Quantifying Covertness in Deceptive Cyber Operations

  • George CybenkoEmail author
  • Gabriel Stocco
  • Patrick Sweeney


A deception is often enabled by cloaking or disguising the true intent and corresponding actions of the perpetrating actor. In cyber deception, the degree to which actions are disguised or cloaked is typically called “covertness.” In this chapter, we describe a novel approach to quantifying cyber covertness, a specific attribute of malware relative to specific alert logic that the defender uses. We propose that the covertness of an offensive cyber operation in an adversarial environment is derived from the probability that the operation is detected by the defender. We show that this quantitative concept can be computed using Covertness Block Diagrams that are related to classical reliability block diagrams used for years in the reliability engineering community. This requires methods for modeling the malware and target network defenses that allow us to calculate a quantitative measure of covertness which is interpreted as the probability of detection. Called the Covertness Score, this measure can be used by attackers to design a stealthier method of completing their mission as well as by defenders to understand the detection limitations of their defenses before they are exploited.


Network Traffic Intrusion Detection System Security Information Management Network Intrusion Detection System Reliability Block Diagram 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was partially supported by Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Contract FA8750-13-1-0070. The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the article’s authors and do not reflect any opinion, policy statement, recommendation or position, expressed or implied, of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The authors thank the anonymous reviewers and the book editors for suggestions that significantly improved this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Cybenko
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gabriel Stocco
    • 2
  • Patrick Sweeney
    • 3
  1. 1.Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  2. 2.MicrosoftRedmondUSA
  3. 3.Air Force Research LaboratoryDaytonUSA

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