Feature Extraction for Novelty Detection in Network Traffic

Kun Yang, Samory Kpotufe, Nick Feamster

Data representation plays a critical role in the performance of novelty detection (or ``anomaly detection'') methods in machine learning. The data representation of network traffic often determines the effectiveness of these models as much as the model itself. The wide range of novel events that network operators need to detect (e.g., attacks, malware, new applications, changes in traffic demands) introduces the possibility for a broad range of possible models and data representations. In each scenario, practitioners must spend significant effort extracting and engineering features that are most predictive for that situation or application. While anomaly detection is well-studied in computer networking, much existing work develops specific models that presume a particular representation -- often IPFIX/NetFlow. Yet, other representations may result in higher model accuracy, and the rise of programmable networks now makes it more practical to explore a broader range of representations. To facilitate such exploration, we develop a systematic framework, open-source toolkit, and public Python library that makes it both possible and easy to extract and generate features from network traffic and perform and end-to-end evaluation of these representations across most prevalent modern novelty detection models. We first develop and publicly release an open-source tool, an accompanying Python library (NetML), and end-to-end pipeline for novelty detection in network traffic. Second, we apply this tool to five different novelty detection problems in networking, across a range of scenarios from attack detection to novel device detection. Our findings general insights and guidelines concerning which features appear to be more appropriate for particular situations.

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