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Prepare for Trouble and Make it Double. Supervised and Unsupervised Stacking for AnomalyBased Intrusion Detection

by   Tommaso Zoppi, et al.

In the last decades, researchers, practitioners and companies struggled in devising mechanisms to detect malicious activities originating security threats. Amongst the many solutions, network intrusion detection emerged as one of the most popular to analyze network traffic and detect ongoing intrusions based on rules or by means of Machine Learners (MLs), which process such traffic and learn a model to suspect intrusions. Supervised MLs are very effective in detecting known threats, but struggle in identifying zero-day attacks (unknown during learning phase), which instead can be detected through unsupervised MLs. Unfortunately, there are no definitive answers on the combined use of both approaches for network intrusion detection. In this paper we first expand the problem of zero-day attacks and motivate the need to combine supervised and unsupervised algorithms. We propose the adoption of meta-learning, in the form of a two-layer Stacker, to create a mixed approach that detects both known and unknown threats. Then we implement and empirically evaluate our Stacker through an experimental campaign that allows i) debating on meta-features crafted through unsupervised base-level learners, ii) electing the most promising supervised meta-level classifiers, and iii) benchmarking classification scores of the Stacker with respect to supervised and unsupervised classifiers. Last, we compare our solution with existing works from the recent literature. Overall, our Stacker reduces misclassifications with respect to (un)supervised ML algorithms in all the 7 public datasets we considered, and outperforms existing studies in 6 out of those 7 datasets. In particular, it turns out to be more effective in detecting zero-day attacks than supervised algorithms, limiting their main weakness but still maintaining adequate capabilities in detecting known attacks.


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