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The Growing Importance of Machine Learning in Cybersecurity

The need for increased data security was recently put as a top priority on the global cybersecurity agenda by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This regulation imposes all companies having access to the personal data of the EU citizens to adopt more secure approaches to managing customer data, protecting against its accidental loss or illegal destruction, theft, and unauthorized disclosure. According to a number of cyber security reports, more than 50  percent of enterprises across the world have at least one incident of a major data breach or network attack annually. As more innovations in digital technologies end up in wrong hands, hacker attacks become more and more sophisticated and disastrous. That is why more companies rely on the AI/ML cybersecurity innovation. However, how can Machine Learning actually be leveraged to improve cybersecurity and data security, in particular? This article will explain the answer in details.

What Is Machine Learning and why it is so important?

Our partner IBM defines Machine Learning as a branch of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and computer science which focuses on the use of data and algorithms to imitate the way that humans learn, gradually improving its accuracy. The machine learning process begins with observations or data, such as examples, direct experience or instruction. It looks for patterns in data so it can later make inferences based on the examples provided.

ML has proven valuable because it can solve problems at a speed and scale that cannot be duplicated by the human mind alone. With massive amounts of computational ability behind a single task or multiple specific tasks, machines can be trained to identify patterns in and relationships between input data and automate routine processes. Machine learning models are able to identify data security vulnerabilities before they can turn into breaches. By looking at past experiences, machine learning models can predict future high-risk activities so risk can be proactively mitigated.

Use of Machine Learning in Cyber Security

Cybersecurity is a set of technologies and processes designed to protect computers, networks, programs and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. In recent days, cybersecurity is undergoing massive shifts in technology and its operations in the context of computing, and data science is driving the change, where machine learning (ML), a core part of Artificial Intelligence can play a vital role to discover the insights from data.

Machine learning helps automate the process of finding, contextualizing, and triaging relevant data at any stage in the threat intelligence lifecycle. This could mean anything from finding dark web forum posts indicating a data breach, to detecting suspicious network activity in real time. To better understand previous cyber-attacks, and develop respective defence responses, ML can be leveraged in various domains within Cyber Security to enhance security processes, and make it easier for security analysts to quickly identify, prioritise, deal with and remediate new attacks.

The following points are just a few examples how Machine Learning can be used to aid security:

  • Automating Tasks

A great benefit of ML in cyber security is its capacity to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, such as triaging intelligence, malware analysis, network log analysis and vulnerability assessments. By incorporating ML into the security workflow, organisations can accomplish tasks faster, and act on and remediate threats at a rate that would not be possible with manual human capability alone. Automating repetitive processes means that clients can up or down scale easily, without changing the manpower needed, thus reducing costs in the process.

  • Threat Detection

Machine learning algorithms are used in applications to detect and respond to attacks. This can be achieved by analysing big data sets of security events and identifying patterns of malicious activities. ML works so that when similar events are detected, they are automatically dealt with by the trained ML model. In the case of security, by analysing millions of events, ML technologies learn to identify deviations from established norms. Instead of countering the latest threats after they have been identified like traditional systems do, ML can identify anomalies as they emerge. Against the background of quickly evolving threats, it’s not hard to see how valuable this is for protecting against data breaches and maintaining uptime and business continuity.

  • Increasing the speed of detection and response

AI and machine learning can easily analyze massive amounts of data in seconds, making it far faster than manually detecting threats. What’s more, they can implement patches and remediate threats in near real-time, dramatically improving response times. With the ability of today’s cyberattacks to quickly penetrate an organization’s infrastructure, razor fast detection and response is key to success.

  • Fraud Identification

Within the banking and finance industries, AI and ML models are being used as effective tools in identifying and preventing advanced attempts at fraud. Through predictive forecasting, models can build threat profiles to prevent fraud before it happens.

  • Provide endpoint malware protection

Algorithms can detect never-before-seen malware that is trying to run on endpoints.  It identifies new malicious files and activity based on the attributes and behaviors of known malware.

  • Protect data in the cloud

Machine learning can protect productivity by analyzing suspicious cloud app login activity, detecting location-based anomalies, and conducting IP reputation analysis to identify threats and risks in cloud apps and platforms.

  • Improving your overall security posture

With AI and machine learning, cybersecurity gets stronger over time as more data is analyzed and these technologies learn from past patterns to become more proficient at identifying suspicious activity. They also protect an organization’s infrastructure at both the macro and micro levels, creating more effective barriers than can be achieved using manual methods.

Cybersecurity is an essential consideration for any organization – especially as the world progresses digitally so fast. Cyber attacks are getting more sophisticated, requiring companies to up their game and respond in the same way. Whether preventing a future attack or analyzing why and how one happened in the past, using AI and ML models creates a faster, more comprehensive cybersecurity response.

The Advantages of Role-Based Access Control in Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is an advanced emerging technology and it is regarded as a computing paradigm in which resources in the computing infrastructure are provided as a service over the Internet. Cloud computing provides a platform to cut costs and help the users to focus on their core business instead of being impeded by information technology obstacles. However, this new paradigm of data storage service introduces some security challenges for the business. A great part of data owners are concerned that their data could be misused or accessed by the unauthorized users in the cloud storage system.

Cloud stores a large amount of sensitive information that can be shared by other users of the cloud. Hence, to protect this sensitive information from the malicious users, access control mechanisms are used. Here, each user and each resource is assigned an identity, based on which they may either be granted or denied access to the data. These methods are called identity-based access control methods. One of the examples of such method is Role-Based Access Control (RBAC).

Role-Based Access Control Method

To protect sensitive data from improper use, change or deletion, companies need a system to restrict employee access. Role-Based Access Control refers to a method for restricting data access based on a user’s role in the company. With RBAC, employees can access only the resources and files they need to fulfil their responsibilities. Their credentials allow or restrict access based on the tasks they are assigned, so the chance for data misuse is minimised.

RBAC systems can be especially useful in larger enterprises and in companies that use third-party contractors. As the number of employees increases and the authorized contractors change, it can be difficult to provide unique credential settings for each employee. Using a role-based access control system means that admins can sort employees or contractors into pre-existing groups, or roles, which grant access to a defined set of resources. This access is temporary, as the employees can also be removed from the group when the task is complete. Admins can also reset the permission levels for the groups, which means they can better manage employees at scale, increase efficiency, and even improve compliance.

RBAC enables administrators to divide users into groups based on the different roles they take on, and a single user can belong to multiple groups. Typically, employee access takes into consideration the person’s active status and roles, any security requirements, and existing policies. The best practice is to provide minimal authorization for any given user – only enough so that they can do their job. This is known as the principle of least privilege, and it helps ensure data security.

Benefits of RBAC

For many organizations, divided into multiple departments, with hundreds of employees often equipped with their own computers, the role-based access control system is the best solution to apply for optimal security. If implemented efficiently, RBAC has many benefits for both your team and the entire organization.

  • Reducing administrative work and IT support

When a new employee is hired or if a current worker changes his job position or department, role-based access control eliminates the need for time-wasting paperwork and password changes to grant and remove network access.  Instead, you can use RBAC to add and switch roles quickly and implement them globally across operating systems, platforms and applications. It also reduces the potential for error when assigning user permissions. This reduction in time spent on administrative tasks is just one of several economic benefits of RBAC. It also helps to more easily integrate third-party users into your network by giving them pre-defined roles.

  • Maximizing operational performance

RBAC systems also can be designed to maximize operational performance and strategic business value. They can streamline and automate many transactions and business processes and provide users with the resources to perform their jobs better, faster and with greater personal responsibility. With RBAC system implemented, organizations are better positioned to meet their own statutory and regulatory requirements for privacy and confidentiality, which is crucial for health care organizations and financial institutions. Directors, managers and IT staffers are better able to monitor how data is being used and accessed, for the purpose of preparing more accurate planning and budget models based on real needs.

  • Providing solid security and high business value

Low maintenance costs and increased efficiency are among the key benefits of RBAC as a security strategy for midsize and large organizations. Here’s how it works: Once all of the employee roles are populated into the database, role-based rules are formulated and workflow engine modules are implemented. Through these elements, role-based privileges can be entered and updated quickly across multiple systems, platforms, applications and geographic locations – right from the HR or IT manager’s desktop. By controlling users’ access according to their roles and the attributes attached to those roles, the RBAC model provides a companywide control process for managing IT assets while maintaining the desired level of security.

  • Role-Based Access Control Helps Protect Against Data Breaches

Roles can also help minimize damage caused by a data breach. Besides data encryption and other security measures built into the storage repository, user access limitations help seal off potential hackers and limit any adverse impacts arising from a breach. Businesses can alert users trying to view data that they don’t have proper access and prompt them to contact an administrator for additional access.

Many businesses utilize single sign-on (SSO) connected to Active Directory (AD) to authenticate users. Employees can then connect locally or log in with a VPN. Once the data lake verifies their information, it produces a signature of their identity and role. If an employee is accessing data in your cloud-hosted data lake remotely, it’s critical to secure their connection.

  • Better security compliance

All organizations are subject to federal, state and local regulations. With an RBAC system in place, companies can more easily meet regulatory requirements for privacy and confidentiality. Furthermore, IT departments and executives have the ability to manage how data is being accessed and used. This is especially significant for health care and financial institutions, which manage lots of sensitive data.

A core business function of any organization is protecting data in the cloud. RBAC system can ensure the company’s information meets privacy and confidentiality regulations. So, if your business does not have an established data governance plan, it is time to develop one. Moreover, learning to recognize the potential dangers and establish proper responses to a data breach will help you to react faster and minimize damage.

Why Identity and Access Management Is So Important In Preventing Data Breaches?

For better optimization of efficiency, agility, and to drive greater collaboration, it is essential for the enterprise to be able to share information, resources, and applications with external value chain partners in a trusted way. This article explores how Identity Access Management (IAM) provides the policies and processes for ensuring that the right people in the company have the right access to secure resources, at the right time, while improving security, productivity and visibility.

  • Identity Is Core To Data Security

In the era of globalization, enterprises are undertaking significant digital transformation initiatives to integrate more applications and automate processes to increase productivity and innovation. These initiatives frequently involve the integration of information technology with operational technology, even bridging security domains, through direct integration with value chain partners. Digital transformation initiatives deliver significant value, but potentially put more resources at risk and increase the enterprise security threat surface.

Moreover, enterprise managers require visibility into the organizations and must be able to delegate administration of people and resources to trusted individuals within the supplier organization if they want to have the agility they need. At the same time, they must be able to govern those external users are authorized to do. This practice requires regular processes where delegated administrators attest to users’ validity and the resources to which they have access for a complete audit trail and to ensure compliance.

At its core, Identity and Access Management  ensures that a user’s identity is authenticated to a high degree of assurance, and that the user is authorized to access the right services he or she needs. So, Access Management solutions provide authentication and authorization services and enforce user access policy to a company’s employees and customers across the web, mobile apps, and other digital channels. According to Data Breach Investigation Reports, 80% of data breaches involve compromised or weak credentials, and 29% of all breaches involve the use of stolen credentials. That means that passwords are the main point of vulnerability and the more frequently you have to request or change access for lost or forgotten passwords, the larger is the risk for your personal and professional data to be hacked.

When applied properly, advanced Identity and Access Management tools can help detect suspicious activities quickly whether they are committed by external or internal criminals. In fact, insiders who have highly privileged access pose the greatest risks as they may be disgruntled or have financial problems, therefore have the incentive and opportunity to commit a perfect crime. Highly technical users who have privileged access can also cover their tracks by modifying system logs. Sometimes, users also make mistakes and errors which can also be mitigated with IAM capabilities such as Multifactor-authentication and Role-based Access Control.

Products like Microsoft Identity Manager (MIM 2016) is able to synchronize identities between directories, databases and applications, which means that employees’ identities are managed wherever they are working from. It also provides increased admin security with policies, privileged access management and roles. This, combined with Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory (AAD) technology, provides additional cloud based self-service capabilities, secure remote access, single sign on, and multi-factor authentication.

How Can IAM Practices Prevent a Data Breach?

  • Automating the access privilege provision

For every new employee addition, you should assign all the privileges based on their roles and business rules. It’s better to have workflow automation. Besides, for every employee resignation or termination, you must ensure that all the privileges will be taken away automatically. This practice will help in limiting and preventing unnecessary privileges.

  • Privileged User Management

Basically, the organized attacks target the privileged accounts of the organization. Once a privileged account gets compromised, it increases the chances of a massive security breach. Social engineering and phishing attacks are some common ways of tricking privileged users in sharing their passwords. Such attacks can remain undetected for a long period and that is why it is recommended to implement privileged user management. Any access considered privileged should be assigned to a separate account within the system for which the access is granted, and such accounts should be assigned to the user after an appropriate review of the user’s duties and justification for both the privileged account and the specific access. Any privileged access defined or granted should be limited in both scope and the number of users to which it is assigned and tailored to the needs of the business.

  • Account and access reviews

A useful practice is to conduct Account and access reviews. This can be done periodically in smaller companies and even in larger companies, as well. For example, if a user changes jobs, you should trigger an access review based on changes in the user’s job code or department code. Access reviews can also be based on risk, or when users request certain types of access, i.e., conduct a review of all of user’s access if the user requests domain administrator access, or if a user’s risk score reaches a certain level. Access reviews should be done either by the entitlement owners, or the current manager.

  • Entitlements warehouse

It is a good approach to set up an entitlements warehouse, which identifies all the entitlements in all the systems within the organization, who is assigned to those entitlements, and includes risk rating and privileged access flags for each entitlement. The entitlements warehouse can also be used to conduct peer analytics to identify unusual patterns of entitlement assignments based on entitlements assigned to other users with similar job functions, or assigned to users in similar or the same department.

  • Compliance

Another reason why Identity and Access Management is important in preventing data breaches is because organizations must comply with increasing, complex and distributed regulations, and they must ensure and demonstrate an effective customer identification process, suspicious activity detection and reporting, and identity theft prevention. Identity and Access Management solutions can be leveraged to manage various regulatory requirements such as having a Customer Identification Program (CIP), Know Your Customer (KYC), monitoring for Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR), and Red Flags Rule for identity fraud prevention.

Identity and Access Management is regarded as complex and critical solution in managing security risks. Although technology is an important part of identity and access management which can be leveraged to support an organization’s cybersecurity objectives and strategy, effective IAM also requires processes and people for user onboarding and identity verification, granting and removing access, detecting suspicious activities, and keeping unauthorized users out of the systems. IAM can help organizations achieve operating efficiency and optimal security through advanced technology and automation such as adaptive, multi-factor, and biometric authentication.

How Much Identity and Access Management is Important for Keeping a Strong Data Security?

When we talk about identity, we should consider that it is a key factor in the context that defines today’s access policies. The trend of people working from hotel rooms, trains, cafés and homes increases day by day and IAM has become the primary element for ensuring that only authorised people from authorised locations access authorised resources.

Most security professionals know that there is no simple solution for protecting companies. It refers to a coordinated defence involving people, processes and tools that span anti-malware, application, server, and network access control, intrusion detection and prevention, security event monitoring, and more. But what about identity and access management (IAM) – our particular focus at PATECCO?

Actually IAM provides information about how employees and customers have accessed applications – who logged in when and what data they accessed. Corporations can use this information for security and forensics purposes and for understanding typical patterns of interaction, as well. For example: How employees work and how customers buy products and conduct transactions on the company’s website and mobile apps.

In our practice we always use the right IAM preventive and detective controls that help our customers to prevent, detect or mitigate the attack. It all starts with getting visibility and control over user access privileges for highly sensitive data or applications. This means putting in place IAM tools to ensure the right access controls are in place and that user access privileges conform to policy. We also ensure that a centralised directory is put in place. Those with admin access must be able to access this instantly, to view and modify access rights as and when needed. The other step is the creation of unique user accounts, so that every staff member has their unique ID and password. In this way, specific users can be traced via their credentials.

Automated workflows are also useful as they enable access request and approval to be managed with the option of several different levels of reviews and approval. Our IAM Professionals enforce a strong password policy which helps for preventing unauthorised access of this data.

Enforce the principle of least privilege is of a great importance because nobody should have access to any data other than data that is strictly needed for them to do their jobs. Furthermore, privileged users should have additional security controls placed on them. For example, multi-factor authentication can be useful.

The overall IAM process refers to co-operation between processes, people and technology. Implementing the right IAM controls can help you mitigate risks and more effectively protect critical resources and customers’ data. IAM systems prevent hackers from escalating privileges and gaining access to sensitive applications and data once they have compromised an employee’s credentials. IAM also helps to satisfy compliance mandates around separation of duties, enforcing and auditing access policies to sensitive accounts and data, and making sure users do not have excessive privileges. It also ensures maintenance of strong vigilance and prevention of threats that can be identified.

The Role of Identity and Access Management in the Digital Era

The transformation of the digital business world is connected to many challenges concerning moving forward to new technologies and shifting the focus to agile and flexible environments. As the number of digital identities rises, the need to protect and manage how personal information is collected, used and distributed, is higher than ever. When digital identities are not secured or distributed properly, the exposure of information is guaranteed. Companies must also make sure that existing applications and these new digital services are consistently managed in terms of security, reliability, and scalability.

The cloud, Internet of Things and digitalization are driving the evolution of IAM.

Nowadays security technologies such as cloud access control, user behaviour analytics, multifactor authentication, and mobile threat defence for example are on the rise. These modern security technologies will help firms establish security architectures which are fit for purpose for the mobile and cloud era in computing and a new age in data compliance under GDPR.

The Internet of Things has a great role in digital transformation by enhancing customer’s buying experiences and allowing businesses to be more connected. Customers constantly seek a personalized, satisfying experience when it comes to the businesses they interact with. They are always looking to connect to vendors however and wherever they want. Moreover, with the explosion of connected devices forming the Internet of Things, millions of devices need digital identities to manage what information they send and to whom. Companies must be aware how to manage all the external identities that get in touch with them? How to give users access to the resources they need to drive their success? In what ways they make sure all interactions are secure, authorized and compliant? Do they even know when an employee of a partner organization no longer works at that organization, or do they take access with them to their new employer?

To protect their data, the enterprises need Identity and Access Management (IAM) to make sure the right users have access to the right resources, at the right time, and for the right reasons. This not only applies to their company data, but also to business partners and employee details. In many cases, data privacy, agreements, and compliance regulations demand that this data is secured. APIs also need to be managed from a security perspective, and a determination needs to be made on which systems and users can be trusted to access an API, and which systems APIs can interact with. The right IAM and API Management tools provide the companies with all the flexibility they need to control this, and protect the data while their processes run smoothly.

To be technology-ready and to protect digital transformation in various scenario, the companies should focus on several key actions:

  • To provide secure access with modern, mobile multi-factor authentication.

In the digital ecosystem, it’s critical to protect the sensitive corporative data and to prevent the risk of a breach. Identity and Access Management solutions represent technologies that use access control engines to enable centralized access using methods, providing secure and productive environment. Adding multi-factor authentication to digital workspaces is a good approach for organizations to transform secure access to help manage that risk.

  • To enable interactions and interoperability in the Digital Ecosystem

Innovative identity solutions not only foster trusted interactions among organizations in the digital ecosystem, but they also enable interoperability between the various technologies.

  •  improve scalability

The cloud is foundational enabler of digital transformation projects and offers the scale and speed that is needed for businesses to focus on transformation. The cloud will provide business with the ability to quickly and efficiently transform their process, embrace the digital transformation and use its benefits.

If you are willing to learn more about IAM best practices,  download PATECCO latest E-Guide here: