Computer networks -- Security measures, Computer security, Peer to peer architecture (Computer networks)


A “botnet” is a network of compromised computers (bots) that are controlled by an attacker (botmasters). Botnets are one of the most serious threats to today’s Internet; they are the root cause of many current Internet attacks, such as email spam, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks , click fraud, etc. There have been many researches on how to detect, monitor, and defend against botnets that have appeared and their attack techniques. However, it is equally important for us to investigate possible attack techniques that could be used by the next generation botnets, and develop effective defense techniques accordingly in order to be well prepared for future botnet attacks. In this dissertation, we focus on two areas of the next generation botnet attacks and defenses: the peer-to-peer (P2P) structured botnets and the possible honeypot detection techniques used by future botnets. Currently, most botnets have centralized command and control (C&C) architecture. However, P2P structured botnets have gradually emerged as a new advanced form of botnets. Without C&C servers, P2P botnets are more resilient to defense countermeasures than traditional centralized botnets. Therefore, we first systematically study P2P botnets along multiple dimensions: bot candidate selection, network construction and C&C mechanisms and communication protocols. As a further illustration of P2P botnets, we then present the design of an advanced hybrid P2P botnet, which could be developed by botmasters in the near future. Compared with current botnets, the proposed botnet is harder to be shut down, monitored, and hijacked. It provides robust network connectivity, individualized encryption and control traffic dispersion, limited botnet exposure by each bot, and easy monitoring and recovery by its botmaster. We suggest and analyze several possible defenses against this advanced botnet. Upon our understanding of P2P botnets, we turn our focus to P2P botnet countermeasures. We provide mathematical analysis of two P2P botnet mitigation approaches — index iii poisoning defense and Sybil defense, and one monitoring technique - passive monitoring. We are able to give analytical results to evaluate their performance. And simulation-based experiments show that our analysis is accurate. Besides P2P botnets, we investigate honeypot-aware botnets as well. This is because honeypot techniques have been widely used in botnet defense systems, botmasters will have to find ways to detect honeypots in order to protect and secure their botnets. We point out a general honeypot-aware principle, that is security professionals deploying honeypots have liability constraint such that they cannot allow their honeypots to participate in real attacks that could cause damage to others, while attackers do not need to follow this constraint. Based on this principle, a hardware- and software- independent honeypot detection methodology is proposed. We present possible honeypot detection techniques that can be used in both centralized botnets and P2P botnets. Our experiments show that current standard honeypot and honeynet programs are vulnerable to the proposed honeypot detection techniques. In the meantime, we discuss some guidelines for defending against general honeypot-aware botnet attacks.


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Graduation Date





Zou, Cliff C.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Electrical Engineering and Computer Science








Release Date

December 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Engineering and Computer Science, Engineering and Computer Science -- Dissertations, Academic