Real-Time Timing Channel Detection in a Software-Defined Networking Virtual Environment


Despite extensive research, timing channels (TCs) are still known as a principal category of threats that aim to leak and transmit information by perturbing the timing or ordering of events. Existing TC detection approaches use either signature-based approaches to detect known TCs or anomaly-based approach by modeling the legitimate network traffic in order to detect unknown TCs. Un-fortunately, in a software-defined networking (SDN) environment, most existing TC detection approaches would fail due to factors such as volatile network traffic, imprecise timekeeping mechanisms, and dynamic network topology. Furthermore, stealthy TCs can be designed to mimic the legitimate traffic pattern and thus evade anomalous TC detection. In this paper, we overcome the above challenges by presenting a novel framework that harnesses the advantages of elastic re-sources in the cloud. In particular, our framework dynamically configures SDN to enable/disable differential analysis against outbound network flows of different virtual machines (VMs). Our framework is tightly coupled with a new metric that first decomposes the timing data of network flows into a number of using the discrete wavelet-based multi-resolution transform (DWMT). It then applies the Kullback-Leibler divergence (KLD) to measure the variance among flow pairs. The appealing feature of our approach is that, compared with the existing anomaly detection approaches, it can detect most existing and some new stealthy TCs without legitimate traffic for modeling, even with the presence of noise and imprecise timekeeping mechanism in an SDN virtual environment. We implement our framework as a prototype system, OBSERVER, which can be dynamically deployed in an SDN environment. Empirical evaluation shows that our approach can efficiently detect TCs with a higher detection rate, lower latency, and negligible performance overhead compared to existing approaches.

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Liu, A. , Chen, J. and Wechsler, H. (2015) Real-Time Timing Channel Detection in a Software-Defined Networking Virtual Environment. Intelligent Information Management, 7, 283-302. doi: 10.4236/iim.2015.76023.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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