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CySecAlert: An Alert Generation System for Cyber Security Events Using Open Source Intelligence Data

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Information and Communications Security (ICICS 2021)


Receiving relevant information on possible cyber threats, attacks, and data breaches in a timely manner is crucial for early response. The social media platform Twitter hosts an active cyber security community. Their activities are often monitored manually by security experts, such as Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). We thus propose a Twitter-based alert generation system that issues alerts to a system operator as soon as new relevant cyber security related topics emerge. Thereby, our system allows us to monitor user accounts with significantly less workload. Our system applies a supervised classifier, based on active learning, that detects tweets containing relevant information. The results indicate that uncertainty sampling can reduce the amount of manual relevance classification effort and enhance the classifier performance substantially compared to random sampling. Our approach reduces the number of accounts and tweets that are needed for the classifier training, thus making the tool easily and rapidly adaptable to the specific context while also supporting data minimization for Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). Relevant tweets are clustered by a greedy stream clustering algorithm in order to identify significant events. The proposed system is able to work near real-time within the required 15-min time frameand detects up to 93.8% of relevant events with a false alert rate of 14.81%.

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This work was supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) in the projects CYWARN (13N15407) and KontiKat (13N14351), as well as by the BMBF and the Hessian Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and the Arts within their joint support of the National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity ATHENE. We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable and constructive comments.

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Correspondence to Thea Riebe .

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Appendix A Dataset

Table 4 provides the websites and blogs we used to retrieve 170 accounts of the leading cyber security experts on Twitter, from which we gathered the dataset of 350,061 English tweets (see Sect. 3.1).

Table 4. Sources for cyber security experts on Twitter

Appendix B Codebook

In Table 5 the codebook [24] for the annotation of tweets is presented, which is applied to the coding of the dataset (see Sect. 3.1). Table 5 gives an overview of the codes’ definitions.

Table 5. Codebook for tweet relevance classification.

Appendix C Classifier Comparison

Figure 3 depicts the results of active classifier comparison. Experiment details are discussed in Sect. 3.2.

Fig. 3.
figure 3

Performance comparison of Naive Bayes (red), kNN with \(k=50\) (blue) and Random Forest (brown) classifier with uncertainty sampling based on their respective model on dataset S1 (left) and S2 (right). Average over 5 executions using Cross-Validation. (Color figure online)

Appendix D Alert Generation by Similarity Threshold

Table 6 depicts how recall and alert generation is impacted by the similarity threshold of the greedy clustering (see Sect. 3.3).

Table 6. Performance measures of greedy clustering-based generated alerts for different similarity thresholds and for alert count thresholds 3 and 5 for the datasets S1 and S2, respectively.

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Riebe, T. et al. (2021). CySecAlert: An Alert Generation System for Cyber Security Events Using Open Source Intelligence Data. In: Gao, D., Li, Q., Guan, X., Liao, X. (eds) Information and Communications Security. ICICS 2021. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 12918. Springer, Cham.

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