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Interview: Know your enemy - MapR talks big data and DDoS prevention

10 Oct 2017

MapR Data Technologies delivers a cloud data platform, called MapR Converged Data Platform, for organisations who wish to enable simultaneous analytics and applications while competing in the marketplace with the data they have.

The company takes security seriously and employs both find-grained access control mechanism to secure data access at all access points, file, stream and NoSQL. In addition, MapR enables the deployment of a large-scale anomaly detection solution that alerts users to network intrusion, phishing, and other cyberattacks.

We spoke to Steve Nunez, MapR’s senior director of Professional Services & Solution Engineering, APAC, about Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and how big data is helping to fend them off.

As the threat landscape expands, DDoS attacks are gaining ground and going after different parts of an organisation’s infrastructure.

“DDoS attacks make online services unavailable by overwhelming them with large amounts of data from multiple sources. These attackers target a wide variety of important, data-heavy websites such as banks, news outlets, and even government-owned sites. These attacks are easy to unleash on unsuspecting websites and are the oldest form of cyber-attacks,” Nunez says.

“The brand damage and real costs of downtime in these revenue generating sites can be significant. This is problematic for high value websites such as those in the banking, financial, telco and retail sectors.”

He stresses that because DDoS attacks are happening more often, businesses need to ensure they are able to protect themselves and their data.

This is especially important considering DDoS attacks aren’t limited to a few computer hackers. Botnets, which are essentially compromised computer networks, can conduct massive attacks that all hit a company at once.

Does a reactive approach work in those situations? Nunez says prevention is always the best option.

“By leveraging big data, businesses can protect themselves and ensure they are keeping one step ahead of attackers. As big data solutions are designed for agile and effective anomaly detection, they’re a great tool to develop predictive solutions, reducing risks early to prevent similar cyber-attacks in the future,” he explains.

Big data analytics can be used in the areas of threat intelligence across vendors, partners, partners, government, security analyst firms and many others. Nunez says that this is part of what MapR provides.

“With MapR, third-party threat intelligence information is seamlessly integrated into the operational workflow to assess external threats like DDOS attacks. This is a great example of the combination of operational and analytic workloads possible with a converged data platform. In a similar manner, insights gained locally can be easily pushed out to third parties for them to action or analyse,” he says.

He also says that historical and real-time data that exist in a data fabric can make previously difficult forms of analysis possible.

“Organisations become able to analyse access patterns at a large scale, across increased time horizons.”

“This means that when criminals attack with fake traffic, phishing attacks or other cyber assaults, the event sequence can be detected, allowing the organisation to block criminals and drop traffic from the attacking sites. For example, a bank could analyse a huge amount of data on a daily basis and an irregular sequence pattern could be the lynchpin that identifies and shuts down an attack.”

Big data is not just used to fight DDoS attacks. It is also used in many different security processes including machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Nunez says that big data plays a vital role in ensuring businesses are secure.

“Having access to big data allows businesses the ability to learn about attacks and their style, identifying patterns of suspicious behaviour. These patterns are looped back into business processes providing dynamic adjustments to attacks.”

“When armed with big data and appropriate statistical models, organisations will also be able to detect the subtle ‘fingerprints’ left by cyber criminals. The speed in which data is processed also means that cyber attacks can be thwarted before major damage is done.”

So how do organisations protect themselves against DDoS and other cyber attacks?

Nunez paraphrases Sun Tzu’s famous phrase, ‘know your enemy’.

“DDoS is only one form of cyber-warfare, and most organisations will need specialist help, and that specialist will need access to historical data, and a mechanism to quickly deploy analytic insights into operations: they need a data fabric. Do not assume that old data will predict new forms of attack – know your enemy by constantly monitoring and collecting information on them.”

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