Perimeter
9/30/2012
03:35 PM
Wendy Nather
Wendy Nather
Commentary
50%
50%

The Plural Of Data Is Not Analytics

When it comes to security monitoring, searching and reporting aren’t always enough. The added value comes from analytics: turning data into information

One of the terms most recently in danger of becoming a buzzword has been "analytics." Put it together with the words "big" and "data," and it starts reaching critical mass. Everyone claims to be doing it; figuring out what's real is harder.

You can think of security analytics as information used to drive risk management or incident response decisions (that is, proactive or reactive security decisions). As such, the information is made security-relevant and useful by using data manipulation such as statistical analysis; comparisons against historical data, policies or other previously made decisions; correlation and connection-mapping with disparate data types; false-positive and false-negative identification; various methods of visualization; and other proprietary algorithms and techniques. The data that is manipulated in this fashion may range from events, states and alerts captured by security products, to the output of quantified risk modeling, social media data, directory listings, world news events, or any other searches that are deemed a part of the decision model.

Please note that this excludes the mechanisms of searches themselves, or formatting processes such as de-duping. The result of these searches is what undergoes further manipulation by the analysis process. There's a distinction between searching and/or reporting versus analytics.

Here are the kinds of decisions or statements you can infer using analytics: many of them involve a comparison against a timeline, a policy, or even a belief.

"This series of events should never have happened within this application."

"This user is providing input too quickly; we think this is automated."

"It's four in the morning in that country, not business hours. Why are we getting traffic from them?"

"It's physically impossible for this user to have logged in from two locations 500 miles away within the space of ten minutes. Something's going on."

"We're not going to put more money into this technology until we see security incidents that cost us at least 50% of our current budget." (I'm not pretending that this makes a lot of sense, but let's go with it.)

Before you can start with analytics, you need to start with a model. What questions do you want to answer, and how will you know when you've gotten an answer? What will you consider to be sufficient accuracy or precision in the answer (these are not the same thing)? From there, you can look at the data you have available, and see whether that data can address your requirements. You also need to think about how you will use that data to get to an answer, whether it's manual analysis, automated, or a combination of both. The industry is full of patent-holding mathematicians and data scientists who have come up with ways of automating analysis that had to be done by people before; this is especially important as the volume of available data goes up and the need for speed increases.

So when you're evaluating an "analytics" product, think about what questions it's assuming you have, and see how it answers them. Even more importantly, make sure it's flexible enough to be able to address new questions as they come along. When used right, analytics can help you make better security decisions.

Wendy Nather is Research Director of the Enterprise Security Practice at the independent analyst firm 451 Research. You can find her on Twitter as @451wendy. Wendy Nather is Research Director of the Enterprise Security Practice at independent analyst firm 451 Research. With over 30 years of IT experience, she has worked both in financial services and in the public sector, both in the US and in Europe. Wendy's coverage areas ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-4467
Published: 2015-01-30
WebKit, as used in Apple iOS before 8.1.3, does not properly determine scrollbar boundaries during the rendering of FRAME elements, which allows remote attackers to spoof the UI via a crafted web site.

CVE-2014-4476
Published: 2015-01-30
WebKit, as used in Apple iOS before 8.1.3; Apple Safari before 6.2.3, 7.x before 7.1.3, and 8.x before 8.0.3; and Apple TV before 7.0.3, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (memory corruption and application crash) via a crafted web site, a different vulner...

CVE-2014-4477
Published: 2015-01-30
WebKit, as used in Apple iOS before 8.1.3; Apple Safari before 6.2.3, 7.x before 7.1.3, and 8.x before 8.0.3; and Apple TV before 7.0.3, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (memory corruption and application crash) via a crafted web site, a different vulner...

CVE-2014-4479
Published: 2015-01-30
WebKit, as used in Apple iOS before 8.1.3; Apple Safari before 6.2.3, 7.x before 7.1.3, and 8.x before 8.0.3; and Apple TV before 7.0.3, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (memory corruption and application crash) via a crafted web site, a different vulner...

CVE-2014-4480
Published: 2015-01-30
Directory traversal vulnerability in afc in AppleFileConduit in Apple iOS before 8.1.3 and Apple TV before 7.0.3 allows attackers to access unintended filesystem locations by creating a symlink.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
If you’re a security professional, you’ve probably been asked many questions about the December attack on Sony. On Jan. 21 at 1pm eastern, you can join a special, one-hour Dark Reading Radio discussion devoted to the Sony hack and the issues that may arise from it.