Oak Ridge lab takes a new tack on 'big security'

A team at Oak Ridge National Lab is developing tools that use advanced machine learning to counter cyber threats.

Oak Ridge National Lab is developing a number of cybersecurity tools that use advanced machine learning to counter cyber threats.

The lab was the victim of one of the most notable breaches of 2011, after which it was offline for more than a week. A successful phishing attack infected its network with what a spokesperson called a “very sophisticated” piece of malware apparently designed to steal information from the lab’s network. E-mail and Internet access at the lab were shut down until the infection could be identified and removed.

One tool under development looks for data being sent from inside an enterprise by insiders, leveraging data from each host on the network to identify bad behavior. Profiles of normal user behavior can be created relatively quickly and signatures for exfiltrating data can be recognized. Behavior that is flagged as suspicious or malicious can be diverted to a honeypot environment where the user is isolated but actions can be studied.


Related coverage:

To hackers, government users are phish in a barrel


A team of three researchers with expertise in machine learning have worked on and off for about three years to produce the Attack Variant Detector. The AVD tool builds on existing algorithms to detect malicious patterns, using machine learning to determine what types of behavior are normal and what is anomalous. “It’s not a complete build from the ground up,” Gillen said.

AVD is intended to operate on a large scale, looking for malicious activity directed at the enterprise from the outside. Because it is working in an expanded environment, scale and speed become more important. Gillen said the team is confident of its ability to ramp up its speed.

“Our biggest problem right now is false positives,” he said — wrongly identifying traffic as possibly malicious. This is a critical metric of success because in order for a tool to produce intelligence that can be acted upon immediately and automatically, it must severely limit the amount of legitimate activity that is blocked. Otherwise it could do more harm than good.

AVD now has proven itself capable of detecting 80 percent of bad traffic that has been missed by other tools, “which we are very pleased with ,” Gillen said. “But we’re trying to get the false positives down to 10 percent or lower.”

Gillen didn’t say exactly what the false positive rate is now, except that it is significantly above the 10 percent threshold.

Although the AVD project still is in the prototyping stage and some basic engineering still is being done on it, advances in its capabilities at this point are coming more from tweaking the software rather than making substantial changes. “It’s a matter of tuning the features we want, doing a lot of work on the triage,” that will let a variety of algorithms produce a consensus conclusion about behavior, he said.

Oak Ridge is not building commercial products, but when the technology is advanced beyond the prototype stage, it can be licensed to companies for commercialization.

AVD as it is envisioned now would operate much like a more traditional Intrusion Detection System, gathering its data for analysis at a single point in the network. Although the analysis of larger amounts of data could be scaled up with increased computing power, the more vexing problem again is bringing together data in a timely way that has been gathered from multiple sensors on a national or even global scale.

Is this practical? “That’s an interesting research challenge,” Gillen said, indicating that it might be some time yet before it enters the realm of the practical.


X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.