MCI : Modeling-based Causality Inference in Audit Logging for Attack Investigation. presented at NDSS 2018

by Somesh Jha, Dongyan Xu, Vinod Yegneswaran, Gabriela Ciocarlie, Xiangyu Zhang, Ashish Gehani, Yonghwi Kwon, Shiqing Ma, Kyu Hyung Lee, Fei Wang, Wen-chuan Lee, Weihang Wang,

Summary : In this paper, we develop a model based causality inference technique for audit logging that does not require any application instrumentation or kernel modification. It leverages a recent dynamic analysis, dual execution (LDX), that can infer precise causality between system calls but unfortunately requires doubling the resource consumption such as CPU time and memory consumption. For each application, we use LDX to acquire precise causal models for a set of primitive operations. Each model is a sequence of system calls that have inter-dependences, some of them caused by memory operations and hence implicit at the system call level. These models are described by a language that supports various complexity such as regular, context-free, and even context-sensitive. In production run, a novel parser is deployed to parse audit logs (without any enhancement) to model instances and hence derive causality. Our evaluation on a set of real-world programs shows that the technique is highly effective. The generated models can recover causality with 0% false-positives (FP) and false-negatives (FN) for most programs and only 8.3% FP and 5.2% FN in the worst cases. The models also feature excellent composibility, meaning that the models derived from primitive operations can be composed together to describe causality for large and complex real world missions. Applying our technique to attack investigation shows that the system-wide attack causal graphs are highly precise and concise, having better quality than the state-of-the-art.