SR2APT: A Detection and Strategic Alert Response Model against Multistage APT Attacks Journal Article uri icon



  • Advanced persistent threats are an emerging cyber threat to cyber-physical systems (CPS), especially those comprising mission-critical physical assets. However, defense against such attacks is challenging, due to their sophistication, stealthiness, and zero-day exploitation. Existing works in this area mainly focus on the detection of APT, but it might be too late or too costly to impede APT when it is detected with high confidence. Therefore, this work focuses on CPS intrusion detection and prevention against APT attacks and aims at preventing such attacks in earlier stages through a strategic response policy to imperfect APT alerts by leveraging the multistage characteristic of APT and a deep reinforcement learning formulation. A novel host-based APT detection and response model called SR2APT is proposed, which consists of a detection engine and a decision engine. The detection engine is based on graph convolutional network, which classifies a stream of system log provenance subgraphs as an APT stage or benign. Then, the detection results are transmitted to the decision engine sequentially, which is trained based on deep reinforcement learning and outputs the optimal response actions to APT alerts. Experimental results show that the GCN-based detection engine obtains 94% classification accuracy on a semisynthetic dataset of system logs and outperforms classification models based on SVM, CNN, and LSTM. The strategic alert response policy from the decision engine is compared with two baseline fixed response policies, and it achieves the best trade-off between preventing APT attacks and minimizing the impediments of mistaken active defense actions to benign activities that generate false alerts, thus obtaining the highest total rewards in the defense against APT attacks.

publication date

  • April 19, 2023

has restriction

  • gold

Date in CU Experts

  • December 14, 2023 12:05 PM

Full Author List

  • Shen F; Perigo L; Curry JH

Full Editor List

  • Huang Y

author count

  • 3

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1939-0114

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-0122

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 15


  • 2023