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NIST Proposes Tracking Cyber Attacks Via Web Services

Software could track and then reconstruct cyber attacks carried out against web services to help organizations understand their vulnerabilities, according to scientists with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Developers could build a framework that could maintain transactional records among web services in order to recreate the scene of the crime in the aftermath of a cyber attack, scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology suggest in a new study.

More specifically, the researchers propose designing web services, which they label Forensic Web Services, that preserve evidence of attacks and then, using that data, reconstruct series of web service invocations that took place during the course of the attacks.

The system, the report's authors say, could work with any web services based on XML, Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and related open standards.

The service would record transactions -- whenever they are invoked -- between pairs of services, and piece them together into pictures of the complex transactional scenarios that occurred during specific time periods, such as during an attack. The transaction records would be encrypted to maintain a level of security.

In order to work and for the records to be admissible as legal evidence, Forensic Web Services would be need to integrated with other web services, acting as a trusted, independent third party service. The data generated by the service's observation of transactions could be provided directly to forensic examiners and to customer of the Forensic Web Service, whose own web service was attacked.

With data in hand, examiners and victims could track down the insecure culprit, whether it was one of their own services or a third party. In addition, the researchers suggest, detailed evidence of malicious activity could impact the severity of punishment ultimately handed down to the culprits because the records would likely be used in court.

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