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

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Part I. Data

This section discusses the collection and storage of data for use in analysis and response. Effective security analysis requires collecting data from widely disparate sources, each of which provides part of a picture about a particular event taking place on a network.

To understand the need for hybrid data sources, consider that most modern bots are general-purpose software systems. A single bot may use multiple techniques to infiltrate and attack other hosts on a network. These attacks may include buffer overflows, spreading across network shares, and simple password cracking. A bot attacking an SSH server with a password attempt may be logged by that host’s SSH logfile, providing concrete evidence of an attack but no information on anything else the bot did. Network traffic might not be able to reconstruct the sessions, but it can tell you about other actions by the attacker—including, say, a successful long session with a host that never reported such a session taking place, no siree.

The core challenge in data-driven analysis is to collect sufficient data to reconstruct rare events without collecting so much data as to make queries impractical. Data collection is surprisingly easy, but making sense of what’s been collected is much harder. In security, this problem is complicated by the rare actual security threats.

Attacks are common, threats are rare. The majority of network traffic is innocuous and highly repetitive: mass emails, everyone watching the same ...

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