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Predicting Future Online Threats with Big Data

Cyber crime and online threats are on the rise, a rapid rise. Ponemon Institute and Accenture published a study in 2017 which found that the net increase in average annual number of security breaches is estimated at a staggering 27.4%. To counter this rapid increase, new methods are also on the rise that employ inventive and sophisticated methods to detect, prevent and predict future online threats. The main driver behind these new methods is big data.

The term “Big Data” doesn’t only apply to the size of the data but it is a term largely used to describe a significantly large data set that is used for analysis. Typically, big data analysis aims to find certain patterns and trends.

Wikipedia defined big data as follows:

The term “big data” tends to refer to the use of predictive analytics, user behavior analytics, or certain other advanced data analytics methods that extract value from data, and seldom to a particular size of data set.”

Big data is playing an important role in online cyber security since it has provided new possibilities to analyze threats and from solutions based on such analysis. While big data has provided new opportunities, it also has opened the door to new threats in regards to hackers that use big data to explore new holes in security systems. That being said, in this article I’ll emphasize how big data is – and can be – used to predict future online threats rather than how it is used by hackers and cyber criminals to develop new malicious software or break into systems.

Big data is often used as risk management. For example, well-established security companies like SophosLab use tools to analyze data in order to categorize online security threats. Furthermore, SophosLab can draw a realistic painting based on vast quantities of data from various sources and break down the complexity into clear visualizations, which is a fundamental pillar to predicting online threats.

How Is Big Data Used Against Online Threats

As mentioned before, big data analysis plays an important role in the battle against online threats. Big sets of data can be used in various areas and identify unique threats. Here are a few examples what big data can accomplish.

  • Network Vulnerabilities – In order to protect networks, big data is used to digest and analyze the network which tells what databases are vulnerable to hackers. This is particularly important when it comes to databases that store vast quantities of sensitive information such as IDs, addresses, email accounts, payment information, etc. By identifying potential weaknesses in a network based on big data analysis, security companies are able to eliminate potential online threats and be one step ahead of hackers.
  • Detect Irregularities – The ability to detect anomalies in a network, which basically means the ability to identify future threats without exactly knowing what kind of attributes to look for at the start of an analysis. However, by going through large sets of data, analysts can determine potential correlations based on data silos in order to get a better understanding of the original core of the online attack(s).
  • Detect Irregularities in Online Behavior – When we talk about anomalies in online behavior, it’s mainly focused on internal company analysis. For example, company data can be used to analyze behavior patterns of employees and third-party contractors who have access to a network. Doing such analysis can lead to the identification of abrupt changes in online behavior of employees. This can kick-start an investigation to employees who potentially leak or download information to other (unwanted) parties. For example, Apple recently warned all its employees, distributors and suppliers to stop leaking information. Though, this isn’t directly linked to online threats (but for the sake of the example), it employs the same method.
  • Detect Irregularities in Device Use – The exact same method as listed above can be used in the analysis of device behavior. Especially large international corporations with many employees can use big data to prevent and predict changes in device behavior. Any device (e.g. computer or smartphone) of any employee can be used by hackers to access a network or database to hijack data. Malicious software such as a trojan, phishing email or a virus can be used by hackers to steal data or disrupt online systems. Big data can be used to put a hold to such an attack and also future risks can be analyzed and preventative actions can be taken in order to enhance online security.

Cyber Security Corporations

Companies like SophosLab, Kaspersky and Bitdefender are constantly analyzing large sets of data to predict and prevent new types of malware. These companies still rely a lot on responsive methods to new breaches, but big data is increasingly more important to push a shift to a preventative state. That means that cyber security companies use big data to predict new gaps in protection software, malware threats and other types of online threats and implement changes to their security software to patch out holes – even before it was ever a threat.

About the Author

Bill Hess is founder of PixelPrivacy.com. His blog is all about making the world of online security accessible to everyone. He prides himself in writing guides that  even his own mom could read! Head over to his blog if you’re interested in keeping your private information just that: Private!

 

 

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