NIPS Vendors explicit answer
From: christian graf (chr.graf_at_gmx.de)
To: focus-ids <email@example.com> Date: Wed, 07 Apr 2004 16:07:15 +0200
there are many "imaginable" ways for a NIPS to detect traffic, which
should be blocked. Patternbased, data-mining-methods (to even guess into
encrypted traffic - see http://www.phrack.org/show.php?p=61&a=9 ,
RFC-anomaly, protocol-based anolmaly (layer 4 flows, new listening
services, new protocols,..), statistical methods, ... Those methods will
most-likely combined with neuronal-networks, back-propagation-networks,
state-machines and at least with some voodoo called heuristic.
My goal is here, do get a feeling for "unknown / zero day" exploits. One
of the best places to stop them is probably the host itself
(lids-project or one of many HIPS , AV-products and even some nice HIDS
with IPS functionality). But here I want the NIPS functionality only.
And I absolutely do not want to start a discussion IDS versus IPS. Those
are two separate functions and can't be replaced against each together.
My questions is, how the vendors would have detected and blocked
a prior unseen SINGLE successful attempt which exploits
Execution of Embedded MIME Types) and a SINGLE successful hack
(Superfluous Decoding Vulnerability in IIS) . Both are
nimda-related and are just a generic example.
Please do not highlight, that your product would have captured the tftp
(69/UDP) traffic to the IIS-Server NOR that the infected clients will
start scanning for vulnerable IIS-Servers! This traffic is all
worm-related and thats easy to detect anyway.
I do want to checkout how clever the systems may handle an unknown,
single but successful exploit. Most important when (at which step ) the
exploit is detected and stopped (when the backdoor triggers, shellcode
seen, new ports are listening, unseen new traffic, ...)
Even target-based intelligence will not really help in my question, as
I'm talking to the unseen exploit ONLY -and targetbased are all already
seen vulnerabilities. Ups, and checking for RFC-Compliance wont't help
either (hm, is declaring a binary-executable as audio/x-wav against the
In the answer I would like to see the following points included:
1) would the system have captured/blocked a "unique, prior unseen"
infection by a user who's mail-system was rendering the malicious mail?
1a) you may include the behaviour regarding the
directory-traversal-exploit for IIS.
2) if the system could block/detect it, how was the system teached to
get aware of the exploits?
3) how long took it to teach the system?
3a) Once the first successful exploit was done (and not blocked), the
system will detect "malicious" traffic or even a newly installed
How fast can the system be configured to block further similar hacks?
Is this reconfiguration done automatically?
How can the system be sure that no legacy traffic is blocked
4) what will happen, if during the teaching-phase the infection will
happen? (So the exploit got learned and maybe classified as normal)
5)How will the anomaly IDS/IPS act during the absolutely normal drift of
any network (new servers, new services, new FW-rules, ..)?
6) As anytime, the system may be tuned to extreme: If measured by
ROC-graphs (as seen and discussed in the papers from C.C. Micael, Anup
Ghosh "Two-state approaches to Program-based anomaly detection" or in
the paper from Stefanie Forrest and Thomas A. Langstaff "A Sense of Self
for Unix Processes". The ROC-graph in general shows the relationship
between the false-positives-rate and the successfully-detected rate.
I'm interested if the system is tuned to report minimum false positives,
how big is the chance to detect an exploit?
7) What data needs the IPS to detect anomaly?
Example: A string-transducer-based system is able to detect
unknown-exploits, even if his data during learning-phase is NOT
complete. The big advantage from this behaviour is that the network may
drift in its behaviour and no relearning needs to be done immediately.
New services and new protocols do not necessarily force an alarm or
blocking (unless they are exploits which will be blocked).
Contrary to this is method is the simple "learning-mode", were a system
is teached to everything which is normal. Anything else from this
learned stuff is "malicious" should be blocked. Whenever the network
changes, chances are good, that the system will start blocking legacy
traffic - which is absolutely bad.
So back to my question - what kind of traffic (exploits or exploit
free) is needed to teach the system?
How long or how many packets need to be captured in the learning phase?
How will the IPS react to prior unseen traffic / behaviour?
8) What exact technology is used to detect anomaly? Most vendors claim
to have several technologies combined...
9) How will the correlation engine combine the different technologies to
detect anomaly? I here heuristics dancing :)
I don't expect exact numbers for my questions. As every network is
different, the numbers will vary greatly. But I expect to get generic
answers by this mail.
Whoever will answer to this, thanks for taking time.
I would be glad getting no blah blah. I could name some really bad
white-papers regarding anomaly-detection from some vendors which are not
worth the paper they are written on. Some technical answers would be
And please keep in mind, that I didn't said that one technology is the
better. Thats not the goal here.