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Using specialised analytics to improve cybersecurity

Using specialised analytics to improve cybersecurity

Orion Cassetto, senior director of product marketing at Exabeam discusses the growing popularity of User and Entity Behaviour Analytics (UEBA).and how it can help organisations achieve effective data security.

 The volume and severity of cybersecurity threats faced across the business world are growing at a steady rate. Fortunately, this fact is no longer lost on most organisations. Gartner has predicted worldwide security spending will increase by 8pc in 2018 to reach a value of $96bn by the end of the year because of regulatory change, mindset and a growing awareness of threats.

Central to this growth is the identification and adoption of new security technologies, designed to streamline overall security operations as well as alleviate some of the pressures associated with longstanding security issues, such as the global shortage of skilled personnel. One technology seeing significant growth at present is User and Entity Behaviour Analytics (UEBA).

 An intro to UEBA 

UEBA is a cybersecurity technology that uses a combination of machine learning, behavioural modelling and statistical analyses to identify when user or machine patterns deviate from established behaviour, indicating a real security threat. This article will look at three major barriers to effective security for modern businesses and explain how UEBA technology can be used to help remove them.

The need for context 

One of the biggest issues with many conventional security tools such as firewalls and anti-malware is that they operate in silos. As a result, when alerts are raised, they lack the context, visibility and data from other tools within a security programme that would help an analyst understand the incident in more detail.

For example, if an anti-malware alert is raised from a source IP address, or malware name or URL, without answers to key questions such as ‘Who was using the asset at the time of infection?’, ‘What host had the IP address at the time of infection?’ and ‘What other systems are affected?’, containing the incident can be extremely difficult.

UEBA can help to provide this missing context by supplementing the alert with both environmental and situational information.

  • Environmental: This may include information such as whether the user at the time was an IT admin or high-privileged user, or if they are the actual owner of the asset in question.
  • Situational: By creating user session timelines, UEBA can not only provide answers to the critical who, what and when questions, but also to questions such as ‘Has this happened before?’ and ‘Is it normal?’, which can be incredibly useful when investigating a specific incident.

Too much data – a double-edged sword

In a modern data environment, security information and event management deployments regularly gather more than 1TB of data a day, or more than 100,000 events per second. Most of this data is high-volume, but low-value. Nevertheless, analyst teams often have no way to manually review this amount of data or the alerts that result from it, meaning that key information is regularly missed.

Being machine-based, UEBA thrives on this level of data. The higher the volume, the more data points can be analysed, resulting in a more granular picture of what’s really going on. In order to make use of high data volumes, nearly all UEBA vendors use big-data architecture such as Hadoop and MongoDB, horizontally scalable so that processing and storage can be added as needed.

Cybersecurity skills shortage 

The global shortage of skilled security personnel is a well-documented and troubling issue. Nine out of 10 respondents to CyberEdge’s recent research indicated a shortage of IT security talent at their organisations at the time of asking.

Furthermore, a recent State of the SOC study among IT professionals found that just under half (45pc) believe their security operations centre (SOC) is understaffed. Of those, nearly two-thirds (63pc) think they could use anywhere from an additional two to 10 employees.

While UEBA can’t replace skilled IT security professionals, it can greatly amplify the output of existing team members. The ability to analyse incoming data more efficiently greatly reduces false positives, while the provision of environmental and situational context to alerts can significantly speed up investigations.

Queries that previously took hours can be answered in seconds. Not only that, but alerts can be prioritised more accurately based on the perceived threat posed, meaning the team is spending its time on the right things.

The global cyber-threat landscape is growing and evolving all the time. Fortunately, so are the technology solutions available to help combat this. In the past, organisations often went for quantity over quality when compiling security programmes, but a large number of disparate systems rarely makes for an effective solution and often causes more problems than it solves.

UEBA not only helps to break down many of the legacy barriers that organisations find themselves with, it can also help alleviate issues that they have less control over, such as the global IT security skills shortage. As a result, its popularity has skyrocketed as more and more organisations realise it is the key they have been searching for.

Technology

EeaseUS Free Data Recovery Software Recover Lost And Erased Documents

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Shining a spotlight on operational resilience and cyber-risk in financial services

Shining a spotlight on operational resilience and cyber-risk in financial services 3

By Miles Tappin, VP of EMEA for ThreatConnect, explores why the financial services industry must build a cyber security strategy in 2020

The new digital landscape has welcomed financial institutions with open arms. Emerging technology such as Artificial intelligence (AI), crypto-currencies and big data have shown widespread benefits throughout the years, particularly how they have driven innovation and change. When it comes to retail banking, fintech providers have quickly taken the chance to offer personalised services to ensure they remain relevant to their target market and stand out among their competitors.

This has been particularly evident with Klarna, now Europe’s most valued fintech firm. Providing payment solutions for online storefronts, consumers are now able to shop and pay later with top retailers including the likes of H&M, Ikea and Zara. This is just one example of how easy it has become to successfully and strategically disrupt the payments sector.

With several new players entering the banking scene, traditional financial institutions are making sure that they stay one step ahead and are developing robust digital ecosystems that deliver omnichannel service models. However, this comes at a price. As technological change becomes part and parcel to remaining relevant in the sector, the industry needs to be aware of the cyber security challenges that may present themselves and how to overcome them.

2020: The year for cybercriminals targeting financial services

2020 has become a definitive year for cybersecurity in the financial services industry. Financial institutions are a lucrative target – they hold highly sensitive information and have a mandate to protect the personal information of their customers. It started with an unprecedented attack against Travelex where hackers successfully took some of the currency providers offline for nearly a month. Then came Coronavirus which sparked a new wave of malware and phishing threats. Research from VMware Carbon Black Cloud revealed that threats against financial institutions have surged by 238% since the start of the pandemic.

The renewed interest from cyber criminals comes at a time when regulators are paying close attention to the resilience of the sector. After a string of IT failures and breaches, financial organisations in the UK have been given a mandate from regulators to improve operational resilience. This means ensuring business models can withstand disruptive events from hackers or adversaries and quickly recover to protect the stability of financial systems.

In December 2019, the UK’s financial regulators published a series of consultation papers outlining their proposed approach to achieving greater operational resilience. The proposals suggested that financial institutions will be required to map out the systems and processes that support business services in order to identify any potential vulnerabilities that would pose a risk to the stability of the UK financial system or the firm’s standing.

Working together in tandem

Where cybersecurity used to be a classic back-office concern, it’s now a central part of digital strategies and a key pillar of both reputation and customer retention – financial legislation leaves no room for failure. All financial institutions need to ensure they have full visibility of their systems and can detect any potential threats.

The challenge for financial institutions is making the security tools they have purchased separately work together in tandem. Security teams buy a firewall, an email filter, threat intelligence feeds, antivirus software or enhanced endpoint protection, and whatever else they need individually. Each of them does a good job but they don’t talk to each other and valuable time is lost tending to individual systems that become a burden to run. At the same time, running multiple security systems is expensive. The more systems you have, the more highly skilled staff you need to manage them, and they’re few and far between.

The importance of sharing across communities

To reduce complexity and simplify decision making, financial organisations need to unify processes and technology to harness the security intelligence that comes from across their own security programmes and external sources to drive down risk. However, no financial institution can tackle the problem alone. Experienced threat actors using advanced techniques are constantly targeting the financial sector. The industry needs to come together as a whole to foster a sense of collaboration and data sharing.

Miles Tappin

Miles Tappin

In the same way that financial institutions have introduced open banking to deliver a fairer service to customers, the same needs to apply to security – all parts of the financial ecosystem need to unite and share information to learn from one another and succeed in the fight against adversaries that operate across borders.

By sharing alerts on cyber hazards and risk across financial institutions and with law enforcement, government agencies and other relevant authorities, it’s possible to build industry specific insights into cyber security threats and quickly pivot to gain more information on those specific threats and threat actors. By working together, a picture can be painted on threats coming from all manner of malicious activity, from malware to ransomware, to phishing and software vulnerabilities.

Creating a single source of intelligence

Having the right intelligence is not enough to ensure that intelligence is turned into action. Breaking down information and process silos across security teams allows financial organisation to analyse and act on the most pertinent information. Everyone has access to the risk and threats that matter most, and orchestration and automation of response helps overwhelmed security teams prioritise response plans and improve efficiencies in their security programme.

Integrating internal security tools and technologies, while also connecting to external sources of intelligence, creates a single source of intelligence that feeds operations and enables organisations to direct action against the threats that matter most. The outcomes of those actions further feed intelligence, providing the ability to further refine the efficacy of the entire security lifecycle.

This approach provides a continuous feedback loop for the people, processes and technologies that make up the security programme. It allows financial institutions to keep up with threat actors that have consistently adapted their methods to profit at the expense of the financial industry. Something that won’t stop anytime soon.

While financial services institutions tend to operate with security front of mind, there is still an opportunity to collaborate more within the industry and increase intelligence sharing, so CSOs and CTOs can understand as much as they can about the threats they are facing. For example, what types or variants of malware have been used to steal, delete, or ransom personal identifiable information or IP specific to financial services? What ransomware has been used in attacks against other organisations within the industry? How does this ransomware work and how does it ransom the targeted data? Ultimately, the more you know, the better and quicker you’ll be able to respond to a new threat and remain protected.

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Technology

Blackline reveals CEO succession plan

Blackline reveals CEO succession plan 4

By President & COO Marc Huffman appointed CEO as of Jan. 1st, 2021;
Founder Therese Tucker to serve as executive chair

Accounting automation software leader BlackLine, Inc. (Nasdaq: BL) today announced that the board of directors has elected Marc Huffman as chief executive officer, effective January 1st, 2021.  Mr. Huffman currently serves as president and chief operating officer.  Therese Tucker, who has served as CEO since founding BlackLine in 2001, will continue to serve on the company’s board as executive chair.

A seasoned SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) executive with more than 25 years of experience driving growth at successful software companies, Huffman joined BlackLine in early 2018 as chief operating officer.  He was named president in February 2020, leading the company’s worldwide sales, marketing, technology and all customer-facing organizations.  Since Huffman joined, BlackLine has scaled its sales and customer success teams, strategically repositioned its go-to-market plan, completed a global reseller agreement with SAP, established a subsidiary in Japan, and entered into a number of strategic alliances with the world’s leading consulting and advisory firms.

Prior to BlackLine, Huffman served as president of worldwide sales and distribution at NetSuite.  During his 14-year tenure, NetSuite grew from $3 million to $1 billion in annual revenue and became recognized as a global SaaS powerhouse.

“I’ve been so pleased with the leadership Marc has demonstrated over the past two and a half years, most recently driving our response to the COVID-19 pandemic – mitigating disruption to the business and our customers.  Because of Marc’s leadership, skill set, cultural alignment and stellar performance, BlackLine is in a better position to grow and scale than ever before,” said Ms. Tucker.  “I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved at BlackLine and believe Marc is the kind of leader I can trust to take our customer-centric values, vision and growth to the next level.  I am also thrilled that in addition to providing strategic oversight as executive chair, I will now have more time to focus on the areas I love most – product innovation and customer success.”

The announced transition is part of a multi-year succession plan that has involved seeking potential successors, bringing the right person on board, seeing that person excel, and Tucker and Huffman working methodically together over several years to build out the leadership team and strategic growth plan and ensure values were aligned.

“I am ready and excited for this next step.  BlackLine is a special place with a strong culture and I am looking forward to leading the company through its next phase of growth,” said Huffman.  “We’ve got the team, the plan, and now we are focused on execution as we continue to scale the business and make BlackLine an indispensable platform for Finance & Accounting organizations globally.”

Commenting on the CEO and executive chair changes, John Brennan, BlackLine’s chairman of the board, said, “We are excited to announce Marc’s appointment as CEO.  His experience successfully expanding and scaling NetSuite into new strategic and geographical markets is invaluable as BlackLine continues to penetrate what we believe is still an untapped market.  Coupled with his proven track record at BlackLine we are confident that, under Marc’s leadership, the company’s momentum, growth and success will only accelerate.”

Mr. Brennan added, “Therese has been a strong and inspirational leader since she founded BlackLine just over 19 years ago.  Her unwavering determination and commitment to both customers and employees has been the driving force behind the company’s incredible journey from start-up to global market leader.  We look forward to having her serve as executive chair, a position in which she will continue to shape the future of the company she has built from the ground up.”

Upon Tucker’s assumption of the executive chair role, Brennan will serve as the board’s lead outside director.

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