RAID 2011 Thoughts

The last few days I’ve been at the Recent Advances in Intrusion Detection (RAID) conference in California. Overall it has been a very pleasant and interesting experience. The nice California weather was certainly helping a lot!

I’ve seen all talks and some were very interesting. However, being a Suricata IDS developer, I was not just interested in research for the hell of it, but I was actively scouting for ideas we could implement into Suricata. In this respect the conference was highly disappointing. Although with some of the talks I thought the idea was applicable in general security, like Erik Bosmans high speed memory tainting detection, I found nothing like that for NIDS.

Most inspiring part of the conference was spending an evening with Seth Hall, one of the Bro IDS engineers. Bro has a very different approach to inspecting the network than Suricata. Actually, I should say Suricata does it differently as Bro has been around much longer than Suricata. :) The conversation was all about sharing of ideas and experiences, and finding common grounds for actual cooperation.

A couple of notes from that conversation. First, Bro supports Unified2/Barnyard2 now, as input (so actually Barnyard2 can output to Bro). This means it can extend it’s analysis to include Suricata generated events. Second, we might try to have Suricata and Bro work together, where Suricata would be controlled by Brocolli. This way Bro could benefit from Suricata’s high speed signature matching engine, functionality Bro doesn’t have, and Suricata could benefit from Bro’s higher level understanding of the network. Finally, Bro’s binpack effort to define protocol parsers in a higher level language that can then be compiled into native code looks interesting as well. It would probably take quite a bit of changes to get this all going, but it might just be worth it.

Then there was the panel at the conference with Martin Roesch, Seth Hall and myself. A lot of people expected fireworks, but no such thing happened. Everyone was polite, respectful and friendly. It never really turned into a real discussion though, it was more a Q&A with the audience. Dominique Karg blogged about the panel here.

It was good to talk to Martin Roesch. The OISF – Sourcefire relation has definitely not started well, so it was good to have normal conversations and such. I offered Marty to work together, especially on SCADA detection. As was announced earlier, OISF will maintain the Digital Bond Quickdraw SCADA parsers and keywords, not only for Suricata, but also for Snort. Hopefully we can start a more constructive relationship on this topic, and elsewhere.

Some final thoughts on RAID. It was well organized and it was great to meet so many smart(er) people thinking about generally the same topics as I do. On the negative side I do feel disappointed over the apparent disconnect between the academic world and the more real world focused efforts like Suricata, Snort and tools like Streamdb, Sguil, Snortby, Squert, etc. But maybe I’m just lacking the vision to put the theory to practice.

The current tools out there may not be considered sufficient by everyone for every task. However, if RAID was a good benchmark, I fear we’ll have to settle for those for a while. Thats not necessarily a bad thing as fore-mentioned tools are under active development and continue to improve steadily.