Estimating a System's Mean Time-to-Compromise

Article in: IEEE Security & Privacy, January/February 2008

The ability to efficiently compare differing security solutions for effectiveness is often considered lacking from a management perspective. To address this we propose a framework for estimating the mean time-to-compromise (MTTC) of a target system for use as a comparative security metric. This MTTC is calculated through a three step process.

First a topological map of the target system is divided into attack zones, allowing each zone to be described with its own state-space model (SSM).

Next we employ a predator SSM, based on models used in the biological sciences to predict predatorial behavior, to build an attack path SSM which identifies the attack strategies with Markov chains.

Finally the attack path model and a state time estimation algorithm (STEA) are used to build the MTTC intervals for the system.

These intervals can be quickly calculated for a broad range of systems and mitigating actions, allowing security architects and managers to intelligently compare systems and determine where resources should be focused to achieve the most effective cost/MTTC ratio.

David John Leversage, Eric James Byres, "Estimating a System's Mean Time-to-Compromise", IEEE Security and Privacy, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 52-60, January/February, 2008

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