We present a new kind of network perimeter monitoring strategy, which focuses on recognizing the infection and coordination dialog that occurs during a successful malware infection. BotHunter is an application designed to track the two-way communication flows between internal assets and external entities, developing an evidence trail of data exchanges that match a state-based infection sequence model. BotHunter consists of a correlation engine that is driven by three malware-focused network packet sensors, each charged with detecting specific stages of the malware infection process, including inbound scanning, exploit usage, egg downloading, outbound bot coordination dialog, and outbound attack propagation. The BotHunter correlator then ties together the dialog trail of inbound intrusion alarms with those outbound communication patterns that are highly indicative of successful local host infection. When a sequence of evidence is found to match BotHunter’s infection dialog model, a consolidated report is produced to capture all the relevant events and event sources that played a role during the infection process. We refer to this analytical strategy of matching the dialog flows between internal assets and the broader Internet as dialog-based correlation, and contrast this strategy to other intrusion detection and alert correlation methods. We present our experimental results using BotHunter in both virtual and live testing environments, and discuss our Internet release of the BotHunter prototype. BotHunter is made available both for operational use and to help stimulate research in understanding the life cycle of malware infections
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