Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
XML PDF e-pub
PDF e-Pub

Section: New Results


Security analytics

Participants : Jérôme François [contact] , Abdelkader Lahmadi, Sofiane Lagraa, Soline Blanc, Giulia de Santis, Olivier Festor, Radu State [University of Luxembourg] , Christian Hammerschmidt [University of Luxembourg] .

In 2017, we have continued our active cooperation with the High Security Lab (HSL) in Nancy. The latter provides the infrastructure to support two main projects in security analytics, namely the FUI HuMa project and the ATT AMICS. Thanks to darknet data of the HSL, we developped two methods based on graph-mining to extract knowledge. The first one focuses on port scanning analysis in order to profile the behaviours and patterns of attackers. By representing consecutive targeted ports in an aggregated graph format, we assess then the centrality of port number using different metrics and highlights valuable correlation among some of them. We are particularly able to identify patterns of scanning related to a specific setup (e.g. medical environment) [17]. We then extended this method to security events analysis by constructing multiple graphs to be analyzed with an outlier technique. The rationale is to represent individual behaviors and detect those which deviate from the majority. The method has been successfully applied to botnet detection in [16]. We are currently leveraging our graph analysis in order to provide to the community a new metric or distance to be applied when comparing port numbers. Indeed, numerical comparison is meaningless in that context and we could leverage either a semantic database (such as Wikipedia) or attacker database (darknet) to derive a meaningful metric, i.e. representing a real correlation between port numbers (TCP or UDP).

Furthermore, we continue our work on using Hidden Markov Models for analysing TCP scanning activities. We are now in a stage where individual models from different scanner tools or configurations (e.g. targeted ports) are used in order to automatically learn unique signatures then applied on non-labelled data.

NDN Security

Participants : Thibault Cholez [contact] , Xavier Marchal, Olivier Festor, Jérôme François, Salvatore Signorello [University of Luxembourg] , Radu State [University of Luxembourg] , Samuel Marchal [Aalto University] .

Information Centric Networking (ICN) is seen as a promising solution to re-conciliate the Internet usage with its core architecture. However, to be considered as a realistic alternative to IP, ICN must evolve from a pure academic proposition deployed in test environments to an operational solution in which security is assessed from the protocol design to its running implementation. Among ICN solutions, Named Data Networking (NDN), together with its reference implementation NDN Forwarding Daemon (NFD), acts as the most mature proposal but its vulnerability against the Content Poisoning Attack (CPA) is considered as a critical threat that can jeopardize this architecture. So far, existing works in that area have fallen into the pit of coupling a biased and partial phenomenon analysis with a proposed solution, hence lacking a comprehensive understanding of the attack's feasibility and impact in a real network. In a joint work with our colleagues from UTT and in the context of the ANR DOCTOR projet, we demonstrated through an experimental measurement campaign that CPA can easily and widely affect NDN. Our contribution is threefold: (1) we propose three realistic attack scenarios relying on both protocol design and implementation weaknesses; (2) we present their implementation and evaluation in a testbed based on the latest NFD version; and (3) we analyze their impact on the different ICN nodes (clients, access and core routers, content provider) composing a realistic topology. This work was published in IM 2017 conference [21].

Also, still in the context of the DOCTOR project, we refined our architecture to securely deploy NDN over NFV. Indeed, combining NFV fast service deployment and SDN fine grained control of data flows allows comprehensive network security monitoring. The DOCTOR architecture allows detecting, assessing and remediating attacks. NDN is an example of application made possible by SDN and NFV coexistence, since hardware implementation would be too expensive. We showed how NDN routers can be implemented and managed as VNFs. Security monitoring of the DOCTOR architecture is performed at two levels. First, host-level monitoring, provided by CyberCAPTOR, uses an attack graph approach based on network topology knowledge. It then suggests remediations to cut attack paths. We show how our monitoring tool integrates SDN and NFV specificities and how SDN and NFV make security monitoring more efficient. Then, application-level monitoring relies on the MMT probe. It monitors NDN-specific metrics from inside the VNFs and a central component can detect attack patterns corresponding to known flaws of the NDN protocol. These attacks are fed to the CyberCAPTOR module to integrate NDN attacks in attack graphs. This work was published in a book chapter "Guide to Security in SDN and NFV" from Springer's Computer Communications and Networks collection [35].

Finally, in cooperation with the University of Luxembourg, we have investigated interest flooding attacks in NDN. By nature, NDN communication assumes that requesting a content leads to emit an interest and forwarding it in the network until it reaches an appropriate content provider which then sends back data through the reverse path. Interest flooding attacks forge interests (requests) which cannot be satisfied by any data to be sent back to the emitter. As such, both the network and nodes are overloaded as the interests are flooded into the network and intermediate nodes have to store them locally in the pending interest table. We observed that most of literature mechanisms have been evaluated with very simple attack models. Actually, we had a great expertise in phishing attacks and social engineering that can be used to generate realistic phishing names for the NDN naming scheme. We thus create a new stealthy attack relying on natural language processing techniques to forge interests very similar to legitimate ones making inefficient all proposed counter-measures from the state-of-the-art [25].

Configuration security automation

Participants : Rémi Badonnel [contact] , Abdelkader Lahmadi, Olivier Festor, Nicolas Schnepf, Maxime Compastié.

The main research challenge addressed in this work is focused on enabling configuration security automation in dynamic networks and services. In particular our objective is to support the efficient configuration and orchestration of security management operations.

The continuous growth and variety of networking significantly increases the complexity of management. It requires novel autonomic methods and techniques contributing to detection and prevention performances with respect to vulnerabilities and attacks.

We have pursued during Year 2017 the efforts on the orchestration of security functions in the context of mobile smart environments, with our joint work with Stephan Merz of the VeriDis project-team at Inria Nancy. We had already defined an automated verification technique, based on an extension of an SDN language, for checking both the control and the data planes related to security chains [24]. Complementarily, we proposed a strategy for generating SDN policies for protecting Android environments based on automata learning. Our solution collects traces of flow interactions of their applications, aggregates them in order to build finite-state models, and then infer SDN policy rules. We have designed and implemented aggregation and automata learning algorithms that allow precise and generic models of applications to be built. These models will be then used for configuring chains of security functions specified in the Pyretic language and verified with our Synaptic checker. We have developed a prototype of our solution implementing these algorithms, and evaluated its performances through a series of experiments based on the backend process miners Synoptic and Invarimint, in addition to our own algorithm. The experiments showed the benefits and limits of these methods in terms of simplicity, precision, genericity and expressivity, while varying the level of aggregation of the input flow traces.

In addition, we have worked on our software-defined security framework, for enabling the enforcement of security policies in distributed cloud environments. This framework relies on the autonomic paradigm to dynamically configure and adjust these mechanisms to distributed cloud constraints, and exploit the software-defined logic to express and propagate security policies to the considered cloud resources [13]. In particular, we have investigated during Year 2017 the exploitability of unikernels to support our framework. Unikernels permit to build highly-constrained configurations limited to the strict necessary with a time-limited validity. We take benefits of their properties to reduce the attack exposure of cloud resources. We have formalized and integrated into our software-defined security framework, on-the-fly generation mechanisms of unikernel images that cope with security policy requirements. In that context, security mechanisms are directly integrated to the unikernel images at building time. A proof of concept prototype based on MirageOS was developed and the performance of such a software-based security strategy was evaluated through extensive series of experiments. We have also compared them to other regular virtualization solutions. Our results show that the costs induced by security mechanisms integration are relatively limited, and unikernels are well suited to minimize risk exposure.