Numerous studies indicate that amongst the various types of security threats, the problem of insider misuse of IT systems can have serious consequences for the health of computing infrastructures. Although incidents of external origin are also dangerous, the insider IT misuse problem is difficult to address for a number of reasons. A fundamental reason that makes the problem mitigation difficult relates to the level of trust legitimate users possess inside the organization. The trust factor makes it difficult to detect threats originating from the actions and credentials of individual users. An equally important difficulty in the process of mitigating insider IT threats is based on the variability of the problem. The nature of Insider IT misuse varies amongst organizations. Hence, the problem of expressing what constitutes a threat, as well as the process of detecting and predicting it are non trivial tasks that add up to the multi- factorial nature of insider IT misuse. This thesis is concerned with the process of systematizing the specification of insider threats, focusing on their system-level detection and prediction. The design of suitable user audit mechanisms and semantics form a Domain Specific Language to detect and predict insider misuse incidents. As a result, the thesis proposes in detail ways to construct standardized descriptions (signatures) of insider threat incidents, as means of aiding researchers and IT system experts mitigate the problem of insider IT misuse. The produced audit engine (LUARM – Logging User Actions in Relational Mode) and the Insider Threat Prediction and Specification Language (ITPSL) are two utilities that can be added to the IT insider misuse mitigation arsenal. LUARM is a novel audit engine designed specifically to address the needs of monitoring insider actions. These needs cannot be met by traditional open source audit utilities. ITPSL is an XML based markup that can standardize the description of incidents and threats and thus make use of the LUARM audit data. Its novelty lies on the fact that it can be used to detect as well as predict instances of threats, a task that has not been achieved to this date by a domain specific language to address threats. The research project evaluated the produced language using a cyber-misuse experiment approach derived from real world misuse incident data. The results of the experiment showed that the ITPSL and its associated audit engine LUARM provide a good foundation for insider threat specification and prediction. Some language deficiencies relate to the fact that the insider threat specification process requires a good knowledge of the software applications used in a computer system. As the language is easily expandable, future developments to improve the language towards this direction are suggested.

Document Type


Publication Date