Product Reviews

What Is User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA)?

Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important to businesses of all sizes. It’s now common for even small companies to use a wealth of tools such as SIEMs, firewalls, and VPNs to protect against intrusion.

Hackers, however, are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Their success depends on their ability to conduct attacks without being detected by such tools. And they often succeed in doing so. One potential solution to this is known as User and Entity Behavior Analytics.

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So what is UEBA, and should your business be using it? Let’s find out below.

What Is User and Entity Behavior Analytics?

UEBA is a cybersecurity solution that uses large data sets to model network activity. It analyses both the users of a network and the network itself, such as routers and IoT devices. It then looks for suspicious activity and alerts a business whenever such activity is detected.

It achieves this by creating a baseline of what normal activity on a network looks like. It then uses machine learning to detect abnormal behavior automatically.

It’s popular because many cybersecurity products are trained to primarily look for malware. Hackers can defeat such software by entering a network and simply not installing any malicious files.

In contrast to this, UEBA can look for anything abnormal. This allows it to detect more sophisticated attacks that don’t match known threats.

How Does UEBA Work?

UEBA solutions typically have three primary components: Analytics, Integration, and Presentation. Let’s look at them in brief:

Analytics

UEBA analyses the behavior of all network users and devices. Doing so creates a baseline that illustrates what a network looks like when an attack is not occurring. Statistical models are then used to determine when a user or device behaves in a way that it should not.

Integration

UEBA solutions are typically designed to integrate with other security software. Your business is probably already tracking network behavior, and your UEBA product should be able to collect data from such products automatically.

Presentation

UEBA doesn’t usually take action against threats. Instead, it’s designed to present its data to the IT staff for further investigation. This can be as simple as sending an alert. But many UEBA products also produce graphs and other statistical data that staff can use to perform additional analysis.

What Does UEBA Protect Against?

UEBA can protect against various threats that other security products may not. Let’s see what they are, shall we?

Insider Threats

Security software often finds it difficult to detect insider threats. While a SIEM may easily detect a network intrusion, it may not detect that somebody already inside a network is doing something they’re not supposed to. A properly configured UEBA will understand how users normally behave and should generate an alert if a user starts doing something else.

Compromised User Accounts

If a user is behaving abnormally, it isn’t always caused by an insider threat. It can also mean that an attacker has stolen the user’s account. Business employees are regularly targeted by phishing, and compromised user accounts are therefore a common occurrence. A UEBA can detect comprised accounts as soon as the attacker begins doing something out of the ordinary.

Privilege Escalation

Privilege escalation occurs when a user is granted additional privileges to access other parts of a network. This is something that a hacker would benefit from. A UEBA can be set to detect whenever a user’s privileges are increased and send out an alert for investigation.

Brute Force Attacks

Brute force attacks involve repeated attempts to access user accounts and networks. Because this is obviously not within normal behavior, it can easily be detected by a UEBA. In this scenario, a UEBA may generate an alert, or it can be set up to kick the attacker off automatically.

Restricted Information Access

A UEBA can monitor who accesses confidential information. It can therefore prevent data breaches by generating an alert whenever a user accesses something not required for their work.

UEBA vs. SIEM

Security Information and Event Management tools are similar to UEBA but not quite the same. SIEM tools also analyze a network and generate alerts whenever suspicious activity is detected.

The difference is that SIEM only generates an alert when an attacker does something that’s known to be malicious. So, if an attacker is careful, they can still enter a network and avoid detection.

UEBA is designed to detect attacks, not due to malicious behavior but due to behavior that’s outside the norm. This allows it to detect attacks that do not match any known threats.

Many SIEM tools now incorporate UEBA for this reason, but the majority do not.

Should All Businesses Use UEBA?

All businesses should consider using a UEBA solution, but like many new cybersecurity solutions, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons before implementing it.

UEBA is capable of detecting threats that SIEM would not. It’s also capable of picking up threats that security staff may miss. This added protection is often worth investing in, considering the losses incurred after a successful cyberattack.

UEBA solutions also provide automated protection. This may allow a business to have a smaller cybersecurity department and, consequently, provide significant wage savings.

The downside of UEBA is that it is expensive to implement. It may be outside the budget of many small businesses while not being strictly necessary. Implementing a UEBA solution will also require the staff to be trained to use it, adding additional costs.

UEBA is also not a suitable replacement for other cybersecurity products. While a SIEM product may include UEBA, UEBA is not a replacement for SIEM or any other security products a business already has.

UEBA Offers Superior Protection

UEBA products offer a significant improvement over standard SIEM products and are capable of identifying threats that would otherwise go undetected. While SIEM often struggles with insider threats, UEBA can automatically detect unusual network activity by authorized users.

Whether or not UEBA is right for your business depends on your cybersecurity budget. While UEBA is superior, the high cost of installation, and the fact that it doesn’t replace other products, is an obvious downside.

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