Vigorous IDS on Nefarious Operations and Threat Analysis Using Ensemble Machine Learning

Vigorous IDS on Nefarious Operations and Threat Analysis Using Ensemble Machine Learning

Usman Shuaibu Musa Sudeshna Chakraborty Hitesh Kumar Sharma Tanupriya ChoudhuryChiranjit Dutta Bhagwant Singh 

Sharda University, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh 201306, India

Lloyd Institute of Engineering and Technology, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh 201306, India

Cybernetics Cluster, School of Computer Science, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun, Uttarakhand 248007, India

Informatics Cluster, School of Computer Science, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun, Uttarakhand 248007, India

SRM Institute of Science and Technology, NCR Campus, Uttar Pradesh 201204, India

Corresponding Author Email:
3 June 2021
8 December 2021
28 December 2021
| Citation



The geometric increase in the usage of computer networking activities poses problems with the management of network normal operations. These issues had drawn the attention of network security researchers to introduce different kinds of intrusion detection systems (IDS) which monitor data flow in a network for unwanted and illicit operations. The violation of security policies with nefarious motive is what is known as intrusion. The IDS therefore examine traffic passing through networked systems checking for nefarious operations and threats, which then sends warnings if any of these malicious activities are detected. There are 2 types of detection of malicious activities, misuse detection, in this case the information about the passing network traffic is gathered, analyzed, which is then compared with the stored predefined signatures. The other type of detection is the Anomaly detection which is detecting all network activities that deviates from regular user operations. Several researchers have done various works on IDS in which they employed different machine learning (ML), evaluating their work on various datasets. In this paper, an efficient IDS is built using Ensemble machine learning algorithms which is evaluated on CIC-IDS2017, an updated dataset that contains most recent attacks. The results obtained show a great increase in the rate of detection, increase in accuracy as well as reduction in the false positive rates (FPR).


intrusion detection systems, ensemble machine learning, threat analysis, CIC-IDS2017 dataset, HIDS, MLP

1. Introduction

In recent years, the Internet has changed not only the way people learn and grow, but it has also exposed networks and systems to far more sophisticated security threats. Cybersecurity refers to a set of processes and technologies crafted to keep computers, networks, data, and programs secured against illegitimate access, alteration, and erasure [1]. The IDS is an important research accomplishment in the area of information security. It can easily detect an intrusion, whether it is a recurring intrusion or one that has just occurred. The provision of accurate and stable IDS would be one of the most challenging aspects of cybersecurity. The ability to detect a wide range of network attacks, especially previously unknown attack forms, is a critical issue that must be addressed immediately. One of the most important developments in information protection is intrusion detection. In latest days, network intrusion detection research has primarily focused on increasing detection speed and accuracy. On one side, the study concentrates on feature selection. On the other hand, it primarily focuses on enhancing the algorithm's classification accuracy.

Anomaly-based approaches are used to study normal system activity and network traffic when evaluating network behavior. When the device or network behavior deviates from its normal or general behavior, these methods detect an anomaly or attack. Owing to their flexibility to cope with zero-day or new attacks, anomaly-based approaches are often used. Another benefit of using anomaly-based approaches is that the profile for normal device or network activity varies by program and protocol, making it difficult for an attacker to break into the system. Furthermore, the information that triggers an attack warning almost always identifies misuse. The biggest disadvantage of using an anomaly-based approach is the increased likelihood of false attack detection, also known as a false warning. When regular traffic is mistakenly identified as an attack, a false alarm occurs. The explanation for this is that there is activity that has never been observed before and is classified as an intrusion or anomaly.

IDS is a technique of detecting malicious behavior in a computer-related environment. Among the key aspect of network defense is the IDS. It is a technique that analyzes network/system functions for the detection of vulnerability, which could be exploited by attackers against a computer system. Host-based IDS (HIDS) [2], Network-based IDS (NIDS) [3, 4], (HIDS), and Wireless IDS [5, 6] are different types of IDS. There's a Hybrid IDS that blends different types of IDS. The host-based IDS control one host's operations and discover whether illicit operation occurs. HIDS mainly documents process activities and maintains the confidentiality of computer archives, file access, and registry entries. IDS methods for detecting anomalies are invaluable since an intrusion operation is different from the system's usual activity. Intrusion detection systems based on host systems (HIDS) run on individual systems which require information collection and analysis techniques for that specific system [7-9].

2. Related Works

Multiple ML techniques have been employed in the work of [9] for the purpose of addressing the difficulties of low precision when working with low frequency attacks that have plagued previous IDS when artificial neural networks with fuzzy clustering are used. They were able to do this by dividing the heterogeneous set of training data into uniform subsets, thereby reducing the complexity of the whole training set. The proposed work used J48 decision trees, Multilayer Perceptron (MLP) [10, 11], and Bayes network algorithms, with J48 trees providing the highest precision. One of their major flaws is their failure to use feature filtering to exclude all unrelated data. Their failure to use feature filtering to exclude all unrelated, unnecessary, and unwelcome features is a significant flaw in their work.

The used a voting classifier to combine the outputs of multiple supervised and unsupervised ML models in an ensemble dependent ML technique. The accuracy and efficiency of IDS was improved by using the ensemble model. They used the Kyoto-2006 dataset [12-14], and it is more appealing than the more widely used KDDCup99 dataset due to its age. This allows them to achieve a certain degree of precision, but the outcome recall is very poor in a few situations, indicating high false negative rates (FPR).

Thaseen et al. [11] suggested a real-time hybrid IDS technique in which the signature-based technique was adopted to discover defined attacks and the anomaly technique was used to discover and halt zero-day attacks. The anomaly detection technique was used to achieve a high detection rate so patterns of intrusions that escaped the misuse detection technique could be detected as an intrusion by the anomaly detection approach. The algorithm's accuracy improved progressively per day, thereby obtaining a notable accuracy percentage of 92.65 on the final day of the test. When the technique is evaluated to very large datasets, the challenge of slow detection rate remains.

A few of the previous suggested works had the disadvantage of not being able to use feature filtering on the datasets they use to exclude irrelevant, unwanted, and unnecessary functions. On the NSL-KDD dataset, Abubakar and Pranggono [13] provides various ML models with various ML algorithms and function selection methods. The accuracy obtained was significantly higher than that obtained by previous studies using the same dataset. Owing to the model's strong false positive rate and the fact that the study centered only on misuse-based threats, novel attacks went undetected, a significant downside to zero-day identification remains unexplained.

A stacking ensemble methodology was suggested in the study [14-16]. The ensemble technique involves LR, KNN, RF and SVM. The study is evaluated on UNSW-NB15 and UGR16 datasets. As UGR '16 was used, the stacking ensemble technique improved accuracy and execution time of the IDS, returning the maximum accuracy of 98.71 percent. However, further tests on various databases, including the most recent attack categories, are needed.

Perez et al. suggested a hybrid NIDS scheme using different ML models [17, 18]. Neural Network, a supervised ML model, was paired with K-Means clustering and feature extraction, an unsupervised machine learning technique. SVM and K-means clustering were used in another mix. The findings clearly demonstrated that the use of both supervised and unsupervised machine learning techniques complements each other and improves IDS accuracy [19-21]. The highest performance is obtained by combining SVM and K-means with function collection [22, 23].

On the basis of NSL-KDD some studies [24, 25] are also reported on IDS model whereby KNN and Random committee were evaluated on NSL-KDD and UNSW-NB15 datasets. In this study, a feature extraction was applied to get rid of all void and irrelevant records. According to the results obtained, the ensemble classifier method outperforms a single ML approach, with a margin of 1.19 percent for the NSLKDD dataset and 1.62 percent for the UNSW NB-15 dataset [26, 27]. Wide data sizes, high dimensionality, and normal accuracy of IDS techniques are all issues that need to be discussed in future studies.

3. Classifiers Used

3.1 Decision tree

Among the ML models in data mining is decision tree induction. To build a model from the pre-classified dataset, the Classification algorithm is inductively trained. Each item of data is specified by attribute values. It is possible to interpret classification as inferencing from a collection of features to a particular class. Using the values of its attributes, the DT classifies the specified data object [22]. Initially, the DT is built from a collection of pre-classified data. Selecting the attributes that excellently split the data items into their groups is the key strategy. Data objects are partitioned in accordance with these feature’s values. Each divided class of the data items is recursively added to this method. When the whole current subset's data items belong to the same class, the method terminates. A DT node defines an attribute for data partitioning [23, 24]. There are a number of edges in each node that are classed in accordance to the potential attribute value of the parent’s node. Either 2 nodes or a node and a leaf are connected by an edge. For categorization of the data, leaves are labeled with a prediction value.

3.2 Adaboost

Adaboost is a stereotypical boosting model (Figure 1), the basic concept of which is to choose and aggregate a number of poor classifiers into a strong classifier [28, 29].

PSO with K-Means algorithm [30-32] can be used for intrusion detection using machine learning approach.

Weak learners are chosen in an iterative manner from various groups of weak leaners in the AdaBoost algorithm which are then aggregated in a linear fashion to produce an improved algorithm for the classification [33]. A single weak classifier is simple and quick to implement.

Support Vector Machine (SVM) with some hybrid approach can be used for intrusion detection in network [34].

Figure 1. Adaboost classifier

3.3 Random Forest

Random Forest (RF) is an ensemble classifier (Figure 2) used for accuracy improvement. The RF is made up of a number of less accurate decision tree classifiers also called weak learners. Random Forest, in comparison to traditional ML algorithms, has a least categorization error. Each node is divided based on the number of trees, the minimum size of the node, and the number of features. It is one of the available versions of the bagging ensemble as suggested by researchers. It works efficiently than boosting in some cases and quicker than bagging and boosting [7]. RF is a variant of bagging where the base classifier is a random tree. It is however, an ensemble technique where the DT is utilized as the basic classifier. In addition, a RF is an algorithm consisting of tree-contained classifiers, each of which is grown in accordance with a random vector and is independent and identically distributed. A vote is given for the most common input vector class [5] from each tree in the ensemble.

Figure 2. Random Forest classifier

4. Experiment

4.1 Preprocessing of CICIDS-2017 dataset

4.1.1 Raw files integration

The eight CSV files of CICIDS-2017 are merged into a single CSV file making the total number of records stands at 3,119,345. As the dataset is highly imbalanced, the majority class of Machine Learning CSV data is down-sampled and used for the experiment. In this preprocessing, there are 84 regular features and one class label employed. The dataset consists of four redundant features, they are: ‘Source IP’, ‘Destination IP’, ‘Timestamp’ and ‘Flow ID’. All the fours features were deleted. Thus only 80 features are available to be evaluated after deleting the redundant features.

4.1.2 Data balancing

In intrusion detection system [35] models designed using machine learning techniques, there is always arises the issues of high-dimensional features, especially when dealing with very big size datasets. These issues often lead to prolonged classification processes. However, such big size is highly imbalanced, that means, the number of legit traffic records is far larger in comparison to the attacks traffics. It always makes machine learning algorithm or model to bias to a particular class when the number of that class is far greater than the records in the other category. The aforementioned issues in the dataset can be addressed by balancing the dataset. Therefore, I carried out balancing by adopting a down-sampling approach using a downloading factor, α, of 0.3, as shown in equation 1 below:

NRMUS!NM       (1)

where, NRM is the no of records after under-sampling, αUS is the ratio of under-sampling, NM is the number of original samples.

4.1.3 Data cleaning

As part of the data cleaning, the dataset has a great number of records with null values, and of course null values could not be consumed by machine learning algorithms. I deleted these values since they stand for only a small portion of the total number of samples, reducing the total number of dataset records to 2,827,876 with 80 columns of regular features and a single Normal class label.

4.1.4 Data transformation

To reduce the detection rate, the fifteen flows (class labels) collected were transformed to 7 types based on attack scenarios. This is shown in the Table 1 below:

Table 1. Class label transformation

New Label

Old Label






FTP Patator

SSH Patator



DoS GoldenEye

DoS Hulk

DoS Slowhttptest

DoS Slowloris


New Label

Old Label





Web Attack

Web Attack-Bruteforce

Web Attack-SQL Injection

Web Attack-XSS

4.2 Feature extraction

The remaining features of Machine Learning CSV data is divided into 2 pieces, 70 percent and 30 percent after relabeling the attack groups. The 70 percent section is employed for training the dataset and the 30 percent testing data. The experimental findings in [5, 15] show that the utilization of the training and testing data section of 70:30 corresponds to the same degree of accuracy as the 80:20 and 60:40 sections. Meanwhile, in other work by, the experimental outcome of using the 70:30 data section results in high accuracy. Two methods were used for feature extraction, they are; Decision tree and Correlation Attribute evaluation. The various ranks of features were compared using the two adopted methods in which the most relevant features were selected and categorized in to four different groups with different weights.

4.2.1 Decision tree (Feature importance)

In this method, the feature importance of each feature in the dataset was firstly gotten as a whole, with the help of decision tree algorithm. Among the foremost advantages of decision tree is interoperability. This allows each feature’s importance to be compared. Features having splits with greater mean often decrease in impurity. The scikit-Learn of the ML library is used by decision tree to describe the relative-importance of all features. The method allocates numbers within the range of 0-1 for all features and the sum of importance of all the features equals 1.

4.2.2 Correlation attribute evaluation

This method finds the correlation among the features. A feature is considered redundant when at anytime a correlation between the feature and other features is high. The correlation between any two features in evaluated using correlation function. The threshold is set to as whenever the correlation between two features is exceeded, then the correlation is considered highly and one of the features will be considered redundant.

Figure 3 below shows how various features were ranked based on the value of their weights. As it is shown in table, ‘Average Packet Size’ has the largest weight while the ‘CWE Flag Count’ has the least weight.

In Figure 4, we have displayed a graphical view to show the interaction between different features of dataset. These graphs are the output of exploratory analysis of the given dataset. It helped to focus on relevant feature rather than focus on non-relevant features. In Table 2, we have listed the features and ranked them based on their importance. The top importance score feature has been ranked on top and subsequently gave low ranking.

Figure 3. Ranked features based on feature importance

Figure 4. Top feature interaction graph

Table 2. Ranking features based on feature importance








Average Packet Size



SubflowBwd Packets



Bwd Packet Length Std



Bwd Packet Length Max



Source Port



Fwd Header Length.1



Destination Port



Active Max



Bwd Header Length



Fwd Packets/s






Fwd IAT Std






Idle Min



Max Packet Length



Fwd IAT Total



Flow IAT Min



Flow Bytes/s



Active Std



Fwd Packet Length Mean



Fwd IAT Min



Active Min



Bwd IAT Std



Flow Packets/s






Idle Mean



SubflowFwd Packets



SubflowBwd Bytes



PSH Flag Count



Active Mean



Packet Length Mean



FIN Flag Count



Fwd Packet Length Std



Bwd IAT Max



Flow IAT Mean



Fwd PSH Flags



Fwd Header Length






SubflowFwd Bytes



ACK Flag Count



Bwd IAT Mean



Fwd Packet Length Max



Min Packet Length



Total Backward Packets



Flow IAT Std



Bwd Packet Length Min



Down/Up Ratio



Idle Std



Packet Length Std






Total Length of Bwd Packets



Idle Max



Bwd IAT Min



RST Flag Count



Bwd Packet Length Mean



Bwd URG Flags



Fwd Packet Length Min



Bwd PSH Flags



Total Length of Fwd Packets



Fwd URG Flags



Bwd Packets/s



Bwd Avg Bulk Rate



Avg Bwd Segment Size



Bwd Avg Packets/Bulk



Flow Duration



Bwd Avg Bytes/Bulk



Flow IAT Max



Fwd Avg Bulk Rate



Total Fwd Packets



Fwd Avg Packets/Bulk



URG Flag Count



Fwd Avg Bytes/Bulk



Fwd IAT Max



Avg Fwd Segment Size



Bwd IAT Total



ECE Flag Count



Fwd IAT Mean



SYN Flag Count



Packet Length Variance



CWE Flag Count


Figure 5. Feature correlation heatmap

4.2.3 Selection of correlated features

Selection of correlated features is an important process for effective analysis. There are many extra features in this dataset those are non-correlated to each other. So, eliminate these unwanted features is the first task to perform. Some of the most important advantages of selection process are given below.

(1) It reduces overfitting;

(2) It helps in improving accuracy;

(3) It helps in reducing training time.

Correlation is a statistical approach which helps to decide how one variable is changing its values on changing value of other parameters. In Figure 5, we have shown a heat map for correlation between different features of dataset. Using this heat map we can see that first 6-8 features are more correlated with other.

4.3 Evaluation indicator

In this paper as the result of abnormal flow detection, we applied the following performance metrics, they are false positive rate, detection rate, accuracy and F-Score.

Detection Rate=$\frac{T P}{T P+F N}$

Accuracy Rate=$\frac{T P+T N}{T P+F N+F P+T N}$

Precision=$\frac{T P}{T P+F P}$

False Positive Rate=$\frac{F P}{F P+T N}$

True Positive (TP) refers to the number of real threats identified as such, True Negative (TN) refers to the number of real natural labels classified as such, False Positive (FP) refers to the number of legitimate activities identified as threats, and False Negative (FN) refers to the number of genuine attacks classified as normal flows. Table 3 below describes the composition of confusion matrix:

Table 3. Confusion matrix


Predictive attack

Predictive normal

Primitive attack



Primitive normal



The F-Score is a mathematical technique for evaluating a system's accuracy by taking both precision and recall into account. It is given by the following equation:

F-Score=$\frac{2(\text { Precision } * \text { Recall })}{\text { Precision }+\text { Recall }}$

4.4 Description of the dataset

The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity (CIC) created the CIC-IDS2017 dataset in 2017. It is made up of the regular and recent typical attacks. It is one of the up to date datasets for intrusion detection. It consists of 3,119,345 records spread on 8 separate files and has 85 distinct labeled features in each record. The attention of researchers was drawn by the dataset to study and create new models and algorithms right from the time it was launched by the Canadian Institute of Cybersecurity. The dataset spanned over eight separate files, according to the author of CI- CIDS2017, containing five days of regular traffic data and attacks. A brief overview of all these files is given in Table 4.

Table 4 shows that the dataset is made up of traffic data for five days of attack information. Thursday afternoon working hours and Friday records are suitable for binary classification; likewise, morning data from Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is best for developing a multi-class classification approach. However, an effective detection model should be capable of detecting different attacks. Therefore, in order to model such typical IDS, all-day traffic data should be combined to generate a single dataset to be applied by the IDS. This is precisely what followed in order to combine these records of data traffic.

Table 4. Overview of CICIDS-2017 Dataset CSV files [36-38]

Name of Files

Day Activity

Attacks Found












DOS Goldeneye

DoS Hulk

DoS Slowhttptest





Web Attack –Brute Force

Web Attack –SQL Injection

Web Attack –XSS

















5. Analysis of Experimental Results

5.1 Testing the performance of the selected features

As it was mentioned in the previous section, the features chosen were classified into 3 different groups. The first group contains the features having weight/feature importance greater than 0.00333, the second group consists features with weights greater than 0.001609 and the third group is made up of features having weight greater than 0.004628. Tables 5-7 below show the performance of the various groups of features in terms of accuracy and execution time when they are evaluated using decision tree, Adaboost and Random Forest machine learning algorithms respectively. Also Figures 6, 7, and 8 visualizes how the three algorithms performed in terms of execution time.

Table 5. Performance of features (weight>0.004628)



Execution Time (s)

Decision Tree






Random Forest



Table 6. Performance of features (weight>0.001609)



Execution Time (s)

Decision Tree






Random Forest



Table 7. Performance of features (weight>0.000333)



Execution Time (s)

Decision Tree






Random Forest



Figure 6. Execution time for decision tree

Figure 7. Execution time for Adaboost

Figure 8. Execution time for Random Forest

Among three algorithms, decision tree takes the least time for execution for the three different groups of features. The accuracy of the algorithms decreases as the number of features of the dataset decreases, though it remains steady for the Aadaboost algorithm.

6. Conclusion

Much attention has been given to the great task of maintaining the availability, integrity and confidentiality of networks by various network researchers. In this work, a more recent and up to date dataset which is CICIDS-2017 dataset is chosen. It consists of updated attack traffics. A data preprocessing was performed in which all null values, irrelevant and redundant features were removed. The selected features were then classified into three different groups each having features in the range of a particular weight value. All the three groups of the features were evaluated using decision tree, Adaboost and random forest machine learning algorithms. As it was shown in the above sections, as the number of dataset features decreases, accuracy decreases slightly while the execution time increases. In our adopted approach a significant improvement in the increase in accuracy, decrease in the false positive rate as well as decrease in the execution time was recorded.


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