SEAL: Storage-efficient Causality Analysis on Enterprise Logs with Query-friendly Compression


Peng Fei, Zhou Li, and Zhiying Wang, University of California, Irvine; Xiao Yu, NEC Laboratories America, Inc.; Ding Li, Peking University; Kangkook Jee, University of Texas at Dallas


Causality analysis automates attack forensic and facilitates behavioral detection by associating causally related but temporally distant system events. Despite its proven usefulness, the analysis suffers from the innate big data challenge to store and process a colossal amount of system events that are constantly collected from hundreds of thousands of end-hosts in a realistic network. In addition, the effectiveness of the analysis to discover security breaches relies on the assumption that comprehensive historical events over a long span are stored. Hence, it is imminent to address the scalability issue in order to make causality analysis practical and applicable to the enterprise-level environment.

In this work, we present SEAL, a novel data compression approach for causality analysis. Based on information-theoretic observations on system event data, our approach achieves lossless compression and supports near real-time retrieval of historic events. In the compression step, the causality graph induced by the system logs is investigated, and abundant edge reduction potentials are explored. In the query step, for maximal speed, decompression is opportunistically executed. Experiments on two real-world datasets show that SEAL offers 2.63x and 12.94x data size reduction, respectively. Besides, 89% of the queries are faster on the compressed dataset than the uncompressed one, and SEAL returns exactly the same query results as the uncompressed data.

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@inproceedings {272167,
author = {Peng Fei and Zhou Li and Zhiying Wang and Xiao Yu and Ding Li and Kangkook Jee},
title = {{SEAL}: Storage-efficient Causality Analysis on Enterprise Logs with Query-friendly Compression},
booktitle = {30th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 21)},
year = {2021},
isbn = {978-1-939133-24-3},
pages = {2987--3004},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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