Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

IEEE Internet of Things Journal




School of Science




Al-Fawa'reh, M., Abu-Khalaf, J., Szewczyk, P., & Kang, J. J. (2023). MalBoT-DRL: Malware botnet detection using deep reinforcement learning in IoT networks. IEEE Internet of Things Journal. Advance online publication.


In the dynamic landscape of cyber threats, multi-stage malware botnets have surfaced as significant threats of concern. These sophisticated threats can exploit Internet of Things (IoT) devices to undertake an array of cyberattacks, ranging from basic infections to complex operations such as phishing, cryptojacking, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Existing machine learning solutions are often constrained by their limited generalizability across various datasets and their inability to adapt to the mutable patterns of malware attacks in real world environments, a challenge known as model drift. This limitation highlights the pressing need for adaptive Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), capable of adjusting to evolving threat patterns and new or unseen attacks. This paper introduces MalBoT-DRL, a robust malware botnet detector using deep reinforcement learning. Designed to detect botnets throughout their entire lifecycle, MalBoT-DRL has better generalizability and offers a resilient solution to model drift. This model integrates damped incremental statistics with an attention rewards mechanism, a combination that has not been extensively explored in literature. This integration enables MalBoT-DRL to dynamically adapt to the ever-changing malware patterns within IoT environments. The performance of MalBoT-DRL has been validated via trace-driven experiments using two representative datasets, MedBIoT and N-BaIoT, resulting in exceptional average detection rates of 99.80% and 99.40% in the early and late detection phases, respectively. To the best of our knowledge, this work introduces one of the first studies to investigate the efficacy of reinforcement learning in enhancing the generalizability of IDS.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.