Graphical Tools Help Security Experts Track Cyber-Attacks in Real time

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-06-17 Print this article Print

"You can see where bad transactions are coming from," Reagan said, "We've seen where you can combine the physical world and the network world and do a geospatial fly-in." Cyber-defense researchers are learning much from the casino gaming industry in Las Vegas, such as the need to put relationships to events and to the people behind the events, according to Reagan.

"You watch a person and who that person knows," he said, adding that by learning about those relationships, specialists can start to see the threats ramp up, and the forces being gathered before a cyber-attack begins. "Can see 'missions' against agencies," he said. "We can see the DDoS [distributed denial of service] buildup; see commands to the botnet start up." He said that by learning the relationships, cyber experts can find out what else a particular server has done and know what role it plays in the attack.

"The process uses predictive analytics," said Eric De Roos, senior director of Business Technology for MicroStrategy in Tyson's Corner, Va. "We can see events leading up to a DDoS attack. We'll get a flood of requests from a huge number of machines, and we can predict that this is going to happen."

De Roos said that when looking at events in real time, such as when observing a cyber-attack, it's important to be able to change metrics and views dynamically to reflect what's needed for a specific visualization at a particular time.

Unfortunately just because these advanced visualization tools are available doesn't mean they're being used. "We don't have a lot of visualization specialists in the security world," Reagan said. "Most security practitioners aren't steeped in analytics, but this is an analytics game. We have to get good at that to solve the problem."

What's worse is that the size of the problem is going to continue to grow. Cyber-criminals aren't letting grass grow under their feet either. Attacks continue to get more sophisticated, the attackers learn to employ their own advanced techniques, and the rewards for cyber-crime continue to rise.

Because the nature of attcks has changed, the need is already upon us to harness the analytic power that's available through the use of big data to fight off the attacks, to find out where the attackers are and to neutralize them. As one cyber-security specialist said to me recently, "We have to be right every time; they only have to be right once."

Fortunately, by using advanced analytics and visualization, cyber-defenders can help ensure that they're right every time.



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