Date of Award
Master of Science
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Barry E. Mullins, PhD.
Networks can be vast and complicated entities consisting of both servers and workstations that contain information sought by attackers. Searching for specific data in a large network can be a time consuming process. Vast amounts of data either passes through or is stored by various servers on the network. However, intermediate work products are often kept solely on workstations. Potential high value targets can be passively identified by comparing user email traffic against predefined profiles. This method provides a potentially smaller footprint on target systems, less human interaction, and increased efficiency of attackers. Collecting user email traffic and comparing each word in an email to a predefined profile, or a list of key words of interest to the attacker, can provide a prioritized list of systems containing the most relevant information. This research uses two experiments. The functionality experiment uses randomly generated emails and profiles, demonstrating MAPS (Merritt's Adaptive Profiling System)ability to accurately identify matches. The utility experiment uses an email corpus and meaningful profiles, further demonstrating MAPS ability to accurately identify matches with non-random input. A meaningful profile is a list of words bearing a semantic relationship to a topic of interest to the attacker. Results for the functionality experiment show MAPS can parse randomly generated emails and identify matches with an accuracy of 99 percent or above. The utility experiment using an email corpus with meaningful profiles, shows slightly lower accuracies of 95 percent or above. Based upon the match results, network attack priority lists are generated. A network attack priority list is an ordered list of systems, where the potentially highest value systems exhibit the greatest fit to the profile. An attacker then uses the list when searching for target information on the network to prioritize the systems most likely to contain useful data.
DTIC Accession Number
Merrit, Eric J., "Creating Network Attack Priority Lists by Analyzing Email Traffic Using Predefined Profiles" (2012). Theses and Dissertations. 1136.