Behavioral Analytics – the trusted watchdog in Cybersecurity

BySubham Paul

Behavioral Analytics – the trusted watchdog in Cybersecurity

Modern-day business security leaders openly talk about maintaining intrinsic data on how users and systems behave. What do they do with this? When exactly do they need this? Who helps them in using this? Does it ease the pain of boosting the overall enterprise security and answering stakeholders? All of these shall be answered in this piece on Behavioral Analytics, one of the go-to methods for modern cybersecurity professionals to nip suspicious activities in the bud.

Defining Behavioral Analytics

Ever wondered why police dogs enjoy the reputation of being so reliable? Or dogs tamed at home for that matter? If you have, you’re on the right track for reading this article about an effective manner of dealing with bad actors in the cyber world. Similar to real-life watchdogs, the primary task of behavioral analytics is to continuously note the normal conduct of entities and users. If there is any deviation from the normal, or expected, patterns, then that is detected as an anomalous behavior and reported for the next course of action. The technical term for this is User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA), which employs machine learning algorithms and statistical analyses to detect significant deviations which might be (yes, possibly) potential threats to the organization’s security.

Behavioral analytics examines all possible trends, patterns and activities of different users and systems and profiles the users and workflows to understand the difference between the expected and the unexpected. By doing this, UEBA does more than just detecting suspicious activity – it also predicts future errors and trends. The applications can be broadly seen in two forms: Network Behavior Analysis (NBA) and User Behavior Analytics (UBA). In either case, behavioral analytics integrates various pools of data for implementing a data-driven event-management approach to counter threats to the cybersecurity of organizations.

How does UEBA help?

It has been widely reported and accepted that more than 80% of breaches to enterprise systems begin with accounts getting compromised. As hackers disguise themselves as employees of the target organization, it becomes essential to look for anomalies in the behavior of organizational users and systems. However, the huge pool of data calls for an automated and streamlined approach to counter unforeseen situations. That is precisely what behavioral analytics brings to the table. Here we shall go through the array of multiple situations that employing UEBA can help in detecting:

  • Breach of protected data – by continuously monitoring the usage of confidential data.
  • Compromised accounts – due to malware or spoofing activities.
  • Brute-force attacks – by blocking unauthorized access to cloud-based entities and third-party authentication systems.
  • Suspicious network packets – detecting illegal or inappropriate data when previously unseen packets appear.
  • Insider threats – with employees going rogue and abusing privileges.
  • Super users and permission changes – by checking suspicious creation of accounts and modification of permissions.
  • Unauthorized applications – especially those meant for sending data to other devices or networks.
  • Unauthorized devices – by raising alarms if any unauthorized machine ID is detected in a login attempt.
  • Deviation from working schedule – by triggering investigation or an additional layer of authentication.
  • Unusual geography – by monitoring the IP addresses of all users trying to access the systems.
  • Suspicious device behavior – by monitoring the output from various devices and detecting unexpected deviations.

The best UEBA solution providers

Now that we have gone through what behavioral analytics is and what it is capable of doing, wouldn’t it be nice to know about the industry vendors providing such services? Enterprises of today certainly bank on reliable UEBA service providers to beef up their security systems. Of these, Parchment emerges as the most talked-about service that relies on machine learning to detect emerging threats inside its network and providing additional immunity to it. Some of the other well-known choices for behavior analytics specialists are

  • Rapid7
  • RSA
  • Splunk
  • Niara
  • Vectra Networks
  • LogRhythm

Some veterans in the industry rank high in this market too, with IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Intel Security being the leaders.

Behavioral Analytics is a need of the hour

We keep talking about the latest trends in technology and best practices in the industry. Words such as automation, IoT and cloud have become parts of the common man’s diction now. Needless to mention, the volume and variability of data are growing at an almost exponential rate. At the same time, the exposure that enterprise systems get to external threats keeps rising. What do we make of these obvious fact checks? Preventive measures are no longer enough to safeguard businesses. It is time for every organization to, if not done already, deploy foolproof proactive strategies to detect cyber threats before it is too late. While behavioral analytics, not surprisingly, is a perfect fit for this situation, the reason for its usage should be kept transparent to the concerned stakeholders, especially the workforce. In this way, the mechanism to detect threats can be implemented seamlessly and the entire organization can continue to reap the fruits of its labor with minimal damage.

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Subham is a technology enthusiast with keen interests in cybersecurity, automation, data analytics, and information systems. A Computer Science engineer and a former web developer, he is currently pursuing his MBA at IIT Kharagpur. His other interests lie in writing and singing.

About the author

Subham Paul

Subham is a technology enthusiast with keen interests in cybersecurity, automation, data analytics, and information systems. A Computer Science engineer and a former web developer, he is currently pursuing his MBA at IIT Kharagpur. His other interests lie in writing and singing.

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