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Just a normal day in your organization and you a security administrator observed that a user is trying to access a server to which he doesn’t have access, since the log in was unsuccessful, and it just happened once you ignore the alert. However, the user is trying to access the server every 5 days and you find that suspicious. Not every time the security administrator will be able to observe the user’s behavior, for such cases User and Event Behavioral Analytics (UEBA) tools will help in better understanding and tracking of events.

In today’s article, we will discuss what is UEBA, how UEBA works, and the benefits of UEBA.

What is UEBA?

UEBA, which stands for User and Entity Behavior Analytics, is a form of security software that employs behavioral analytics, machine learning algorithms, and automation to detect unusual and potentially harmful behavior exhibited by users and devices.

Its primary strength lies in its ability to identify insider threats, including both malicious insiders and hackers who exploit compromised insider credentials. These threats are often difficult to detect using traditional security tools due to their resemblance to authorized network activity. Gartner introduced this series of security solutions in 2015.

How UEBA works?

The logic behind UEBA is quite simple, an attacker might get access to user credentials but once logged in mimicking that user’s behavior can be a bit tricky. So if an attacker logs in as a user and tries to do something out of the normal the UEBA alerts.

UEBA is based on creating baselines, UEBA solutions utilize machine learning to establish a standard or baseline for determining what is considered “normal” behavior within a network. Using this baseline as a reference, they can effectively identify potential threat actors and compromised systems.

To ensure the effectiveness of a UEBA (User and Entity Behavior Analytics) solution, it is necessary to have it installed on all devices utilized or connected to by each employee throughout the organization. This encompasses not only company-owned devices but also devices owned by individual employees, as even those used on a part-time basis can become vulnerable to cyberattacks. After this UEBA move into silent mode where it observes and starts collecting data for defining the baseline.

The main three components of this security solution are

  • Analytics: The system collects and organizes data to establish baseline profiles of user and entity behavior, encompassing application usage, communication patterns, download activity, and network connectivity, enabling the detection of anomalies through the application of statistical models.
  • Data: We can integrate UEBA with multiple security solutions which will help it to compare logs from multiple sources to make the system more robust
  • Use cases: This is the process of defining the appropriate response from UEBA when an event is observed, either just to create an alert or shut down network connectivity.

Three pillars of UEBA (Source: Imperva)

What is the difference between UBA and UEBA?

UBA or user behavior analytics is slightly different from UEBA, where it has an extra ‘E’ for entities, devices, or applications.

In October 2017, Gartner, a technology industry analyst firm, introduced the inclusion of the “E” in UEBA to emphasize the importance of profiling entities beyond just users, thereby enabling the security industry to better comprehend and identify threats with greater accuracy.

UEBA systems offer increased data volume and advanced reporting capabilities compared to the original UBA systems.

UEBA vs SIEM

SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) utilizes a sophisticated array of tools and technologies to provide a holistic perspective on IT system security, analyzing data and event information to identify regular patterns and trends while issuing alerts for abnormal trends and events. Similarly, UEBA (User and Entity Behavior Analytics) operates on a similar principle but instead focuses on user (and entity) behavior data to establish baselines of normalcy and identify deviations.

SIEM is rule-based which makes attackers easy to work around and find ways to evade the rules. SIEM is generally designed to capture real-time events but generally on a large-scale attack the attacker will stay dormant or move very slowly over the span of months or years, however, UEBA doesn’t have any such limitations which will help it to detect anomalies over time.

Benefits of UEBA

Some of the benefits of UEBA are,

  • Threat Detection and Prevention: UEBA utilizes advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms which helps in identifying insider threats, compromised accounts, and abnormal user activities that may indicate a cyberattack or data breach.
  • Early Warning System: UEBA can detect deviations from normal behavior patterns, enabling organizations to take proactive measures to prevent security incidents before they escalate.
  • Insider Threat Detection: UEBA can detect unusual activities or behavioral patterns by insiders, such as employees or contractors, who may have legitimate access to systems. It can help identify potential data theft, unauthorized access, or other malicious activities by insiders.
  • Fraud Detection: UEBA can assist in detecting fraudulent activities by analyzing user behavior and identifying suspicious patterns or activities that may indicate fraudulent behavior
  • Improved Incident Response: UEBA provides security teams with actionable insights and context about security incidents. It helps prioritize and investigate potential threats more effectively, reducing response times and enabling quicker containment and remediation.
  • Risk Assessment and Compliance: UEBA can contribute to risk assessment processes by analyzing user behaviors and identifying potential vulnerabilities or compliance gaps thus helping organizations in meeting regulatory requirements and maintaining a strong security posture.
  • Behavioral Profiling and Baseline Creation: UEBA builds behavioral profiles for users and entities based on their historical activities
  • Insider Threat Mitigation: By monitoring user behavior and identifying potential insider threats, UEBA can assist in implementing appropriate security measures and controls to mitigate risks associated with privileged accounts or employees with high-level system access.
  • Data Loss Prevention: UEBA can help detect abnormal data transfer activities, unauthorized data access attempts, or exfiltration attempts, reducing the risk of data loss and aiding in data loss prevention strategies.
  • Enhanced Security Operations: UEBA integrates with existing security systems and tools, such as SIEM (Security Information and Event Management), to provide a more comprehensive security posture. It enriches security operations by adding behavior-based analysis and insights to the existing security infrastructure.

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