Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) 2023

Poisoning Network Flow Classifiers

As machine learning (ML) classifiers increasingly oversee the automated monitoring of network traffic, studying their resilience against adversarial attacks becomes critical. This paper focuses on poisoning attacks, specifically backdoor attacks, against network traffic flow classifiers. We investigate the challenging scenario of clean-label poisoning where the adversary's capabilities are constrained to tampering only with the training data --- without the ability to arbitrarily modify the training labels or any other component of the training process. We describe a trigger crafting strategy that leverages model interpretability techniques to generate trigger patterns that are effective even at very low poisoning rates. Finally, we design novel strategies to generate stealthy triggers, including an approach based on generative Bayesian network models, with the goal of minimizing the conspicuousness of the trigger, and thus making detection of an ongoing poisoning campaign more challenging. Our findings provide significant insights into the feasibility of poisoning attacks on network traffic classifiers used in multiple scenarios, including detecting malicious communication and application classification.

Giorgio Severi
Northeastern University

Simona Boboila
Northeastern University

Alina Oprea
Northeastern University

John Holodnak
MIT Lincoln Laboratory

Kendra Kratkiewicz
MIT Lincoln Laboratory

Jason Matterer

Paper (ACM DL)