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Cyber Situation Awareness: Modeling Detection of Cyber Attacks With Instance-Based Learning Theory

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journal contribution
posted on 01.06.2013, 00:00 authored by Varun Dutt, Young-Suk Ahn, Cleotilde GonzalezCleotilde Gonzalez

Objective: To determine the effects of an adversary’s behavior on the defender’s accurate and timely detection of network threats.

Background: Cyber attacks cause major work disruption. It is important to understand how a defender’s behavior (experience and tolerance to threats), as well as adversarial behavior (attack strategy), might impact the detection of threats. In this article, we use cognitive modeling to make predictions regarding these factors.

Method: Different model types representing a defender, based on Instance-Based Learning Theory (IBLT), faced different adversarial behaviors. A defender’s model was defined by experience of threats: threat-prone (90% threats and 10% nonthreats) and nonthreat-prone (10% threats and 90% nonthreats); and different tolerance levels to threats: risk-averse (model declares a cyber attack after perceiving one threat out of eight total) and risk-seeking (model declares a cyber attack after perceiving seven threats out of eight total). Adversarial behavior is simulated by considering different attack strategies: patient (threats occur late) and impatient (threats occur early).

Results: For an impatient strategy, risk-averse models with threat-prone experiences show improved detection compared with risk-seeking models with nonthreat-prone experiences; however, the same is not true for a patient strategy.

Conclusions: Based upon model predictions, a defender’s prior threat experiences and his or her tolerance to threats are likely to predict detection accuracy; but considering the nature of adversarial behavior is also important.

Application: Decision-support tools that consider the role of a defender’s experience and tolerance to threats along with the nature of adversarial behavior are likely to improve a defender’s overall threat detection.