Recurrent Neural Network Attention Mechanisms for Interpretable System Log Anomaly Detection

Andy Brown, Aaron Tuor, Brian Hutchinson, Nicole Nichols

Deep learning has recently demonstrated state-of-the art performance on key tasks related to the maintenance of computer systems, such as intrusion detection, denial of service attack detection, hardware and software system failures, and malware detection. In these contexts, model interpretability is vital for administrator and analyst to trust and act on the automated analysis of machine learning models. Deep learning methods have been criticized as black box oracles which allow limited insight into decision factors. In this work we seek to "bridge the gap" between the impressive performance of deep learning models and the need for interpretable model introspection. To this end we present recurrent neural network (RNN) language models augmented with attention for anomaly detection in system logs. Our methods are generally applicable to any computer system and logging source. By incorporating attention variants into our RNN language models we create opportunities for model introspection and analysis without sacrificing state-of-the art performance. We demonstrate model performance and illustrate model interpretability on an intrusion detection task using the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) cyber security dataset, reporting upward of 0.99 area under the receiver operator characteristic curve despite being trained only on a single day's worth of data.

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