The Ultimate Manual For User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA)

Hackers are bad news. They can break into firewalls, send you emails with infected and malicious attachments, or even bribe your employees to gain unauthorized access into your firewalls.

Moreover, with systems and tools quickly turning obsolete and cyberattacks becoming more sophisticated, your company and customers’ critical assets are at more risk than ever. Luckily, User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) can change things, and for the better.

UEBA gives you a comprehensive way to keep your organization’s IT security top-notch while simultaneously helping you detect users and entities that might compromise your whole system and other sensitive and critical assets. It lets you monitor and detect unusual traffic patterns, suspicious or malicious activity on your network or endpoints, as well as any unauthorized data access and movement.

Read on as we discuss this incredibly crucial component of IT security and forms in more detail.

What is User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) Anyway?

UEBA can either stand for User and Entity Behavior Analytics or User and Event Behavior Analytics.

It’s a cybersecurity process that takes note of the usual conduct of users registered in its system. This equips it to detect any abnormal behavior or instances where there are deviations from these “usual” patterns.

Suppose a user downloads 50MB of files every day. UEBA treats this as the usual behavior for the user. If the same user starts downloading tens of GBs of files out of the blue, the system will treat it as an anomaly and alert relevant authorities immediately.

UEBA solutions can detect deviations from established patterns using machine learning, algorithms, and statistical analyses. This allows the system to see which of these anomalies could result in a potential, tangible threat. What’s more, it can aggregate your report and log data while analyzing all files, flow, and packet information.

How User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) Works

Before we discuss UEBA solutions, you have to be familiar with the UBA approach.

UEBA is the more elaborate version of an early type of cybersecurity practice called User Behavior Analytics (UBA). This practice also uses machine learning and deep learning to model user behavior on corporate networks and highlighting anonymous behavior that could be a sign of a cyber attack—just like UEBA.

The idea behind both systems is first to collect information on the normal behavior of users and entities from system logs. These systems then apply advanced analytical methods to analyze the data to establish a baseline of user behavior patterns.

Once the right systems are in place, UEBA and UBA will continuously monitor entity behavior while comparing it to baseline behavior for the same entity or similar entities. But here’s where UEBA takes it a step further than UBA: It also looks at entities, extending the research to cover non-human processes and machine entities.

To put things into perspective, UEBA deals with more context from entities and better analytics than UBA, giving you a more efficient form of cybersecurity.

Understanding the Three Main Components of UEBA

UEBA has three essential components, each of which is crucial to their functioning. Let’s break down these three components in more detail:

  • Data Analytics: This component tracks data on the “usual“ behavior of users to create a profile and baseline. The system then uses the statistical models to detect unusual behavior and alert administrators.
  • Data Integration: UEBS systems can compare data from various sources, like logs, packet capture data, and other data sets, in addition to the existing security systems.
  • Data Presentation: This component allows UEBA systems to communicate their findings. Typically, they issue a request for a security analyst to investigate unusual behavior.

At this point, we’ve discussed what UEBA means and how it works. Now, let’s shed some light on its top three security use cases to understand how the system fits in real life.

Use Case 1: Privileged-User Compromise

A privileged user has authorized access to high-value resources, including confidential databases, user rights management system, or even an authentication system. Hence, the name “privileged.”

If a hacker gets unauthorized access to privileged user credentials, they can directly proceed to compromise those high-value assets with impunity. Privileged user accounts are the most targeted accounts because of the easy and unrestricted access they enjoy to the more critical assets of an organization.

A UEBA solution allows you to effectively monitor any suspicious activity by departed employees as well as contractors. At the same time, the system can also identify human errors related to sensitive data, which can come in handy in case the privileged credentials get compromised.

Use Case 2: Lateral Movement Detection

Lateral movement refers to the systematic movement through a network in search of sensitive data and critical assets.

Hackers usually target a low-level employee account and then start probing other assets for vulnerabilities in a bid to switch accounts, machines, and IP addresses. Once the hacker secures administrative privileges, they can easily hack into the whole system.

Another problem with lateral movement is that it’s extremely difficult to detect. This is because parts of the attack are scattered across the IT environment spread among different credentials, IP addresses, and machines, which is why even legacy security tools cannot detect it easily.

Despite how “normal” the seemingly unrelated events might be, UEBA solutions can use behavioral analysis to connect the dots between “underrated” activity, stopping the hacker before they can cause any damage to your system.

Use Case 3: Executive Assets Monitoring

Hackers have successfully tricked company executives in the past into approving webmail scheme transfers, causing them to lose millions of dollars within minutes.

All they need is access to executive computing assets, such as a CEO’s or other board member’s laptop. They can get their hands on sensitive information about the organization’s earnings, mergers and acquisitions, budget planning, and other competitive information.

An effective UEBA solution automatically builds asset and behavior models that helps it identify executive systems and monitor them regularly for unusual access and usage.

How to Get Started With User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA)

As you may have realized, UEBA can be an excellent solution to detect potentially malicious activities even if your system experiences millions of daily user actions.

Below, we’ve made a list of measures you can take to get started with UEBA.

Step 1: Select an Effective UEBA Tool

UEBA tools can monitor users and resources in addition to providing user behavior analytics. It’s precisely why these solutions serve as the perfect complement to enhance existing IT security measures of your system, contributing towards a more comprehensive coverage.

But to experience the benefits of UEBA, you need to first pick the right tool that works well with all your systems. Not only should this UEBA tool help you develop and model baseline behaviors for people and hardware within your network, but it should also identify abnormalities and alert security staff when needed, and preferably as fast as possible.

Here’s a list of some of the best User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) tools you can consider:

  • IBM Security QRadar
  • CyberArk Idaptive
  • ActivTrak
  • Teramind
  • Varonis
  • Forcepoint
  • Haystax Enterprise Security Solution

Step 2: Lock Down Unnecessary Access

You should always grant the correct privileges to the rights of members. This is an absolute necessity to secure your UEBA system—just like any other system you use.

Make sure you don’t give access to your UEBA system to everyone, though. Only relevant team members whom you trust should be able to see the collected data and analytics. Besides this, even the people receiving alerts from the system should be limited in number.

Step 3: Carefully Consider All Insider Threats

Take a long, hard look at your entire threat profile when working with a UEBA system. Then proceed to make relevant rules and policies to detect attacks based on your conclusions and findings.

The good news is that UEBA makes it super easy to detect insider threats, along with threats outside of your organization. But you’ll still have to configure your system to detect and identify them first.

Step 4: Train Your Staff Properly and Boost Cybersecurity Awareness

The effectiveness of your UEBA system is largely dependent on the knowledge and skillsets of your staff. Precisely why you must ensure that they have all the necessary expertise to work with these systems.

Cybersecurity memo templates, for instance, can be great to create more awareness concerning cybersecurity among your employees. You should also take the initiative to promote security awareness and cybersecurity best practices too, so the importance of protecting their data and systems drives home within your team members.

Step 5: Continue Using Other Complimentary Tools

UEBA processes and tools are NOT substitutes for basic monitoring systems like Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS). Instead, they’re designed to complement your traditional monitoring infrastructure, so don’t treat it as a replacement for your other systems.

Aim to set up an effective system that includes complementing tools like IDS and UEBA to enhance the overall level of your IT system’s security.

Do this right, and you’ll have to worry slightly less about your organization’s safety.

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Bryan Wise
Bryan Wise,
Former VP of IT at GitLab

Incredible companies use Nira