Researchers Predict ‘Best Timing’ for Cyberattacks

Can the best time to launch a cyberattacks be predicted? Researchers at the University of Michigan say they have developed a mathematical model that can do just that.

The model analyzes when a potential attacker is most likely to hit. Robert Axelrod, professor of political science and public policy at MichiganEUs Ford School, told news media that the model he developed with postdoctoral research fellow Rumen Illiev creates some new concepts for dealing with computer attacks by pinpointing the best time to use specific cyber methods. Axelrod compared their work, which is focused on the strategic dimensions of cyberattacks, to the strategic considerations for the use of nuclear weapons.

The concepts are built around stealth, analyzing the ability of a resource to exploit a vulnerability in a computer system but remain undiscovered if it is used, and persistence, the ability of a vulnerability to remain undiscovered if it is not used. Illiev noted that a successful attack would be built around both stealth and persistence.

Like a Double Agent

EUThe question of timing is analogous to the question of when to use a double agent to mislead the enemy, where it may be worth waiting for an important event but waiting too long may mean the double agent has been discovered by the target and becomes useless," the researchers noted in their paper, published last month by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Other variables include the weaponEUs value, a function in part of its stealth and persistence; the current and future stakes; the threshold of stakes that would cause an attacker to use the weapon; and what the researchers call the EUdiscount rateEU -- the fact that using the weapon today could be more valuable to the attacker than doing so later.

The model shows that it is better to use stealthier...

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