Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Anomaly detection

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Anomaly detection

In data mining, anomaly detection (also outlier detection) is the identification of items, events or observations which do not conform to an expected pattern or other items in a dataset. Typically the anomalous items will translate to some kind of problem such as bank fraud, a structural defect, medical problems or errors in a text. Anomalies are also referred to as outliers, novelties, noise, deviations and exceptions.


In particular, in the context of abuse and network intrusion detection, the interesting objects are often not rare objects, but unexpected bursts in activity. This pattern does not adhere to the common statistical definition of an outlier as a rare object, and many outlier detection methods (in particular unsupervised methods) will fail on such data, unless it has been aggregated appropriately. Instead, a cluster analysis algorithm may be able to detect the micro clusters formed by these patterns.

Three broad categories of anomaly detection techniques exist. Unsupervised anomaly detection techniques detect anomalies in an unlabeled test data set under the assumption that the majority of the instances in the data set are normal by looking for instances that seem to fit least to the remainder of the data set. Supervised anomaly detection techniques require a data set that has been labeled as "normal" and "abnormal" and involves training a classifier (the key difference to many other statistical classification problems is the inherent unbalanced nature of outlier detection). Semi-supervised anomaly detection techniques construct a model representing normal behavior from a given normal training data set, and then testing the likelihood of a test instance to be generated by the learnt model.


Anomaly detection is applicable in a variety of domains, such as intrusion detection, fraud detection, fault detection, system health monitoring, event detection in sensor networks, and detecting Eco-system disturbances. It is often used in preprocessing to remove anomalous data from the dataset. In supervised learning, removing the anomalous data from the dataset often results in a statistically significant increase in accuracy.

Popular techniques

Several anomaly detection techniques have been proposed in literature. Some of the popular techniques are:

  • Density-based techniques (k-nearest neighbor, local outlier factor, and many more variations of this concept).
  • Subspace- and correlation-based outlier detection for high-dimensional data.
  • One class support vector machines.
  • Replicator neural networks.
  • Cluster analysis-based outlier detection.
  • Deviations from association rules and frequent itemsets.
  • Fuzzy logic based outlier detection.
  • Ensemble techniques, using feature bagging, score normalization and different sources of diversity.
  • The performance of different methods depends a lot on the data set and parameters, and methods have little systematic advantages over another when compared across many data sets and parameters.

    Application to data security

    Anomaly detection was proposed for intrusion detection systems (IDS) by Dorothy Denning in 1986. Anomaly detection for IDS is normally accomplished with thresholds and statistics, but can also be done with soft computing, and inductive learning. Types of statistics proposed by 1999 included profiles of users, workstations, networks, remote hosts, groups of users, and programs based on frequencies, means, variances, covariances, and standard deviations. The counterpart of anomaly detection in intrusion detection is misuse detection.


  • ELKI is an open-source Java data mining toolkit that contains several anomaly detection algorithms, as well as index acceleration for them.
  • Datasets

  • Anomaly detection benchmark data repository of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München; Mirror at University of São Paulo.
  • OODS – ODDS: A large collection of publicly available outlier detection datasets with ground truth in different domains.
  • [1] - Tagged multi-relational social network spammer detection dataset
  • References

    Anomaly detection Wikipedia

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