The Agent Web Model - Modelling web hacking for reinforcement learning

Published in International Journal of Information Security, 2020

Website hacking is a frequent attack type used by malicious actors to obtain confidential information, modify the integrity of web pages or make websites unavailable. The tools used by attackers are becoming more and more automated and sophisticated, and malicious machine learning agents seems to be the next development in this line. In order to provide ethical hackers with similar tools, and to understand the impact and the limitations of artificial agents, we present in this paper a model that formalizes web hacking tasks for reinforcement learning agents. Our model, named Agent Web Model, considers web hacking as a capture-the-flag style challenge, and it defines reinforcement learning problems at seven different levels of abstraction. We discuss the complexity of these problems in terms of actions and states an agent has to deal with, and we show that such a model allows to represent most of the relevant web vulnerabilities. Aware that the driver of advances in reinforcement learning is the availability of standardized challenges, we provide an implementation for the first three abstraction layers, in the hope that the community would consider these challenges in order to develop intelligent web hacking agents.