Security Research Laboratory and Education Center
COAST graduate students have been studying ways of enhancing audit trails on Linux systems. Additionally, penetration and vulnerability analysis efforts have benefited from the use of Linux machines with the enhanced auditing systems.
Generally, operating systems' audit trails or logs are inadequate for a variety of applications such as intrusion detection. The students have developed two different approaches to enhancing the data collected by Linux. One approach was to use the technique of interposing shared objects to collect new application-level audit data. Using this technique, a program can be instructed to record and act upon certain library calls and their arguments without modifying the binary or source code of the program. (See Figure 6.)
Another part of the project involves using a Linux 2.0.34 kernel (see Figure 7.) to audit low-level network data. This involves adding a mechanism to the kernel to report network packet headers to user processes. By correlating these data and intrusion detection systems, host-based intrusion detection systems can detect low-level network attacks such as “Land”, “Teardrop” and “Syn floods”. This mechanism uses a version of the existing kernel log code, modified to accommodate arbitrary binary data.
The vulnerability database and analysis group at COAST is collecting and analyzing computer vulnerabilities for a variety of purposes. The project includes the application of knowledge discovery and data mining tools to find non-obvious relationships in vulnerability data, to develop vulnerability classifications and to develop tools that will generate intrusion detection signatures from vulnerability information. One goal of the group is to develop methods of testing software in order to discover security flaws before the software is deployed.
In the words of Professor Spafford:
With the increasing use of computers and networks, the importance of information security and assurance is also going to increase. Concerns for privacy, safety and integrity may soon become more important to people than speed of computation. This represents a tremendous challenge, but also a tremendous opportunity for those who seek to understand—and provide—workable security.
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