Multi-agent Q-learning applied to the defense against DDoS attacks with some provisions for scaling

Kleanthis Malialisa, Sam Devlina & Daniel Kudenkoa, Distributed reinforcement learning for adaptive and robust network intrusion response, Connection Science, Volume 27, Issue 3, 2015, DOI: 10.1080/09540091.2015.1031082.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks constitute a rapidly evolving threat in the current Internet. Multiagent Router Throttling is a novel approach to defend against DDoS attacks where multiple reinforcement learning agents are installed on a set of routers and learn to rate-limit or throttle traffic towards a victim server. The focus of this paper is on online learning and scalability. We propose an approach that incorporates task decomposition, team rewards and a form of reward shaping called difference rewards. One of the novel characteristics of the proposed system is that it provides a decentralised coordinated response to the DDoS problem, thus being resilient to DDoS attacks themselves. The proposed system learns remarkably fast, thus being suitable for online learning. Furthermore, its scalability is successfully demonstrated in experiments involving 1000 learning agents. We compare our approach against a baseline and a popular state-of-the-art throttling technique from the network security literature and show that the proposed approach is more effective, adaptive to sophisticated attack rate dynamics and robust to agent failures.

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