Web applications have emerged as the primary means of access to vital and sensitive services such as online payment systems and databases storing personally identifiable information. Unfortunately, the need for ubiquitous and often anonymous access exposes web servers to adversaries. Indeed, network-borne zero-day attacks pose a critical and widespread threat to web servers that cannot be mitigated by the use of signature-based intrusion detection systems. To detect previously unseen attacks, we correlate web requests containing user submitted content across multiple web servers that is deemed abnormal by local Content Anomaly Detection (CAD) sensors. The cross-site information exchange happens in real-time leveraging privacy preserving data structures. Welter out high entropy and rarely seen legitimate requests reducing the amount of data and time an operator has to spend sifting through alerts. Our results come from a fully working prototype using eleven weeks of real-world data from production web servers. During that period, we identify at least three application-specific attacks not belonging to an existing class of web attacks as well as a wide-range of traditional classes of attacks including SQL injection, directory traversal, and code inclusion without using human specified knowledge or input.

Moving forward, we hope to expand our technology to a large range of web servers and apply collaborative content anomaly detection to areas outside web requests. Please contact us if you want to explore participating with your web servers.