Utilising deep learning techniques for effective zero-day attack detection

Hanan Hindy, Robert Atkinson, Christos Tachtatzis, Jean-Noël Colin, Ethan Bayne, Xavier Bellekens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) have been used for building Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS). The increase in both the number and sheer variety of new cyber-attacks poses a tremendous challenge for IDS solutions that rely on a database of historical attack signatures. Therefore, the industrial pull for robust IDSs that are capable of flagging zero-day attacks is growing. Current outlier-based zero-day detection research suffers from high false-negative rates, thus limiting their practical use and performance. This paper proposes an autoencoder implementation for detecting zero-day attacks. The aim is to build an IDS model with high recall while keeping the miss rate (false-negatives) to an acceptable minimum. Two well-known IDS datasets are used for evaluation—CICIDS2017 and NSL-KDD. In order to demonstrate the efficacy of our model, we compare its results against a One-Class Support Vector Machine (SVM). The manuscript highlights the performance of a One-Class SVM when zero-day attacks are distinctive from normal behaviour. The proposed model benefits greatly from autoencoders encoding-decoding capabilities. The results show that autoencoders are well-suited at detecting complex zero-day attacks. The results demonstrate a zero-day detection accuracy of 89–99% for the NSL-KDD dataset and 75–98% for the CICIDS2017 dataset. Finally, the paper outlines the observed trade-off between recall and fallout.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1684
Number of pages16
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2020


  • autoencoder
  • artificial neural network
  • one-class support vector machine
  • intrusion detection
  • zero-day attacks
  • CICIDS2017


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