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Threat intelligence – myth vs. reality

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Using the cloud to harnessalternative data

Chris Pace, Technology Advocate at Recorded Future

Threat intelligence is one of the most important resources for defending against increasingly advanced cyber-attacks, but there are still several myths and misconceptions about how intelligence can be accessed and used. Many organisations still believe threat intelligence is something of a dark art, restricted to elite security pros retained only by the likes of the world’s leading banks, and too complex and costly for ordinary businesses.

We have heard many different misconceptions over the years, and most can be easily rebuffed.

Three of the most common assumptions are:

 “IT’S ONLY FOR ELITE ANALYSTS”

While access to good intelligence might once have been restricted to the elites, today a fast-growing market means it is easily accessible by security professionals with any amount of experience and in any role. The market focus is to provide contextualised information that will enable security teams to respond quickly and proactively as threats emerge.

 “IT’S JUST A BUNCH OF PDF REPORTS OR STREAMS OF DATA”

Threat intelligence is essentially a tool, and like any other tool the quality can vary. Some poor intel is indeed simply presented as a disorganised stream of data, but genuine threat intelligence is provided in real time, stripped of false positives, and presented in a format designed to drive effective decision making.

“IT CAUSES MORE PROBLEMS THAN IT SOLVES”

One of the key factors in making threat intelligence work is how it is implemented by the organisation. Intel that is poorly applied can end up being counterproductive by burying analysts under a mountain of false positives. Conversely, well-implemented threat intelligence will integrate with existing security technologies to provide analysts with crucial insights when and where they need them.

Operationalising threat intelligence

As a result of crucial misunderstandings like these, many security professionals believe that threat intelligence has nothing to offer their organisation. Even among companies that are open to exploring the use of threat intelligence, proper implementation is often a struggle. With thorough and systematic implementation, threat intelligence is difficult to use efficiently, and the true value will be missed.

When applied correctly, threat intelligence has a huge amount to offer security leaders and personnel, from informing investment decisions, to processing alerts more quickly, to reducing the threat window caused by the latest vulnerabilities.

The three edicts of threat intelligence

Finding a threat intelligence provider that will match the organisation’s specific structure and needs can be a complicated affair, and there are a huge array of choices, formats and vendors to choose from.

1.Threat intelligence is for everyone.

Threat intelligence has applications across all aspects of security. Even small organisations struggling with limited security budgets can access and utilise threat intelligence, enabling them to make better risk-based investment decisions and empower security personnel to maximise the value of their tools and processes.

Organisations that already have large and more well-established security capabilities meanwhile can use threat intelligence to respond to the latest incidents and attack tactics as quickly as possible. Alongside protecting the company from attack, well implemented threat intelligence can save a great deal of legwork for security practitioners, freeing them up for more high value tasks and allowing junior personnel to upskill more quickly.

  1. Poor quality threat intelligence can hinder more than it helps.

The simplest function of threat intelligence is to enable informed decision making. If the intelligence received by a company is incomplete and contains a high number of false positives and inaccuracies, security decision makers will end up making bad choices.

In terms of daily security activity, vulnerability management teams could miss vital weaknesses that leave the company exposed to attack, while SOC and incident response analysts could end up missing genuine threats while wasting a great deal of time and resources chasing false leads. At a strategic level, security leaders may also make poor investment decisions that do little to improve the company’s security posture.

With this in mind, organisations need to ensure that the threat intelligence capability they implement will genuinely empower their security leaders and personnel.

  1. Look for powerful threat intelligence characteristics.

With poor quality intelligence having the potential to drastically reduce a company’s security capabilities, it is essential that decision makers know what they should be looking for in a solution. The following four traits are essential components of genuine threat intelligence:

  • Comprehensive – It must combine intelligence from a broad range of sources such as the dark web and threat actor forums.
  • Relevant – A worthwhile threat intelligence capability must deliver only intelligence which is relevant to the individual user, cutting out irrelevant data and false positives that will waste valuable time and resources.
  • Contextualised – The best threat intelligence solutions combine huge quantities of data, information, and intelligence to construct high-quality, actionable insights that are put into context against the wider threat landscape.
  • Integrated – Threat intelligence should be easily accessible across all the different functions it connects to, such as vulnerability management scanners, SIEM and EDR technology.

By having these factors firmly in mind when investigating and assessing the many threat intelligence options available, companies can cast aside the myths and find the ideal solution for their operations. Armed with genuine threat intelligence, security personnel across all functions and experience levels will be able to work faster and more effectively.

Technology

Track and Trace and Other Lost Data

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Track and Trace and Other Lost Data 1

By Ian Smith, General Manager and Finance Director at Invu 

You, like me, were probably amazed by the now infamous loss of the over 16,000 positive test results in the track and trace system due to an Excel spreadsheet error.

You, like me, probably wondered how the Government could get something so important so wrong?

But perhaps we should aks are standing in a greenhouse launching stones?

Data risks from software

Today we are spoilt with software offerings that help us with both our personal and our work lives.

Microsoft Excel is a powerful application and offers many functions now that required moderately complex macro writing in the past, seducing all of us into submitting more data for it to analyse. In finance, we tend to solve all those problems our applications cannot address using Excel.

In finance, we also know the risks of formula errors, and if we have relied on it enough, we will have our own war stories to go with these risks. Yet, we often continue to use the tool for operations that make those folks with an information technology background shake their heads.

These Excel files nowadays may find themselves resident on a local file server or one of the many file servers in the cloud (like those from the big three, DropBox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive or other less well-known file sharing applications). Many of us use these in multiple ways.

Vulnerable programmes

Beyond finance and Excel, there are now many applications that we run our data through and leave data stored in the form of documents, comments and notes.

The long-standing example is email. We today receive many documents via email, with content in the body often providing context. Email systems then become the store for that data. While this works from a personal point of view, for a business working at scale, the information stored this way can be lost to the rest of the business. Just like data falling off a spreadsheet when there are not enough rows to capture the results.

More recently, we have seen easy to consume applications develop in many areas like chat and productivity. Take for example task management apps, my own preference being Monday.com (I am sparing you the long list of these). The result of the task and how we got there, in the form of attachments or comments, are often stored in the application. Each application we touch encourages us to leave a bit of data behind in its store.

Data proliferation

Many of these applications can have a personal use and an initial personal dalliance is what sparks up the motivation to apply the application to a business purpose. Just like the “Track and Trace System”, they can often find themselves being used in an environment where the scale of the operation overwhelms their intended use.

In our business lives, combining the use of applications in this way by liberally sprinkling our data across multiple systems often stored in documents (be they Microsoft Word, email, scans or comments and notes) puts us on the pathway to trouble.

Imagine how Matt Hancock felt explaining to Parliament that the world-class track and trace system depended on a spreadsheet.

Can you imagine a similar situation in your business life? Say, for example, that documents or data in some form was lost because of the use of disparate systems and/or applications that were not really designed for the task you assigned to them.

Who would be your Parliament?

Now you can see yourself in the greenhouse, you may not want to reach for that metaphorical stone.

If these observations create some concerns for you, you may want to consider the information management strategy at your business. You have a strategy, even if it is not addressed specifically in documents, plans or thought processes.

Action plan

These steps may help figure out where you are and where you want to go.

  1. Assess your current environment.

Are you a centraliser, with all the information collected in one place? Or is all your data spread across multiple stores, as identified above? Are you storing your key business information on paper documents, or digitally or a mix of both.

  1. Assess your current processes.

Do your processes run on a limited number of software applications? Or do you enable staff to pick their own tools to get things done? The answer to this question is often a mix of both where staff bridge the gaps in those applications using tools like MS excel. A key application to think about is how the data in email, particularly the attachments, is made available to the business.

  1. Design a pathway for change and implement it.

Start with the end in mind. I suggest the goal is to enable the right people to have the right access to the information they require to do their job in real-time. I believe the way to effectively do this is to go digital. The fork in the road is then whether to centralise your information store or adopt a decentralised approach.

My own preferred route is to centralise using document management software that enables all your documents to be stored in one place. Applications like email can be integrated with it, significantly reducing the workload required to file and store the data. The data can then be used in business applications using workflows. Thinking these workflows through will help you assess the gaps between your key business applications and consider whether tools like excel are being stretched too far.

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NICE Unveils ENLIGHTEN Fraud Prevention Powered by AI and Voice Biometrics to Empower Contact Centers in Safeguarding Consumers

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NICE Unveils ENLIGHTEN Fraud Prevention Powered by AI and Voice Biometrics to Empower Contact Centers in Safeguarding Consumers 2

Using AI-enabled interpretive and predictive models and advanced voice biometrics, the new solution continuously scans millions of calls to proactively identify fraudulent behavior and protect brand reputation

NICE (Nasdaq: NICE) today unveiled ENLIGHTEN Fraud Prevention, an innovative new solution for automatic and continuous fraudster detection and exposure. Bringing together NICE ENLIGHTEN’s comprehensive Customer Engagement AI platform with the company’s voice biometrics capabilities, the solution continuously scans millions of calls to accurately pinpoint suspicious behavior and uncover previously unidentified fraudsters. Adopting a proactive approach, NICE ENLIGHTEN Fraud Prevention significantly reduces fraud losses and handling time while protecting consumers and improving their experience.

“Contact center fraud is growing in frequency, breadth and sophistication,” observes Dan Miller, Lead Analyst at Opus Research. “NICE ENLIGHTEN Fraud Prevention stands out as an integrated, pre-emptive AI-based Fraud Prevention solution that actively prevents malicious activities with minimum additional effort from customers.”

Unlike most technologies that focus on a single call, NICE ENLIGHTEN Fraud Prevention includes powerful AI interpretive and predictive models that scan millions of voice interactions over time to detect abnormal, risky behavior including requests to change addresses or authentication methods without relying on agents to manually capture dispositions. NICE’s Proactive Fraudster Exposure voice biometrics capability included within the solution is then used to expose perpetrators and create a ranked and prioritized list of suspected fraudsters. Importantly, the solution is self-training, constantly learning from identified behaviors, continuously updating its AI models and thus consistently improving results. With this novel solution, organizations can protect customers from account takeover and prevent exposure of personally identifiable information, reduce fraud losses, optimize fraud analyst team efficiency and safeguard brand loyalty.

“We are proud to bring yet another market-first offering with NICE ENLIGHTEN Fraud Prevention,” Barry Cooper, President, NICE Enterprise Group, said. “NICE ENLIGHTEN is NICE’s AI platform with models specific to the Customer Engagement domain. A number of solutions across our portfolio are being infused with AI from NICE ENLIGHTEN including our Proactive Fraudster Exposure solution. NICE ENLIGHTEN Fraud Prevention ensures that fraudsters are rapidly and proactively stopped in their tracks so organizations can protect their customers and their brand. We believe that by bringing AI to Fraud Prevention we provide organizations with the agility that makes it even more difficult for the fraudsters to win.”

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Financial Services Sector Leads in Fixing Application Flaws, Lags in Time to Remediate

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Financial Services Sector Leads in Fixing Application Flaws, Lags in Time to Remediate 3

Veracode, the largest global provider of application security testing (AST) solutions, today released findings revealing that the financial services industry has the best flaw fix rate across six industries and leads a majority of industries in uncovering flaws within open source components. Fixing open source flaws is critical because the attack surface of applications is much larger than developers expect when open source libraries are included indirectly.

The findings came as a result of Veracode’s State of Software Security Volume 11, which analysed 130,000 applications from 2,500 companies. The research found that financial services organizations have the smallest proportion of applications with flaws and the second-lowest prevalence of severe flaws behind the manufacturing sector. It also has the highest fix rate among all industries, fixing 75% of flaws. Still, the research found that financial services firms require about six and a half months to resolve half of the flaws they find, indicating it is slower than other industries to remediate.

“Financial services firms have a median time to remediation of more than six months, despite having a high fix rate compared to other sectors,” said Chris Wysopal, Chief Technology Officer at Veracode. “However, developers in the financial services industry are often limited by the nature of the environments they are working in, as applications tend to be older, have a medium flaw density, and aren’t consistently following DevSecOps practices compared to other industries. With some additional training and sticking to best practices, they can quickly remediate issues and start to reduce security debt.”

Financial Services Specific Findings

Veracode’s research found compelling evidence that certain developer behaviours associated with DevSecOps yield substantial benefits to software security. The findings detail that financial services firms:

  • Are a leading industry when it comes to fixing flaws in their open source software and establishing strong scan cadences.
  • Fall to middle-of-the-road for scanning frequency and integrating security testing, and are not likely to be using dynamic analysis (DAST) scanning technology to uncover vulnerabilities.
  • Outperform averages across all industries in dealing with issues related to cryptography, input validation, Cross-Site Scripting, and credentials management – all things related to protecting users of financial applications.
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