Time Functions

The time functions detect events that happen at unusual times, either of the day or of the week. These functions can be used to find unusual patterns of behavior, typically associated with suspicious user activity.

The X-Pack machine learning features include the following time functions:

Note
  • The time_of_day function is not aware of the difference between days, for instance work days and weekends. When modeling different days, use the time_of_week function. In general, the time_of_week function is more suited to modeling the behavior of people rather than machines, as people vary their behavior according to the day of the week.
  • Shorter bucket spans (for example, 10 minutes) are recommended when performing a time_of_day or time_of_week analysis. The time of the events being modeled are not affected by the bucket span, but a shorter bucket span enables quicker alerting on unusual events.
  • Unusual events are flagged based on the previous pattern of the data, not on what we might think of as unusual based on human experience. So, if events typically occur between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., and event occurring at 3 p.m. is be flagged as unusual.
  • When Daylight Saving Time starts or stops, regular events can be flagged as anomalous. This situation occurs because the actual time of the event (as measured against a UTC baseline) has changed. This situation is treated as a step change in behavior and the new times will be learned quickly.

Time_of_day

The time_of_day function detects when events occur that are outside normal usage patterns. For example, it detects unusual activity in the middle of the night.

The function expects daily behavior to be similar. If you expect the behavior of your data to differ on Saturdays compared to Wednesdays, the time_of_week function is more appropriate.

This function supports the following properties:

  • by_field_name (optional)
  • over_field_name (optional)
  • partition_field_name (optional)

For more information about those properties, see Detector Configuration Objects.

Example 1: Analyzing events with the time_of_day function. 

{
  "function" : "time_of_day",
  "by_field_name" : "process"
}

If you use this time_of_day function in a detector in your job, it models when events occur throughout a day for each process. It detects when an event occurs for a process that is at an unusual time in the day compared to its past behavior.

Time_of_week

The time_of_week function detects when events occur that are outside normal usage patterns. For example, it detects login events on the weekend.

This function supports the following properties:

  • by_field_name (optional)
  • over_field_name (optional)
  • partition_field_name (optional)

For more information about those properties, see Detector Configuration Objects.

Example 2: Analyzing events with the time_of_week function. 

{
  "function" : "time_of_week",
  "by_field_name" : "eventcode",
  "over_field_name" : "workstation"
}

If you use this time_of_week function in a detector in your job, it models when events occur throughout the week for each eventcode. It detects when a workstation event occurs at an unusual time during the week for that eventcode compared to other workstations. It detects events for a particular workstation that are outside the normal usage pattern.