SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Gary Audin
Gary Audin is the President of Delphi, Inc. He has more than 40 years of computer, communications and security...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Gary Audin | October 30, 2015 |

 
   

Securing through Machine Learning -- Part 1

Securing through Machine Learning -- Part 1 Machine learning improves cyber security by providing threat detection based on hidden variables that are difficult for humans to analyze.

Machine learning improves cyber security by providing threat detection based on hidden variables that are difficult for humans to analyze.

People attack, machines attack. The volume of attacks is huge, but the number of cyber security specialists has not grown as much as demand, a trend I looked at in my previous No Jitter article, "Combating the Security Specialist Drought." In the absence of qualified professionals, machine learning can be applied to assist specialists and maybe even discover attacks and their patterns that the specialists may miss.

I recently read a blog written by Mike Stute, Chief Scientist at Masergy, which discussed the idea that machine learning can be applied to cyber security. I was inspired to reach out to him to gain a bit more of his insight, and I presented him with a series of questions via email. Mike is a data scientist and the prime architect for the Unified Enterprise Security platform at Masergy. He does R&D in data science and code prototype analysis systems.

What are some of the issues with manual cyber security practices?

Three big issues come to mind:

  1. Deployment of disparate security products that are not integrated makes it very difficult to perform intruder correlation. Feeding these into a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system makes it difficult to maintain a set of rules that continue to find the proper correlations to perform detection on the dynamic attack surfaces hackers are using.
  2. Companies often have a division between those who do security analysis (detection, vulnerabilities) and those who take actions to remediate problems (network engineers, system administration). It often takes time to correctly communicate between the teams and understand the varying priorities of each.
  3. The amount of data that security analysts are receiving is increasing as more and more communication devices are added to the network. This includes not only servers and workstations, but now phones, tablets, and even Internet-connected watches, which also often means a more complicated network with more network infrastructure devices like switches. The amount of data generated on a network is constantly increasing.
Are there staffing problems with this approach?

Right now there is a serious shortage of qualified security analysts. This problem also extends to security programmers, who are often needed to integrate products. Due to demand, in both cases, a lot of people have taken certification classes to transition from networking or programming analysts into security analysts -- but this does not provide them with real-world experience. This lack of experience in dealing with issues and coordinating multiple departments to solve issues often leaves large gaps in actions and awareness.

What is machine learning as applied to cyber security?

Right now machine learning (ML) is making progress versus standard sandbox or virus scanning. To explain at a fairly technical level, a sandbox is created to run an unknown executable, and the changes it makes in the sandbox environment is used heuristically to determine if the executable is malware. Virus scanning is similar, but it uses files at rest. There are problems with both of these cyber security processes.

Many executables don't exist on their own, but instead wait for user input on when to stop execution (File->Close). Sandboxing must run applications for a given period of time, and then kill the application to examine the sandbox. This can be defeated by an application performing tasks that appear safe for a given period of time before executing the actual payload on the real host since the sandbox shuts down too early. The sandbox can also be detected by an executable examining the environment in a subtle way, and once it determines it is in a sandbox, act differently to appear benign. Since each version of the product has a given set of sandboxes, hackers write libraries of code that detect such sandboxes.

ML is now being used to replace heuristic analysis with a learned profile. Since ML can detect the features of malware, it no longer has to be a scoring system. Instead, security specialists can rely on the ability of ML to detect and provide a degree of certainty to the detection. Using this system, more positive detections can be found by features instead of exact matches or scored matches. This will help defeat polymorphic viral code at rest, instead of introducing the limitations of a sandbox. When most companies speak of ML, they are referring to this type of learning which solves a classification problem.

How is machine learning improving cyber security?

ML improves cyber security by providing detection based on hidden variables that are difficult for humans to analyze. In all cases, given enough time, a team of data scientists can find such relationships in data, but this is often a slow process. By using ML, we can allow a system to do this for us. That means different attacks can be detected based on previous data, even if the attacks use different vectors. In other words, it moves from "heuristics" that require human learning to teach the system how to grade behaviors, to using features in the data that are often deeper and harder to find. This can be performed much faster since no human analysis is required.

The second way we are improving security is by using ML to handle big data problems like network behavioral analysis. In reality, there are a very large number of variables to detecting network behaviors by looking at network traffic. It is an enormous data set and new correlations and data patterns are added every month. To data scientists, this means that the number of variables used for detection is always increasing, so algorithms must be automatically multivariate and even independent to the number of variables. This is best handled by ML techniques such as support vector machines and deep belief networks.

Are attacks more commonly manual or automated?

Most attacks are automated, as many hackers have libraries of attack tools they use. These tools have been developed by manually attacking systems that are local to the developer. I can attack my own system using a given version of the operating system or application, determine how this works, and create an automated tool to perform the action. This tool might be manually targeted, but once initiated it will automatically perform all actions. That is not to say that these tools are not used in sequence with the output of one tool determining the next one to use, but whenever possible even that can be automated.

However, the dangerous ones are the manual attacks. They are usually slow and easily lost in a sea of normal traffic. At least for now, human intelligence is far greater than the capabilities of any machine, though that is changing rapidly, and someone applying his or her experience and intelligence for the sole purpose of intrusion can be a serious event.

Next week, in part two of this interview, I'll talk to Mike about how ML can be applied to detect abnormal behavior, whether ML can adapt to automated attacks, and where Masergy fits into the equation.





COMMENTS



Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem


Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

November 1, 2017

Your customers (internal and external) demand that you offer them the ability to connect by any means. With the adoption of cloud communications tools you now have access to an expanded portfolio o

October 18, 2017

Microsofts recent Ignite event had some critically important announcements for enterprise communications. Namely, Microsofts new Team Collaboration offering, Teams, will be its primary communicatio

September 20, 2017

Customer experience can make or break your business. But how do you achieve outstanding customer service when you're dealing with outdated organizational structure, lagging technology, dated proces

October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.