Year of Publication

2017

Season of Publication

Spring

Paper Type

Master's Thesis

College

College of Computing, Engineering & Construction

Degree Name

Master of Science in Computer and Information Sciences (MS)

Department

Computing

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. School of Computing

First Advisor

Dr. Sherif A. Elfayoumy

Second Advisor

Dr. Ching-Hua Chuan

Third Advisor

Dr. Swapnoneel Roy

Department Chair

Dr. Sherif A. Elfayoumy

College Dean

Dr. Mark Tumeo

Abstract

Security attacks are becoming more prevalent as cyber attackers exploit system vulnerabilities for financial gain. The resulting loss of revenue and reputation can have deleterious effects on governments and businesses alike. Signature recognition and anomaly detection are the most common security detection techniques in use today. These techniques provide a strong defense. However, they fall short of detecting complicated or sophisticated attacks. Recent literature suggests using security analytics to differentiate between normal and malicious user activities.

The goal of this research is to develop a repeatable process to detect cyber attacks that is fast, accurate, comprehensive, and scalable. A model was developed and evaluated using several production log files provided by the University of North Florida Information Technology Security department. This model uses security analytics to complement existing security controls to detect suspicious user activity occurring in real time by applying machine learning algorithms to multiple heterogeneous server-side log files. The process is linearly scalable and comprehensive; as such it can be applied to any enterprise environment. The process is composed of three steps. The first step is data collection and transformation which involves identifying the source log files and selecting a feature set from those files. The resulting feature set is then transformed into a time series dataset using a sliding time window representation. Each instance of the dataset is labeled as green, yellow, or red using three different unsupervised learning

methods, one of which is Partitioning around Medoids (PAM). The final step uses Deep Learning to train and evaluate the model that will be used for detecting abnormal or suspicious activities. Experiments using datasets of varying sizes of time granularity resulted in a very high accuracy and performance. The time required to train and test the model was surprisingly fast even for large datasets. This is the first research paper that develops a model to detect cyber attacks using security analytics; hence this research builds a foundation on which to expand upon for future research in this subject area.

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