Detecting Anomalous Records in Categorical Datasets

author: Kaustav Das, Carnegie Mellon University
published: Sept. 14, 2007,   recorded: September 2007,   views: 5339
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Description

We consider the problem of detecting anomalies in high arity categorical datasets. In most applications, anomalies are defined as data points that are ’abnormal’. Quite often we have access to data which consists mostly of normal records, along with a small percentage of unlabelled anomalous records. We are interested in the problem of unsupervised anomaly detection, where we use the unlabelled data for training, and detect records that do not follow the definition of normality. A standard approach is to create a model of normal data, and compare test records against it. A probabilistic approach builds a likelihood model from the training data. Records are tested for anomalousness based on the complete record likelihood given the probability model. For categorical attributes, bayes nets give a standard representation of the likelihood. While this approach is good at finding outliers in the dataset, it often tends to detect records with attribute values that are rare. Sometimes, just detecting rare values of an attribute is not desired and such outliers are not considered as anomalies in that context. We present an alternative definition of anomalies, and propose an approach of comparing against marginal distributions of attribute subsets. We show that this is a more meaningful way of detecting anomalies, and has a better performance over semi-synthetic as well as real world datasets.

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