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Friday, December 15, 2017

How Machine Learning Can Help Identify Cyber Vulnerabilities | Harvard Business Review - Analytics

Ravi Srinivasan, vice president of strategy and offering management at IBM Security notes, "Putting the burden on employees isn’t the answer."

 Photo: Pedro Pestana/EyeEm/Getty Images

People are undoubtedly your company’s most valuable asset. But if you ask cybersecurity experts if they share that sentiment, most would tell you that people are your biggest liability.

Historically, no matter how much money an organization spends on cybersecurity, there is typically one problem technology can’t solve: humans being human.  Gartner expects worldwide spending on information security to reach $86.4 billion in 2017, growing to $93 billion in 2018, all in an effort to improve overall security and education programs to prevent humans from undermining the best-laid security plans. But it’s still not enough: human error continues to reign as a top threat.

According to IBM’s Cyber Security Intelligence Index, a staggering 95% of all security incidents involve human error. It is a shocking statistic, and for the most part it’s due to employees clicking on malicious links, losing or getting their mobile devices or computers stolen, or network administrators making simple misconfigurations. We’ve seen a rash of the latter problem recently with more than a billion records exposed so far this year due to misconfigured servers. Organizations can count on the fact that mistakes will be made, and that cybercriminals will be standing by, ready to take advantage of those mistakes.

So how do organizations not only monitor for suspicious activity coming from the outside world, but also look at the behaviors of their employees to determine security risks? As the adage goes, “to err is human” — people are going to make mistakes. So we need to find ways to better understand humans, and anticipate errors or behaviors that are out of character — not only to better protect against security risks, but also to better serve internal stakeholders.

There’s an emerging discipline in security focused around user behavior analytics that is showing promise in helping to address the threat from outside, while also providing insights needed to solve the people problem. It puts to use new technologies that leverage a combination of big data and machine learning, allowing security teams to get to know their employees better and to quickly identify when things may be happening that are out of the norm.

To start, behavioral and contextual data points such as the typical location of an employee’s IP address, the time of day they usually log into the networks, the use of multiple machines/IP addresses, the files and information they typically access, and more can be compiled and monitored to establish a profile of common behaviors. For example, if an employee in the HR team is suddenly trying to access engineering databases hundreds of times per minute, it can be quickly flagged to the security team to prevent an incident.

Source: Harvard Business Review