Machine-learning-based anomaly detection (ML-based AD) has been successful at detecting DDoS events in the lab. However published evaluations of ML-based AD have only had limited data and have not provided insight into why it works. To address limited evaluation against real-world data, we apply autoencoder, an existing ML-AD model, to 57 DDoS attack events captured at 5 cloud IPs from a major cloud provider. To improve our understanding for why ML-based AD works or not works, we interpret this data with feature attribution and counterfactual explanation. We show that our version of autoencoders work well overall: our models capture nearly all malicious flows to 2 of the 4 cloud IPs under attacks (at least 99.99%) but generate a few false negatives (5% and 9%) for the remaining 2 IPs. We show that our models maintain near-zero false positives on benign flows to all 5 IPs. Our interpretation of results shows that our models identify almost all malicious flows with non-whitelisted (non-WL) destination ports (99.92%) by learning the full list of benign destination ports from training data (the normality). Interpretation shows that although our models learn incomplete normality for protocols and source ports, they still identify most malicious flows with non-WL protocols and blacklisted (BL) source ports (100.0% and 97.5%) but risk false positives. Interpretation also shows that our models only detect a few malicious flows with BL packet sizes (8.5%) by incorrectly inferring these BL sizes as normal based on incomplete normality learned. We find our models still detect a quarter of flows (24.7%) with abnormal payload contents even when they do not see payload by combining anomalies from multiple flow features. Lastly, we summarize the implications of what we learn on applying autoencoder-based AD in production.problme?Machine-learning-based anomaly detection (ML-based AD) has been successful at detecting DDoS events in the lab. However published evaluations of ML-based AD have only had limited data and have not provided insight into why it works. To address limited evaluation against real-world data, we apply autoencoder, an existing ML-AD model, to 57 DDoS attack events captured at 5 cloud IPs from a major cloud provider. To improve our understanding for why ML-based AD works or not works, we interpret this data with feature attribution and counterfactual explanation. We show that our version of autoencoders work well overall: our models capture nearly all malicious flows to 2 of the 4 cloud IPs under attacks (at least 99.99%) but generate a few false negatives (5% and 9%) for the remaining 2 IPs. We show that our models maintain near-zero false positives on benign flows to all 5 IPs. Our interpretation of results shows that our models identify almost all malicious flows with non-whitelisted (non-WL) destination ports (99.92%) by learning the full list of benign destination ports from training data (the normality). Interpretation shows that although our models learn incomplete normality for protocols and source ports, they still identify most malicious flows with non-WL protocols and blacklisted (BL) source ports (100.0% and 97.5%) but risk false positives. Interpretation also shows that our models only detect a few malicious flows with BL packet sizes (8.5%) by incorrectly inferring these BL sizes as normal based on incomplete normality learned. We find our models still detect a quarter of flows (24.7%) with abnormal payload contents even when they do not see payload by combining anomalies from multiple flow features. Lastly, we summarize the implications of what we learn on applying autoencoder-based AD in production.

This technical report is joint work of Hang Guo and John Heidemann from USC/ISI and Xun Fan, Anh Cao and Geoff Outhred from Microsoft

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