Network software aimed at recognizing hackers' habits

Tuesday, 21 January 2003, 12:22 PM EST

Researchers are developing software that can generate highly personalized profiles of network users by analyzing the sequences of commands entered at each computer terminal.

The system - a prototype is likely to be ready for intensive testing this summer - could provide a high-grade layer of protection for military installations and government agencies as well as banking or other commercial networks that require especially tight monitoring.

The "user-level anomaly detection" software draws up regularly updated profiles by closely tracking over time how each person performs an array of routine tasks, such as opening files, sending e-mail or searching archives.

Designed to tell if someone has strayed into an unauthorized zone or is masquerading as an employee using a stolen password, the program keeps watch for even subtle deviations in behavior.

Alerted to anomalies, network administrators then begin monitoring more aggressively to assess whether pilferage is in progress.

"The ultimate goal is to detect intrusions or violations occurring on the fly," said chief researcher Shambhu Upadhyaya, a SUNY Buffalo computer science professor. "There are systems that try to do this in real time but the problem is it results in too many false alarms."

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