Episode 6 – Cybersecurity Alerts: 6 Steps To Manage Them

Is your Security Ops team overwhelmed by cybersecurity alerts? In this episode of The Infralytics Show, Shankar, Founder, and CEO of Skedler, describes the seemingly endless number of cybersecurity alerts that security ops teams encounter. 

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The Problem Of Too Many Cybersecurity Alerts

Just to give you an understanding of how far-reaching this problem is, here are some facts. According to information published in a recent study by Bitdefender, 72% of CISOs reported alert or agent fatigue. So, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. A report published by Critical Start found that 70% of SOC Analysts who responded to the study said they investigate 10+ cybersecurity alerts every day. This is a dramatic increase from just last year when only 45% said they investigate more than 10 alerts each day. 78% spend more than 10 minutes investigating each of the cybersecurity alerts, and 45% reported that they get a rate of 50% or more false positives. 

When asked the question, If your SOC has too many alerts for the analysts to process, what do you do? 38% said they turn off high-volume alerts and the same percentage said that they hire more analysts. However, the problem that arises with the need to hire more analysts, is that more than three quarters of respondents reported an analyst turnover rate of more than 10% with at least half reporting a 10-25% rate. This turnover rate is directly impacted by the overwhelming number of cybersecurity alerts, but it raises the question, what do you do if you need to hire more analysts to handle the endless number of alerts, but the cybersecurity alerts themselves are contributing to a high SOC analyst turnover rate. It seems a situation has been created where there are never enough SOC analysts to meet the demand. 

To make matters worse, more than 50% of respondents reported that they have experienced a security breach in the past year! Thankfully, you can eliminate alert fatigue and manage alerts effectively with these 6 simple steps.

A woman looks overwhelmed over cybersecurity alerts on her laptop.

The Solution To Being Overwhelmed By Cybersecurity Alerts

1. Prioritize Detection and Alerting

According to Shankar’s research, step 1 is that business and security goals and the available resources that you have at your disposal to use to achieve them must prioritize threat detection and alerting. Defining what your goals are is a great way to start. Use knowledge of your available resources to better plan how you are going to respond to alerts and how many you will be able to manage per day. 

2. Map Required Data

Step 2 is to map your goals and what you are trying to achieve to the data that you are already capturing. Then you can see if you are collecting all of the required data to adequately monitor and meet your security requirements. Identify the gaps in your data by completing a gap analysis to see what information you are not collecting that needs to be collected, and then set up your telemetry architecture to collect the data that is needed.

3. Define Metrics Based Cybersecurity Alerts

Step 3 is to define metrics based alerts. What type of alerts are you going to monitor? Look for metric-based alerts that often search for variations in events. Metric based alerts are more efficient than other types of alerts, so Shankar recommends this to those of you who are at this step. You should augment your alerts with machine learning.

Definitely avoid cookie cutter detection. The cookie cutter approach is more of a one size fits all organizations approach that most definitely will not be the best approach for YOUR organization. Each organization has its own unique setup, and you need to have your own setup that is derived from your own security goals.  Also, optimize event-based detection but keep these to a minimum so that your analysts do not end up getting overwhelmed by the alerts.

4. Automate Enrichment and Post-Alert Standard Analysis

Once you have set up these rules, the next step is to see how you can automate some of the additional data that your analysts need for their analysis. Can you automate the enrichment of the alert data so that your analysts don’t have to go and manually look for additional data to provide more context to the alerts? Also, 70-80% of the analysis that an analyst goes through as part of the investigation of an alert is very standard. So ask yourself, is it possible to automate it?

5. Setup a Universal Work Bench

  • Use a setup similar to what Kanban or Trello uses where you have a queue and the alerts that need to be investigated are moved from one stage to the next. This will help you keep everything organized. This can help you arrange the alerts in order of importance so that your analysts know which alerts to address first.
  • Add enriched data to these alerts, so automate the enrichment process to make sure it is readily available for your analysts through the work bench.
  • Provide more intelligence to the alerts (adding data or whatever else is needed to provide context). This will help you provide a narrative for the alerts and this will help you use immersion learning to come up with recommendations that your security analysts can investigate.

These first five steps are not intended to be a one time initiative but rather a repetitive process where each step can be perfected over a long period. 

6. Measure and Refine

  • Continuous improvement – measure the effectiveness of your alert system. How many alerts are flowing into the system, how much time is it taking for your analysts to investigate each of the alerts, and what is the false-positive rate vs. the true-positive rate.
  • Iterative approach- Think of a sprint-based approach? What changes can you make to improve your results in the next sprint iteration? Add more data or change your alert algorithms for different results and be more precise.

By making regular changes to improve your results, you can reduce the operations costs of your organization and provide more security coverage, reducing the overall likelihood of a major cybersecurity breach.

If you are looking for alerting and reporting for ELK SIEM or Grafana that is easy to use check out Skedler. Interested in other episodes of the Infralytics Show? Check out our blog for the Infralytics Show videos and articles in addition to other informative articles that may be relevant to your business!

Episode 5 – Elasticsearch Data Leaks: Top 5 Prevention Steps

For this week’s episode, Shankar discussed Elasticsearch data leaks with Simone Scarduzio, Project Lead at ReadOnlyREST, a security plugin for Elasticsearch and Kibana. Before we jump into the interview on how you can prevent an Elasticsearch data leak, here is some context on why this topic is especially relevant today.

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Recent Elasticsearch Data Leaks

There were three instances of massive data leaks involving Elasticsearch databases just in the week prior to our interview with Simone. 

  1. An Elasticsearch database containing the records of 2.5 million customers of Yves Rocher, a cosmetics company, was found unsecured. 
  2. A database containing the personal data of the entire population of Ecuador (16.6 million people) was found unsecured. 
  3. An Elasticsearch database containing personally identifiable information linked to 198 million car buyer records was found unsecured.

The frequent occurrence of Elasticsearch database data leaks raises the question, “How can we prevent a data leak in Elasticsearch data stores?” For the answer, we interviewed an Elasticsearch security expert and asked his opinion on the top 5 data leak prevention techniques.

What are the Root Causes of These Data Leaks?

The common theme among these different data leaks regarding what caused them was related to the outsourcing contracts. Contracts should not only include the functional requirement but should also include a security requirement. The good thing is that solutions already exist and they are free. 

If you think about Amazon Elasticsearch Service, it’s very cheap and convenient. However, you can’t install any plugin in Amazon because it’s blocked. So a developer will just find a way around this problem without a viable security plugin, which ultimately leaves the database vulnerable. So a lot of the issue has to do with how Amazon built the Amazon Elasticsearch Service. They split the responsibility for security between the user and the infrastructure manager, which is them (Amazon), so Amazon is not contractually liable for the problems that arise regarding security.

Amazon allows anyone to open up an Elasticsearch cluster without any warning. Simone says he “does not agree with this practice. Amazon should either avoid it or have a very big warning” so that data leaks like the three recent ones can be avoided.

Another problem is that the companies that had these clusters exposed had a massive amount of data accumulated, and Simone says that “even if it was secure, it is not a good practice and the entities that created the GDPR would not agree with the practice” of holding that much data in such a way. It is almost like they were inviting a data breach.

5 Ways To Prevent An Elasticsearch Data Leak

Represents caution on the internet or on a computer because of Elasticsearch data leak potential.

If you have an Elasticsearch cluster and want to keep it protected follow these rules:

  1. Remember that data accumulation is a liability and you should only collect what is necessary at all times. Every piece of data should have an expiration date. 
  2. Every company from the minute they obtain user data should accept the responsibility it comes with and should center their attention on the importance of data handling and data management. Outsource access to the data less, but keep all of the different objectives of the different actors in line at all times.
  3. Use security plugins. When you accumulate data, the security layer should be as close as possible to the data itself.
  4. Use encryption on the http interface and between the Elasticsearch nodes for next-level security.
  5. Rigorously implement local data regulations and laws like the GDPR in the European Union. 

If you are looking to increase the security for your elasticsearch cluster, using a security plugin is a great security measure to start with and can help you prevent a data leak from exposing your clients’ data. Learn more about ReadOnlyREST’s security plugin for Elasticsearch and Kibana here.

The Infralytics Show

Thanks for reading our article and tuning in to episode 5 of the Infralytics show. We have a great show planned for next week as well, so be sure to come back! Interested in checking out your past episodes? Here’s a link to episode 4.

Episode 4 – Let’s Go Phishing for Ransomware

Shankar Radhakrishnan, Founder of Skedler, recently sat down with the CEO of TCE Strategy, Bryce Austin, who is a Cyber Security Expert and Professional Speaker as well as the author of the book Secure Enough? 20 Questions on Cybersecurity. The topic of the discussion, phishing for ransomware, is incredibly important as many organizations and individuals around the world are exposed to the perils of phishing and ransomware attacks daily. Bryce was able to detail why hackers target individual accounts and what best practices organizations can employ to proactively mitigate attacks or handle the fallout after a phishing and ransomware attack. 

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Top Phishing Scenarios That Organizations Face

A recent report found that 64% of organizations have experienced a phishing attack in the past year. Research by IBM reveals that 59% of ransomware attacks originate with phishing emails and a remarkable 91% of all malware is delivered by email. This tells us that more users are seeing attacks, but since they are not trained in how to spot or handle them, they become a victim of them. With the volume and variety of phishing attacks on the rise, many organizations are struggling to keep up with the barrage of ransomware attacks that are constantly hitting their networks.

In order to combat these terrible attacks, we must first understand what they are and what their purpose is. Bryce explains that “phishing comes in many forms. It can be a vague email. It could be from someone you know. It could be from someone you know who says ‘I thought you might find this link interesting,’ and it tries to get you to click on a weblink.” Bryce goes on to detail how “it could [also] state ‘please see the file for the next, new, exciting thing in technology.’ Something vague and nondescript.” This is an incredibly important aspect of these attacks since many people open emails that interest them, even if they don’t know the sender. Once the individual clicks through, the hacker has everything they need in order to obtain remote access to the user’s desktop or copy their address book to carry out a phishing attack of epic proportions.

Phishing attacks

Best Practices For Safeguarding Your Company From Phishing Attacks

First and foremost, cybercriminals are interested in money. If they think that there is a reasonable chance of them getting money from a user or company, they will try. This is why, Bryce explains that “one of the biggest things you can do is to have cybersecurity awareness training for yourself and for anyone in your company.” In essence, Bryce tells us that, “Cybersecurity awareness training is cybersecurity 101. It’s the basics of what these phishing scams look like. That is far and above the #1 way to prevent it.”

Too often, employees aren’t familiar with the signs of ransomware and therefore make their companies vulnerable to attacks. This is why, to mitigate the risk of a phishing or ransomware attack, it’s imperative to provide regular and mandatory cyber security training to ensure all employees can spot and avoid a potential phishing scam in their inbox. You also need to look into endpoint detection and ensure that you have built a really strong security posture. This will give everyone from your frontline employees to your executives the tools they need to successfully squash a phishing attack in its tracks before it becomes a catastrophe.

Best Practices to Safeguard Phishing Attacks

Best Practices For Post-Phishing Attacks

If a threat actor successfully phishes an employee, it can provide them with access to the company’s entire network of resources. Bryce explains that “if a phishing attack is successful, it inherits whatever abilities the user has.” This means that a single phishing attack can provide a hacker with access to the organization’s sensitive financial and intellectual property data which can be devastating.

To combat the spread of a phishing attack once it has already made its way into your network, Bryce explains that a huge mitigating step is to “proactively remove local administrator rights so that users don’t log in as a local admin at the company.” This is similar to throwing sand on a roaring fire pit. It doesn’t undo what has already happened, but it can keep the damage from getting out of hand.

Don’t forget to subscribe and review us because we want to help others like you improve their IT operations, security operations and streamline business operations. If you want to learn more about Skedler and how we can help you just go to Skedler.com where you’ll find tons of information on Kibana, Grafana, and Elastic Stack reporting. You can also download a free trial at skedler.com/download so you can see how it all works. Thanks for joining. We hope you will tune in to our next episode!

Episode 3 – Are Today’s SOC Ready to Handle Emerging Cyber Threats?

Shankar Radhakrishnan, Founder of Skedler, recently sat down with the Director of Security Operations at Rocus Networks aka Corvid Cyber Defense, John Britton to discuss the top cyber threats that businesses face and if Security Operations Centers (SOCs) are prepared to handle them. John was able to provide a wealth of knowledge on these specific talking points and give us a higher level view of how cyber threats have evolved. Without further ado, let’s review the top cyber threats that plague businesses and if SOCs are up to the task of combatting these threats before they become an issue.

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Today’s Top Cyber Threats  

While small and midsized businesses are increasingly targets for cybercriminals, companies are struggling to devote enough resources to protect their technology from attack. John describes how “5 or 6 years ago, if someone wanted to go steal some money, they would go to a bank,” John goes on to explain that “today, the way that the internet has connected everybody and all businesses are now operationalized to be ‘always on,’ every organization is targetable.” These small businesses don’t have access to a large information technology staff and many don’t have expensive, sophisticated software designed to monitor their systems. This leaves them literally defenseless against these types of cyber-attacks.

John tells us that “the biggest thing that really affects any organization is the people because people make mistakes and they can be manipulated out of things.” This why being aware of the tactics and methods used by hackers implementing social engineering attacks and applying them to our everyday lives is the key to a solid defense. As more organizations experience these types of attacks, more will become aware of ways to internally combat them; in the meantime, it’s best to look to the guidance of an SOC to help you keep the ship afloat in rocky cyber waters. 

What Techniques are Hackers Using?

A recent Ponemon Institute-Keeper report showed that 66% of organizations surveyed have experienced a breach within the last 12 months. Since businesses are still proving to be vulnerable to cyberattacks, it’s clear that more needs to be done so they adapt to a fast-moving and ever-increasing threat landscape. In their quest to achieve this goal, businesses are continuing to invest in their IT security and systems.

John explains that “we find that, at least this year, that the biggest threat to any organization is social engineering.” One eye-opening statistic to understand is that 64% of companies have experienced web-based attacks with 62% experiencing phishing & social engineering attacks.  Social engineering attacks are especially dangerous because all it takes is one weak link in an organization to initiate a damaging event. Companies need to remain vigilant when it comes to cybersecurity, because social engineering is only going to get more sophisticated in the future.

Are SOCs Prepared to Handle These Threats? 

SMBs have continued to embrace mobile devices as a way to run their businesses recently which has led to an increase in convenience and efficiency that comes at a price. That price is the diminished role of cybersecurity in their companies. John explains that, in the future, “organizations are going to [need] security as a 24/7 monitoring, data retention, and policy assessments.” SOCs are well up to the task provide companies of all sizes with innovative solutions that are integrated to work efficiently, ensuring that they always have the strongest and most effective cybersecurity defense at their disposal.

Don’t forget to subscribe and review us below because we want to help others like you improve their IT operations, security operations and streamline business operations. If you want to learn more about Skedler and how we can help you just go to Skedler.com where you’ll find tons of information on Kibana, Grafana, and Elastic Stack reporting. You can also download a free trial with us, so you can see how it all works at skedler.com/download. Thanks for joining and we’ll see you next episode.

Episode 2 – Tactical Security Intelligence and Zero Trust Architecture: How to Adapt Your SIEM and SOC

Welcome to another episode of Infralytics. This episode brings together Shankar Radhakrishnan, Founder of Skedler, and Justin Henderson. Justin is a certified SANS instructor and a member of the Cyber Guardian Blue team at SANS, authoring a number of courses at SANS. Justin is also the Founder and lead consultant at H&A Security Solutions.

Together, Shankar and Justin discuss the intricacies of “Tactical Security Intelligence and Zero Trust Architecture: How to adapt your SIEM and SOC​” during their informative video podcast. Let’s recap their discussion and learn more about what sets tactical security intelligence and zero trust architectures apart from other cybersecurity approaches.

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What is Tactical Security Intelligence?

Tactical security intelligence provides information about the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by threat actors to achieve their goals (e.g., to compromise networks, exfiltrate data, and so on). It’s intended to help defenders understand how their organization is likely to be attacked, so they can determine whether appropriate detection and mitigation mechanisms exist or whether they need to be implemented.

What Sources of Data/Information Can Be Divulged?

Tactical security intelligence can divulge what tools threat actors are using during the course of their operations to compromise target networks and exfiltrate data. This type of information will usually come from post-mortem analyses of successful or unsuccessful attacks, and will ideally include details of the specific malware or exploit kits used. It can also identify the specific techniques that threat actors are using to delay or avoid detection. Justin Henderson tells us that most organizations are using tactical security intelligence to “[perform] critical alerting and monitoring back where the data normally resides. The best visibility to see the attacker doesn’t exist there, it exists earlier on like the desktops and laptops.”

Data Monitoring

How do you adapt your SIEM platform for effective tactical intelligence?

In some cases, tactical security intelligence will highlight the need for an organization to invest additional resources in order to address a specific threat. Your tactical security intelligence may lead you to implement a new security protocol or reconfigure an existing technology in order to simplify matters and continue driving innovation forward while averting serious threats. Unfortunately, incident response efficacy relies heavily on human expertise, therefore it can be more difficult to measure the impact of tactical threat intelligence when it comes to identifying serious threats. This is why when supplementing your SIEM platform with tactical security intelligence solutions, it’s best to implement a strong feedback loop between frontline defenders and your threat intelligence experts to ensure more robust network protection.

What is Zero Trust and How Does it Differ From Other Approaches?

Zero trust, as an approach is a reflection of the current, modern working environment that more and more organizations are embracing now. Under the zero trust approach, organizations trust nothing, but verify everything. This approach requires logging, authentication and encryption of all data communication. While it is impossible to fully implement zero trust, Justin Henderson tells us that the best way to go about managing Zero Trust is to “know a baseline, find deviations, then investigate.” The approach is considered as all-pervasive, capable of powering not only large, but also small-scale organizations across various types of industries.

Zero Trust

How Does Zero Trust Impact Your SOC?

To protect, adopting a zero trust approach may be your best bet for success as it allows your organization to seamlessly monitor suspicious activity. This real-time data exposure allows your IT team to reduce the potential for security exposure, thereby giving them the ability to leverage the power of their SOC immediately. Doing so can help your organization sidestep a data breach which can cost $3.9 million on average per a 2019 Ponemon Institute report.

Don’t forget to subscribe and review us below because we want to help others like you improve their IT operations, security operations and streamline business operations. If you want to learn more about Skedler and how we can help you just go to Skedler.com where you’ll find tons of information on Kibana, Grafana, and Elastic Stack reporting. You can also download a free trial with us, so you can see how it all works at skedler.com/download. Thanks for joining and we’ll see you next episode.

Episode 1 – AI Usage in Cybersecurity – is it hype/real? The Infralytics Show interview with Bharat Kandanoor, Head of Technology for Security and Cloud at Blue Ally

Shankar Radhakrishnan, Founder of Skedler, recently sat down with Bharat Kandanoor to discuss the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in cybersecurity. Bharat, who is the Technology Head for cybersecurity and cloud at Blue Ally, a managed service provider, was able to shed light on the intricacies of AI’s usage in cybersecurity processes. Let’s dive deep into understanding whether AI is an overhyped cybersecurity solution, how it is being used to tackle network security problems, and how AI may be able to create a better cybersecurity future for the end user.

See and listen to the Infralytics Show  interview with Bharat Kandanoor

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Is AI in Cybersecurity Overhyped or Not?

69% of enterprises believe AI will be necessary to respond to cyberattacks, with U.S.-based enterprises placing a more than 15% higher priority on AI-based cybersecurity applications and platforms than the global average when measured on a country basis. Is this level of AI adoption a response to measurable cyber threats that AI can help to remediate or is it merely an overhyped reach by firms around the world? Bharat Kandanoor tells us in our exclusive one-on-one video podcast that “Artificial Intelligence is being used as an overhyped terminology in general.” Bharat goes on to explain that “everyone expects using AI can solve lots of problems, but not necessarily can it do that.”

All in all, these AI tools will always have big drawbacks due to it being an overhyped solution. Bharat explains that “AI can give valuable actionable information, but at the end of the day, it is a human who can decide if the data is an anomaly or not.” It is with this human interaction that data anomalies can be found and analyzed by a human operator who is focused on the end goal of long-term data and network protection at all times.

Using AI to Tackle Cybersecurity Problems

AI has the ability to weed through the plethora of incident response data and find a solution exponentially faster than humans are able to. With AI, you can drill deeper into your data to pull out actionable insights that can help your team work more efficiently and effectively to detect anomalies using behavior analytics, network traffic analysis, and email scanning solutions for phishing/spear phishing attacks.

Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) struggling with cybersecurity have more to lose than their data and potential profits; the loss could stretch to their customers. AI-enabled technologies allow organizations of all sizes to implement a healthy security posture, from network monitoring and risk control to detecting rising cyber threats and recognizing the scam.  With more SMEs looking to AI as their silver bullet solution in the face of a current shortage of more than 3 million cybersecurity experts globally, SMEs can use AI to react to existing cyber threats and head off new ones.

Incorporating AI Into Your SME’s Cybersecurity Strategy

Even though SMEs believe AI will positively affect their business, uptake of AI solutions within SMEs has been slow, with just a 4% adoption rate per a 2019 report. No matter what the level of maturity is for an enterprise, it is vital that C-suite, IT, and security teams rationalize their existing technologies with solutions that can support their initiatives for a strong return on investment (ROI). Bharat explains that “It’s more of what fits into your use case and how you can make it work” when it comes to incorporating AI solutions into your cybersecurity plans. One AI solution may work for one SME where another may not. It’s just a matter of researching, testing, and finding the right solution for you.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Infralytics Show Channel and review us because we want to help others like you improve their IT operations, security operations and streamline business operations. If you want to learn more about Skedler and how we can help you just go to Skedler.com where you’ll find tons of information on Kibana, Grafana, and Elastic Stack reporting. You can also download a free trial with us, so you can see how it all works at skedler.com/download. Thanks for joining and we’ll see you next episode.

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