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Network Security Through Data Analysis, 2nd Edition by Michael Collins

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Chapter 18. Application Identification

It used to be so easy to identify applications in network traffic: you looked at the port number, or if that failed, you looked at a couple of header packets for identification information. But these identifiers have become muddier over the past decade, in particular as users seek to hide certain classes of traffic (BitTorrent!) and as privacy advocates push for increased encryption.

There are still methods for identifying traffic that do not rely on payload. Most protocols have a well-defined sequence and certain predictable behaviors that mark them so you don’t have to look at the payload. By looking at the hosts to which a session talks and at packet sizes, a surprising amount of information is available.

This chapter is broken into two major sections. The first section focuses on techniques for identifying a protocol, starting with the most obvious methods and moving toward more complex techniques such as behavioral analysis. The second section discusses the contents of application banners and some methods for finding behavioral and payload information for analysis.

This chapter is very much a companion to Chapters 6 and 7; however, those chapters are more focused on the data that you can collect. This chapter is focused on application identification specifically, and is intended as a prelude to Chapter 19.

Mechanisms for Application Identification

In a perfectly safe and secure computing environment, you could just examine the configuration ...

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