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Bro: A System for Detecting Network Intruders in Real-Time

Vern Paxson
Network Research Group
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory gif
Berkeley, CA 94720


We describe Bro, a stand-alone system for detecting network intruders in real-time by passively monitoring a network link over which the intruder's traffic transits. We give an overview of the system's design, which emphasizes high-speed (FDDI-rate) monitoring, real-time notification, clear separation between mechanism and policy, and extensibility. To achieve these ends, Bro is divided into an ``event engine'' that reduces a kernel-filtered network traffic stream into a series of higher-level events, and a ``policy script interpreter'' that interprets event handlers written in a specialized language used to express a site's security policy. Event handlers can update state information, synthesize new events, record information to disk, and generate real-time notifications via syslog. We also discuss a number of attacks that attempt to subvert passive monitoring systems and defenses against these, and give particulars of how Bro analyzes the four applications integrated into it so far: Finger, FTP, Portmapper and Telnet. The system is publicly available in source code form.

This on-line version of the paper corrects an error in the version in the printed Proceedings, which in Section 7 overstated the traffic level on the FDDI ring by a factor of two.

Vern Paxson
Sat Dec 6 01:53:24 PST 1997