• BotDet: a system for real time Botnet command and control traffic detection

      Ghafir, Ibrahim; Prenosil, V.; Hammoudeh, M.; Baker, T.; Jabbar, S.; Khalid, S.; Jaf, S. (2018-06)
      Over the past decade, the digitization of services transformed the healthcare sector leading to a sharp rise in cybersecurity threats. Poor cybersecurity in the healthcare sector, coupled with high value of patient records attracted the attention of hackers. Sophisticated advanced persistent threats and malware have significantly contributed to increasing risks to the health sector. Many recent attacks are attributed to the spread of malicious software, e.g., ransomware or bot malware. Machines infected with bot malware can be used as tools for remote attack or even cryptomining. This paper presents a novel approach, called BotDet, for botnet Command and Control (C&C) traffic detection to defend against malware attacks in critical ultrastructure systems. There are two stages in the development of the proposed system: 1) we have developed four detection modules to detect different possible techniques used in botnet C&C communications and 2) we have designed a correlation framework to reduce the rate of false alarms raised by individual detection modules. Evaluation results show that BotDet balances the true positive rate and the false positive rate with 82.3% and 13.6%, respectively. Furthermore, it proves BotDet capability of real time detection.
    • Detection of advanced persistent threat using machine-learning correlation analysis

      Ghafir, Ibrahim; Hammoudeh, M.; Prenosil, V.; Han, L.; Hegarty, R.; Rabie, K.; Aparicio-Navarro, F.J. (2018-12)
      As one of the most serious types of cyber attack, Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) have caused major concerns on a global scale. APT refers to a persistent, multi-stage attack with the intention to compromise the system and gain information from the targeted system, which has the potential to cause significant damage and substantial financial loss. The accurate detection and prediction of APT is an ongoing challenge. This work proposes a novel machine learning-based system entitled MLAPT, which can accurately and rapidly detect and predict APT attacks in a systematic way. The MLAPT runs through three main phases: (1) Threat detection, in which eight methods have been developed to detect different techniques used during the various APT steps. The implementation and validation of these methods with real traffic is a significant contribution to the current body of research; (2) Alert correlation, in which a correlation framework is designed to link the outputs of the detection methods, aims to identify alerts that could be related and belong to a single APT scenario; and (3) Attack prediction, in which a machine learning-based prediction module is proposed based on the correlation framework output, to be used by the network security team to determine the probability of the early alerts to develop a complete APT attack. MLAPT is experimentally evaluated and the presented system is able to predict APT in its early steps with a prediction accuracy of 84.8%.
    • Security threats to critical infrastructure: the human factor

      Ghafir, Ibrahim; Saleem, J.; Hammoudeh, M.; Faour, H.; Prenosil, V.; Jaf, S.; Jabbar, S.; Baker, T. (2018-10)
      In the twenty-first century, globalisation made corporate boundaries invisible and difficult to manage. This new macroeconomic transformation caused by globalisation introduced new challenges for critical infrastructure management. By replacing manual tasks with automated decision making and sophisticated technology, no doubt we feel much more secure than half a century ago. As the technological advancement takes root, so does the maturity of security threats. It is common that today’s critical infrastructures are operated by non-computer experts, e.g. nurses in health care, soldiers in military or firefighters in emergency services. In such challenging applications, protecting against insider attacks is often neither feasible nor economically possible, but these threats can be managed using suitable risk management strategies. Security technologies, e.g. firewalls, help protect data assets and computer systems against unauthorised entry. However, one area which is often largely ignored is the human factor of system security. Through social engineering techniques, malicious attackers are able to breach organisational security via people interactions. This paper presents a security awareness training framework, which can be used to train operators of critical infrastructure, on various social engineering security threats such as spear phishing, baiting, pretexting, among others.