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[Report] Improving Security Using Deception

Mohammed H. Almeshekah, Eugene H. Spafford and Mikhail J. Atallah
The Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security: Technical Report (CERIAS TR 2013-13), November 2013
Report (full text)

ABSTRACT: As the convergence between our physical and digital worlds continues at a rapid pace, much of our information is becoming available online. In this paper we develop a novel taxonomy of methods and techniques that can be used to protect digital information. We discuss how information has been protected and show how we can structure our methods to achieve better results. We explore complex relationships among protection techniques ranging from denial and isolation, to degradation and obfuscation, through negative information and deception, ending with adversary attribution and counter-operations. We present analysis of these relationships and discuss how can they be applied at different scales within organizations. We also identify some of the areas that are worth further investigation. We map these protection techniques against the cyber kill-chain model and discuss some findings.

Moreover, we identify the use of deceptive information as a useful protection method that can significantly enhance the security of systems. We posit how the well-known Kerckhoffs’s principle has been misinterpreted to drive the security community away from deception-based mechanisms. We examine advantages these tech­niques can have when protecting our information in addition to traditional methods of hiding and hardening. We show that by intelligently introducing deceptive information in information systems, we not only lead attackers astray, but also give organizations the ability to detect leakage; create doubt and uncertainty in any leaked data; add risk at the adversaries’ side to using the leaked information; and significantly enhance our abilities to attribute adversaries. We discuss how to overcome some of the challenges that hinder the adop­tion of deception-based techniques and present some recent work, our own contribution, and some promising directions for future research.

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