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Using Game Theory in Deception Strategy for Cyber Security | Lucideus Research


Deception is an ancient art used by a lot of animals as an aid to escape or trick the prey by appearing safe to it. It pertains to the false behavior that a species uses in order to create an illusion for the opponent that the situation is normal. An example could be Uropyia Meticulodina (a species of moth) that looks like a dry leaf, which helps it to create an illusion of being one of the leaves in a pile of fallen leaves. The same strategy is used in the domain of cyber security such that the defender persuades an
adversary to believe that the fake information they are provided with is true. If an adversary is trapped
through this mechanism then this might be helpful as the defender will be able to understand the
techniques and tools used and the severity level of the attack the defender is prone to.

In this blog I am going to describe the idea that is presented in the research article titled “A Game
Theoretic Analysis of Deception over Social Networks Using Fake Avatars”, and my take on the same.
In this paper, the type of deception used for identifying the malicious activities in different networks is
“Fake Avatar”. In order to attract the attacker, the avatar is supposed to be lucrative enough for the
attacker and the continuous monitoring is required from the defender’s side.

The author has formulated a deception game by applying the signalling game mechanism around
the fake avatar. The underlying model considers a scenario in which the defender doesn’t have
information about the type of the user she is dealing with. The output of the model defines the best
decision of the defender in the scenario under consideration. This is to identify the chances that the
system interacting with the avatar is a compromised one. If the chances of it being compromised
crosses a threshold, then the alert is triggered. It has been proved that the technique of deception
can help in detection and in a way, prevention from attacks at early stages. So, this technique creates
negative benefits for the attacker and positive ones for the defender.

How game theory is useful:

Game theory is a tool that studies the interactions between the participants in the overall analysis.
The results account not only for cost and benefits attached to the participants but also the results
of the analysis of interaction. It also serves as a life saving drug in situations when one party is not
aware of the type of individual it is dealing with i.e. when there is imperfect information. Under such
scenarios, game theory specifies optimal action that should be taken based on the beliefs of the

In a signaling game there are two classes of players: the sender and the receiver. Sender sends the
signal to the receiver who analyses it in order to make decisions about the action to be taken. Let us
consider a scenario in which there are two players - the Employer (sender) and the job seeker (receiver).
There exist two types of job seekers: good or bad. The employer doesn’t know about the type of job
seeker she is dealing with. But it is already known that the job market consists of 40 percent of good
job seekers and 60 percent bad ones. The action set of employer consists of two actions
- {Hire, Don’t Hire}. Since the employer doesn’t know about the type of applicant he is dealing with,
he will have to devise a method in order to segregate these two types to get some idea.

There are two types of equilibrium that exist in signaling games: Pooling and Separating.
Pooling equilibrium exists when all types of senders send the same message irrespective of their type.
On the other hand, Separating equilibrium exists when the senders send messages corresponding to
their type. In case of same signal it will be difficult to segregate these two types. A threshold level of
probability depending on the prior belief is calculated given the payoffs attached to all the scenarios.
The position of the calculated probability with respect to the threshold defines the optimal action
(about the hiring) for the employer. A similar situation arises when the user doesn’t know whether
the system she is dealing with is compromised or not.  

Basic structure of the game:

From defender’s side, the fake avatar will be taking the decision - to raise the alert or not.
The fake avatar is employed for the external user and the internal users do have the knowledge
and details about the fake avatar.  In this model, the sender is a defender deploying fake avatar and
the receiver is an external user, which is of two types - normal user and attacker. The avatar is not
aware of the type of the external user she is dealing with. The external user can either send a
suspicious signal or a non-suspicious one and the defender will decide to raise the alert or not.
The figure represented above shows the basic structure of the game.

The external user moves first in this case. She sends the signal which is received by the fake avatar,
which then analyses the interaction and takes the best decision resulting from the analysis.
There are costs and gains attached to every action and the payoffs corresponding to each combination
of actions. The solution of the game consists of two equilibria depending on the particular values of the
prior proportion of the population of normal user, and belief of the defender about the same.

There are some traditionally used methods for detection of a potential intrusion called intrusion detection
systems (IDS). But these methods are not able to attain a high level of accuracy. So some malware stays
inside the system without being detected and it takes a long time to realise that the system is
compromised. The above mentioned model can be inserted inside the IDS to increase the accuracy
level and direct the compromised system to the fake environment or data. This technique is required
to be applied to the traffic that is specified to be non-malicious by IDS.


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