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A methodology for ensuring fair allocation of CSOC effort for alert investigation

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Abstract

A Cyber Security Operations Center (CSOC) often sells services by entering into a service level agreement (SLA) with various customers (organizations) whose network traffic is monitored through sensors. The sensors produce data that are processed by automated systems (such as the intrusion detection system) that issue alerts. All alerts need further investigation by human analysts. The alerts are triaged into high-, medium-, and low-priority alerts, and the high-priority alerts are investigated first by cybersecurity analysts—a process known as priority queueing. In unexpected situations such as (i) higher than expected high-priority alert generation from some sensors, (ii) not enough analysts at the CSOC in a given time interval, and (iii) a new type of alert, which increases the time to analyze alerts from some sensors, the priority queueing mechanism leads to two major issues. The issues are: (1) some sensors with normal levels of alert generation are being analyzed less than those with excessive high-priority alerts, with the potential for complete starvation of alert analysis for sensors with only medium- or low-priority alerts, and (2) the above ad hoc allocation of CSOC effort to sensors with excessive high-priority alerts over other sensors results in SLA violations, and there is no enforcement mechanism to ensure the matching between the SLA and the actual service provided by a CSOC. This paper develops a new dynamic weighted alert queueing mechanism (DWQ) which relates the CSOC effort as per SLA to the actual allocated in practice, and ensures via a technical enforcement system that the total CSOC effort is proportionally divided among customers such that fairness is guaranteed in the long run. The results indicate that the DWQ mechanism outperforms priority queueing method by not only analyzing high-priority alerts first but also ensuring fairness in CSOC effort allocated to all its customers and providing a starvation-free alert investigation process.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr. Cliff Wang of the Army Research Office for the many discussions which served as the inspiration for this research.

Author information

Correspondence to Sushil Jajodia.

Additional information

Shah, Ganesan, and Jajodia were partially supported by the Army Research Office under Grants W911NF-13-1-0421 and W911NF-15-1-0576 and by the Office of Naval Research under Grant N00014-15-1-2007.

APPENDIX

APPENDIX

In this appendix, the algorithm for executing the DWQ model is presented (Algorithm 1).

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Shah, A., Ganesan, R. & Jajodia, S. A methodology for ensuring fair allocation of CSOC effort for alert investigation. Int. J. Inf. Secur. 18, 199–218 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10207-018-0407-3

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Keywords

  • Cybersecurity analysts
  • Simulation
  • Adaptive queueing
  • Fair CSOC effort allocation
  • Dynamic weighted queueing
  • Deficit model
  • Integrated queueing approach