HICSS 2021
Conference paper

Software deception steering through version emulation

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Determined cyber adversaries often strategize their attacks by carefully selecting high-value target machines that host insecure (e.g., unpatched) legacy software. In this paper, we propose a moving-target approach to thwart and countersurveil such adversaries, wherein live (non-decoy) enterprise software services are automatically modified to deceptively emulate vulnerable legacy versions that entice attackers. A game-theoretic framework chooses which emulated software stacks, versions, configurations, and vulnerabilities yield the best defensive payoffs and most useful threat data given a specific attack model. The results show that effective movement strategies can be computed to account for pragmatic aspects of deception, such as the utility of various intelligence-gathering actions, impact of vulnerabilities, performance costs of patch deployment, complexity of exploits, and attacker profile.