Daily Tech Digest - June 23, 2021

Take My Drift Away

Drift is a change in distribution over time. It can be measured for model inputs, outputs, and actuals. Drift can occur because your models have grown stale, bad data is flowing into your model, or even because of adversarial inputs. Now that we know what drift is, how can we keep track of it? Essentially, tracking drift in your models amounts to keeping tabs on what had changed between your reference distribution, like when you were training your model, and your current distribution (production). Models are not static. They are highly dependent on the data they are trained on. Especially in hyper-growth businesses where data is constantly evolving, accounting for drift is important to ensure your models stay relevant. Change in the input to the model is almost inevitable, and your model can’t always handle this change gracefully. Some models are resilient to minor changes in input distributions; however, as these distributions stray far from what the model saw in training, performance on the task at hand will suffer. This kind of drift is known as feature drift or data drift. It would be amazing if the only things that could change were the inputs to your model, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

7 best practices for enterprise attack surface management

To mount a proper defense, you must understand what digital assets are exposed, where attackers will most likely target a network, and what protections are required. So, increasing attack surface visibility and building a strong representation of attack vulnerabilities is critical. The types of vulnerabilities to look for include older and less secure computers or servers, unpatched systems, outdated applications, and exposed IoT devices. Predictive modeling can help create a realistic depiction of possible events and their risks, further strengthening defense and proactive measures. Once you understand the risks, you can model what will happen before, during and after an event or breach. What kind of financial loss can you expect? What will be the reputational damage of the event? Will you lose business intelligence, trade secrets or more? “The successful [attack surface mapping] strategies are pretty straightforward: Know what you are protecting (accurate asset inventory); monitor for vulnerabilities in those assets; and use threat intelligence to know how attackers are going after those assets with those vulnerabilities,” says John Pescatore, SANS director of emerging security trends.

How Chainyard built a blockchain to bring rivals together

There’s the technology of building the blockchain, and then there’s building the network and the business around that. So there are multiple legs to the stool, and the technology is actually the easiest piece. That’s just establishing architecturally how you want to embody that network, how many nodes, how many channels, how your data is going to be structured, and how information is going to move among the blockchain. But the more interesting and challenging exercise, as is true with any network, is participation. I think it was Marc Andreessen who famously said “People are on Facebook because people are on Facebook.” You have to drive participation, so you have to consider how to bring participants to this network, how organizations can be engaged, and what’s going to make it compelling for them. What’s the value proposition? What are they going to get out of it? How do you monetize and how do you operate it? And you can’t figure that on the fly. So we went out to bring the top-of-the-food-chain organizations in various industries on board, so they can help establish the inertia for the network to take off. 

Strategies, tools, and frameworks for building an effective threat intelligence team

The big three frameworks are the Lockheed Martin Cyber Kill Chain®, the Diamond Model, and MITRE ATT&CK. If there’s a fourth, I would add VERIS, which is the framework that Verizon uses for their annual Data Breach Investigations Report. I often get asked which framework is the best, and my favorite answer as an analyst is always, “It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.” The Diamond Model offers an amazing way for analysts to cluster activity together. It’s very simple and covers the four parts of an intrusion event. For example, if we see an adversary today using a specific malware family plus a specific domain pattern, and then we see that combination next week, the Diamond Model can help us realize those look similar. The Kill Chain framework is great for communicating how far an incident has gotten. We just saw reconnaissance or an initial phish, but did the adversary take any actions on objectives? MITRE ATT&CK is really useful if you’re trying to track down to the TTP level. What are the behaviors an adversary is using? You can also incorporate these different frameworks.

Bulding a Scalable Data Service in the Modern Microservices World

The microservices architecture not only makes the whole application much more decoupled and cohesive, it also makes the teams more agile to make frequent deployments without interrupting or depending on others. The communication among services is most commonly done using HyperText Transfer Protocol. The Request and Response format (XML or JSON) is known as API Contract and that’s what binds services together to form the complete behaviour of the application. In the given example above, we are talking about an application that serves both Web and Mobiles users, and allows external services to integrate using REST API endpoints provided to end-users. Each of the use cases have their own endpoints exposed in front of individual Load Balancers that manages Incoming Requests with best available resources. Each of the internal services contains a Web Server that handles all incoming requests and forwards them to the right services or sends it to in-house application, an Application Server that hosts all the business logic of the microservice, and a quasi-persistent layer, a Local Replication of the Database based on Spatial and/or Temporal locality of data.

Validation of Autonomous Systems

Autonomous systems have complex interactions with the real world. This raises many questions about the validation of autonomous systems: How to trace back decision making and judge afterwards about it? How to supervise learning, adaptation, and especially correct behaviors – specifically when critical corner cases are observed? Another challenge would be how to define reliability in the event of failure. With artificial intelligence and machine learning, we need to satisfy algorithmic transparency. For instance, what are the rules in an obviously not anymore algorithmically tangible neural network to determine how an autonomous system might react with several hazards at the same time? Classic traceability and regression testing will certainly not work. Rather, future verification and validation methods and tools will include more intelligence based on big data exploits, business intelligence, and their own learning, to learn and improve about software quality in a dynamic way.

The New Future Of Work Requires Greater Focus On Employee Engagement

When it comes down to it, engagement is all about employee empowerment—helping employees not just be satisfied in their work but feeling like a valued member of the team. Unfortunately 1 in 4 is planning to look for work with a new employer once the pandemic is over largely due to a lack of empowerment in the workplace—a lack of advancement, upskilling opportunities, and more. Organizations like Amazon, Salesforce, Microsoft, AT&T, Cognizant and others have started upskilling initiatives designed to help employees, wherever they are in the company, advance to new positions. These organizations are taking an active role in the lives of their employees and are helping them grow. These reasons are likely why places like Amazon repeatedly top the list for best places to work. Before the pandemic, just 24% of businesses felt employee engagement was a priority. Following the pandemic, the number hit nearly 36%. Honestly, that’s still shockingly low! It’s just common sense that engaged employees will serve a company better.

Architectural Considerations for Creating Cloud Native Applications

The ability to deploy applications with faster development cycles also opens the door to more flexible, innovative, and better-tailored solutions. All this undoubtedly positively impacts customer loyalty, increases sales, and lowers operating costs, among other factors. As we mentioned, microservices are the foundation of cloud native applications. However, their real potential can be leveraged by containers, which allows them to package the entire runtime environment and all its dependencies, libraries, binaries, etc., into a manageable, logical unit. Application services can then be transported, cloned, stored or used on-demand as required. From a developer’s perspective, the combination of microservices and containers can support the 12-Factor App methodology. This methodology aims primarily to avoid the most common problems programmers face when developing modern cloud native applications. The benefits of following the guidelines proposed by the 12 Factors methodology are innumerable.

How to be successful on the journey to the fully automated enterprise

When first embarking on automation, many businesses feel like they would like to keep their options open and use the time available to explore what automation can do for their teams and their businesses. The first step in journey to full automation is often a testing phase which relies on proving a return on investment and consequently convincing the C-suite, departmental heads, and IT of its benefits. Next, once automation has been added to the agenda, in order to support with providing a centralised view and governance, organizations should create an RPA Centre of Excellence to champion and drive use of the technology. At this stage, select processes are chosen, often in isolation, based on the fact that they have high-potential but are low-value tasks which can quickly be automated and show immediate returns in terms of increased productivity or customer satisfaction. This top-down, process-by-process approach, implemented by RPA experts, will help automation programs get off the ground. NHS Shared Business Service (SBS), for example, chose the highly labour-intensive task of maintaining cashflow files as its first large-scale automation.

SOC burnout is real: 3 preventative steps every CISO must take

While most technology solutions aim to make the SOC/IR more efficient and effective, all too often organizations take one step forward and two steps back if the solution creates ancillary workloads for the team. The first measurement of a security tool is if it addresses the pain or gap that the organization needs to fill. The second measurement is if the tool is purpose-built by experts who understand the day-to-day responsibilities of the SOC/IR team and consider those as requirements in the design of their solution. As an example, there is a trend in the network detection and response (NDR) market to hail the benefits of machine learning (ML). Yes, ML helps to identify adversary behavior faster than manual threat hunting, but at what cost? Most anomaly-based ML NDR solutions require staff to perform in-depth “detection training” for four weeks plus tedious ongoing training to attempt to make the number of false positives “manageable.” Some security vendors are redefining their software as a service (SaaS) offering as Guided-SaaS. Guided-SaaS security allows teams to focus on what matters – adversary detection and response. 

Quote for the day:

"Leaders dig into their business to learn painful realities rather than peaceful illusion." -- Orrin Woodward

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