UEBA is Transforming Cyber Defense—Here’s How

Today, we’re diving deep into the world of user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA). It’s one of those catchy acronyms that has moved its way into our cyber lingo. But what is it exactly? And why should we care?

The Evolution of UEBA

As organizations grow and expand their digital footprints, they need to keep tabs on what’s happening within these complex digital environments. Primarily, they need to understand user behaviors and decipher what’s normal and what’s not within a given network.

Standalone Digital Detective
Initially, UEBA stood as a distinct entity, an isolated solution meticulously crafted for monitoring user activities across networks and systems.

Picture this: in a massive, bustling digital city, UEBA worked as the sharp-eyed detective. Always on the lookout, it scoured every digital alley and corridor, continuously keeping an eye out for anything amiss. It wasn’t just looking for unauthorized access; it was also looking to comprehend nuanced deviations in regular patterns. This digital detective tracked the usual logins or files accessed and also assessed the time of activity, the frequency, the data flow, and a myriad of other factors.

The goal? To zero in on the anomalies, the unexpected actions that could indicate potential threats or breaches. Every user, whether a person or a system process, has a behavioral pattern. UEBA’s mission was to understand these patterns inside out. So, if a user typically accessed a system during work hours and there’s suddenly activity in the dead of night, UEBA would raise a flag. It’s this intricate dance of observing, learning, and alerting that made UEBA an invaluable asset in the world of cybersecurity.

Collaborative Investigative Team
However, threat actors soon sharpened their tools and tactics. Cyberthreats became more than brute force attacks or basic phishing attempts—they transformed into highly sophisticated endeavors, leveraging AI, deep learning, and other advanced technologies to breach defenses.

Organizations had to evolve their defenses in tandem. It became clear that while UEBA worked well on its own, an organization’s defenses would be stronger if its cybersecurity tools worked together. Think of it like this: UEBA was that ace detective with specialized skills, but even the best detectives can achieve more when they collaborate with experts from other domains.

This shift toward integration was a eureka moment for cybersecurity. Tools like security information and event management (SIEM) systems, which primarily focused on logs and event data, suddenly had a new dimension to consider: user behavior. Similarly, data loss prevention (DLP) systems, which traditionally protected data at rest, in motion, or in use, now had a new lens through which to view potential threats.

When integrated with UEBA, these tools gain the ability to contextualize data. More than simply recognizing that an unauthorized file transfer took place, organizations can now understand the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” behind it. Was it a user’s regular activity? Was the file transferred to a known or unknown location? Did the user behavior before the transfer suggest any anomaly? By adding this behavioral layer, cybersecurity tools became more astute and discerning.

In short, this integration phase was an important step in cybersecurity—it made tools sharper, more context-aware, and ultimately, more adept at safeguarding digital assets in an increasingly complex cyber environment.

UEBA Today

In today’s interconnected digital landscape, UEBA acts as a comprehensive overlay, accentuating various systems’ depth and detail. This overlay grants systems a heightened sense of “smart intuition,” allowing them to proactively predict anomalies rather than just react to them. It’s akin to our cars not just warning us of nearby objects, but also foreseeing potential collisions based on our driving patterns.

As UEBA seamlessly integrates into this intricate web of technology, it ushers in a future where security is predictive, intelligent, and remarkably in tune with both human and machine behaviors.

UEBA Tomorrow

In the coming years, UEBA is set to tap deeper into the realms of AI and machine learning, enhancing systems’ proficiency in distinguishing genuine threats from false alarms. Moreover, as our homes and offices get inundated with IoT devices, UEBA could be crucial in deciphering device behavior, ensuring that even our smart appliances remain uncompromised. Additionally, we should anticipate a more user-centric UEBA experience, marked by intuitive interfaces and streamlined insights that cater to both novice and expert users.

Purchase Considerations

When organizations consider the formidable capabilities of UEBA, it’s important to start with a comprehensive review of their existing security framework. This entails delving deep into their current systems, understanding their strengths and challenges, and pinpointing where UEBA can be most transformative. It’s about seeking those pivotal junctures where behavior analytics can bring about the most meaningful change.

While the allure of UEBA might drive some to adopt it broadly from the get-go, a more measured approach often yields better results. Starting with a focused deployment, such as a pilot program, provides organizations with a valuable opportunity to understand a solution’s nuances, test its effectiveness in a controlled environment, and make necessary adjustments. This phased strategy minimizes potential disruptions and facilitates a smoother, more informed scaling up process later on.

The underlying power of UEBA is more than a solution’s sophisticated algorithms or its ability to discern anomalies. Its true potential is unlocked when a solution’s users—an organization’s cybersecurity teams—harness it adeptly. This underscores the significance of regular and rigorous team training. Teams equipped with the right knowledge can tailor UEBA to their organization’s unique needs, ensuring maximum impact.

Next Steps

To learn more, take a look at GigaOm’s UEBA Key Criteria and Radar reports. These reports provide a comprehensive view of the market, outline the criteria you’ll want to consider in a purchase decision, and evaluate how a number of vendors perform against those decision criteria.

If you’re not yet a GigaOm subscriber, you can access the research using a free trial.