Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Study group: Network Security Risk Assessment Using Bayesian Belief Networks.

This weeks study group was given by Shan on assessing network security risk using Bayesian Belief Networks, following the paper of Kondakci titled "Network Security Risk Assessment Using Bayesian Belief Networks".  The model developed can be applied to a variety of security evaluation tasks, risk assessment and other decision making systems.  The most important thing to understand on this topic is exactly how Bayesian Belief Networks (BBN's)[1] work and how they can be used to calculate security risks caused by various threat sources. To achieve this understanding, we need to talk a little about conditional probability[2]. We know that given an event $A$, the probability of an event $B$ occurring is
$$\mathrm{P}(B|A) = \frac{\mathrm{P}(B \cap A)}{\mathrm{P}(A)} $$
We can use this to consider an attack on two systems $A$ and $B$. Let us assume that the probability of an attack  $\mathrm{P}(N)$ on either system is 0.1 (meaning the probability of no attack  $\mathrm{P}(N')$ is 0.9). Let us also assume that the probability of system $A$ failing if there is an attack is 0.8 and if there isn't an attack 0.1. If there is an attack on system $B$ it fails with probability 0.6 and if no attack 0.5.
From these values we can very easily calculate the chances of the various systems failing. The probability of A failing  $\mathrm{P}(A)$ is calculated as follows
$$\mathrm{P}(A) = \mathrm{P}(A|N)\mathrm{P}(N) + \mathrm{P}(A|N')\mathrm{P}(N') = 0.1$$
Similarly we can show the probability of B failing as 0.53. Using Bayes Theorem[3] the probability that an attack has occurred given that system A has failed can be calculated as
$$\mathrm{P}(N|A) = \frac{ \mathrm{P}(A|N)\mathrm{P}(N) }{ \mathrm{P}(A)} = \frac{(0.8 * 0.1)}{0.17} = 0.47 $$
As you would expect, the observation that System A has failed has increased the probability that an attack has occurred. Let $M = N|A$ be the event of there being an attack given that $A$ has failed and $M' = N'|A$ the event of there not being an attack given that $A$ has failed. Using the law of total probability[4], the probability that system B has failed can be calculated as
$$\mathrm{P}(B) = \mathrm{P}(B|M)\mathrm{P}(M) + \mathrm{P}(B|M')\mathrm{P}(M') = 0.55 $$
Again, observing that System $A$ has failed increases the probability that System $B$ has also failed.

This simple example shows how Bayesian Belief Networks can be used to get a better understanding of the state of systems. As a real world example, consider mobile phone applications. If we know that an application has failed on a certain phone then we can calculate the failure risk on other phones. Obviously these models can easily increase in size and complexity, the hardest thing about this model is building the conditional probability table associated with the various systems involved, in our case, finding the values of $ \mathrm{P}(A|N)$ etc. These are built using historical data. Systems can be threatened by various types of threats, the first step is to create a directed acyclic graph (DAG)[5] showing all the relations involved in the system. This can then be converted into a BBN. This way we can combine certain threats into a joint impact parameter, for example we could have external threats as well as internal threats and within that we can have different types of internal threats for the system.  The model presented is a clever, generic way of computing the risk of the various classifications of threats of IT systems and computing environments using conditional probability through Bayesian Belief Networks.

[1] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayesian_network
[2] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conditional_probability
[3] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes'_theorem
[4] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_total_probability
[5] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directed_acyclic_graph

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