It is becoming increasingly common for network devices to handle packets based on the contents of packet payloads. Example applications include intrusion detection, firewalls, web proxies, and layer seven switches. This paper analyzes the problem of intrusion detection and its reliance on fast string matching in packets. We show that the problem can be restructured to allow the use of more efficient string matching algorithms that operate on sets of patterns in parallel. We then introduce and analyze a new string matching algorithm that has average-case performance that is better than the best theoretical algorithm (Aho-Corasick) and much better than the currently deployed algorithm (multiple iterations of Boyer-Moore). Finally, we implement these algorithms in the popular intrusion detection platform Snort and analyze their relative performance on actual packet traces. Our results provide lessons on the structuring of content-based handlers, string matching algorithms in general, and the importance of performance to security.
The authors of these documents have submitted their reports to this technical report series for the purpose of non-commercial dissemination of scientific work. The reports are copyrighted by the authors, and their existence in electronic format does not imply that the authors have relinquished any rights. You may copy a report for scholarly, non-commercial purposes, such as research or instruction, provided that you agree to respect the author's copyright. For information concerning the use of this document for other than research or instructional purposes, contact the authors. Other information concerning this technical report series can be obtained from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the University of California at San Diego, firstname.lastname@example.org.
[ Search ]