Active Perception for Cyber Intrusion Detection and Defense

Most modern network-based intrusion detection systems (IDSs) passively monitor network traffic to identify possible attacks through known vectors. Though useful, this approach has widely known high false positive rates, often causing administrators to suffer from a "cry wolf effect,'' where they ignore all warnings because so many have been false. In this paper, we focus on a method to reduce this effect using an idea borrowed from computer vision and neuroscience called active perception. Our approach is informed by theoretical ideas from decision theory and recent research results in neuroscience. The active perception agent allocates computational and sensing resources to (approximately) optimize its Value of Information. To do this, it draws on models to direct sensors towards phenomena of greatest interest to inform decisions about cyber defense actions. By identifying critical network assets, the organization's mission measures interest (and value of information). This model enables the system to follow leads from inexpensive, inaccurate alerts with targeted use of expensive, accurate sensors. This allows the deployment of sensors to build structured interpretations of situations. From these, an organization can meet mission-centered decision-making requirements with calibrated responses proportional to the likelihood of true detection and degree of threat.

J. Benton, Robert P. Goldman, Mark Burstein, Joseph Mueller, Paul Robertson, Dan Cerys, Andreas Hoffman, and Rusty Bobrow. Active Perception for Cyber Intrusion Detection and Defense. In AAAI-16 Workshop on Artificial Intelligence for Cyber Security. Forthcoming.