Detecting Distributed Denial-of-Service Attacks Using Kolmogorov Complexity Metrics1

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Abstract

This paper describes an approach to detecting distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that is based on fundamentals of Information Theory, specifically Kolmogorov Complexity. A theorem derived using principles of Kolmogorov Complexity states that the joint complexity measure of random strings is lower than the sum of the complexities of the individual strings when the strings exhibit some correlation. Furthermore, the joint complexity measure varies inversely with the amount of correlation. We propose a distributed active network-based algorithm that exploits this property to correlate arbitrary traffic flows in the network to detect possible denial-of-service attacks. One of the strengths of this algorithm is that it does not require special filtering rules and hence it can be used to detect any type of DDoS attack. We implement and investigate the performance of the algorithm in an active network. Our results show that DDoS attacks can be detected in a manner that is not sensitive to legitimate background traffic.

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