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Modeling, early detection, and mitigation of Internet worm attacks

Changchun Zou, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In recent years, fast spreading worms have become one of the major threats to the security of the Internet. Code Red, Nimda, Slammer, Blaster, MyDoom... these worms kept hitting the Internet and caused severe damage to our society. However, until now we have not fully understand the behaviors of Internet worms; our defense techniques are still one-step behind attack techniques deployed by attackers. In this dissertation, we present our research on modeling, analysis, and mitigation of Internet worm attacks. In modeling and analysis of Internet worms, we first present a " two fact" worm model, which considers the impacts of human countermeasures and network congestions on a worm's propagation behavior. Through infinitesimal analysis, we derive a uniform-scan worm propagation model that is described by concrete parameters of worms instead of the abstract parameter in traditional epidemic models. Then based on this model, we derive and analyze how a worm propagates under various worm scanning strategies, such as uniform scan, routing scan, hit-list scan, cooperative scan, local preference scan, sequential scan, divide-and-conquer scan, target scan, etc. We also provide an analytical model to accurately model Witty worm's destructive behavior. By using the same modeling framework, we reveal the underlying similarity and relationship between different worm scanning strategies. For mass-mailing email worms, we use simulation experiments to study their propagation behaviors and the effectiveness of partial immunization. To ensure us having enough time for defense, it is critical to detect the presence of a worm in the Internet as early as possible. In this research area, we present a novel model-based detection methodology, "trend detection", which de ploys Kalman filter estimation to detect the exponential growth trend, not the traffic burst, of monitored malicious traffic since we believe a fast-spreading Internet worm propagates exponentially at its beginning stage. In addition, we can accurately predict the total vulnerable population in the Internet at the early stage of a worm's propagation, and estimate the number of globally infected hosts based on our limited monitoring resource. In the area of worm mitigation, we derive two fundamental defense principles: "preemptive quarantine" and "feedback adjustment ". Based on the first principle, we present a novel "dynamic quarantine" defense system. Based on the second principle, we present an adaptive defense system to defend against various network attacks, including worm attack and Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks.

Subject Area

Computer science|Electrical engineering

Recommended Citation

Zou, Changchun, "Modeling, early detection, and mitigation of Internet worm attacks" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3193965.