The complexity of current Internet applications makes understanding network traffic a challenging task. By providing larger-scale aggregates for analysis, unsupervised clustering approaches can greatly aid in the identification of new applications, attacks, and other changes in network usage patterns. In this paper we introduce ADHIC, a new algorithm that clusters similar network traffic together without prior knowledge of protocol structures. Packet similarity is determined through comparisons of substrings within packets at distinguishing offsets. ADHIC is notable in that it 1) produces a hierarchical decomposition of network traffic in the form of a cluster-identifying decision tree, 2) needs only a small fraction of packets to generate the tree, and 3) clusters packets at wire speeds. We find that ADHIC appropriately segregates well-known protocols, clusters together traffic of the same protocol running on multiple ports, and segregates traffic from applications, such as p2p, that do not use standard ports. Potential applications include network performance analysis, real-time alerts of flash crowds or worm activity, and dynamic DoS-resistant bandwidth management. NetADHICT, our implementation of ADHIC, is available for download and is licensed under the GNU GPL license.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1109/ICC.2008.15
Conference IEEE International Conference on Communications, ICC 2008
Citation
Hijazi, A. (Abdulrahman), Inoue, H. (Hajime), Matrawy, A, Van Oorschot, P, & Somayaji, A. (2008). Discovering packet structure through lightweight hierarchical clustering. Presented at the IEEE International Conference on Communications, ICC 2008. doi:10.1109/ICC.2008.15