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Protecting global stadiums and events with Self-Learning AI

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02
Mar 2022
02
Mar 2022
This blog breaks down the challenges of securing high-profile events – including the ‘access paradox’, increasing IT and OT convergence, and the importance of a fast response – and explains how Self-Learning AI changes the game.

Stadium and large public venue operators are confronted with a unique set of cyber security challenges. Often described as a ‘honeypot’ for cyber-criminals, the entertainment industry is an attractive target for threat actors for three main reasons:

  • Hacktivism – as witnessed during the Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games;
  • The global stage of international events makes it a target for geopolitically motivated cyber-terrorism;
  • The large sums of money at stake make event organizers and associated parties a prime target for financially motivated cyber-crime like ransomware.

The potential ramifications of cyber disruption during a large-scale event cannot be overstated. A momentary lapse in access to power could bring TV broadcasts to a halt; disruption to access controls could restrict fans from entering the grounds; CCTV outages could increase the risk of criminal behavior and physical injuries. If data is not reliable and stadium machines are outputting the wrong metrics, a venue could become dangerously overcrowded. The barrier between the cyber and physical worlds has long dissolved – cyber-attacks threaten human safety.

In this blog, I explore the key challenges of stadium cyber security and explain the unique capabilities of Self-Learning AI that led me to adopt Darktrace as a head of ICT and cyber security for international venues and events.

The access paradox

The biggest challenge lies in the paradox of securing a site where various internal services are provided to a large number of unknown and uncontrolled users, suppliers and devices.

When it’s game time, or ‘D-Day’, you see a huge influx of thousands of people, each with their own devices, needing to connect to your network and your infrastructure. The floodgates are opened. But of course, certain parts of your digital environment need to remain protected: your sensitive employee and customer data, your critical OT systems. I liken this to opening the door to your home, and letting the entire town come in and wander around. But you still need to secure your master bedroom.

A multitude of different actors must be able to work on site to provide services or content during the event. Broadcasters, staff and suppliers need to have access to managing the show, and all of these people need to access or interact with the IT infrastructure. In many ways, these additional bodies are already inside the perimeter and could host unknown malicious threats.

Achieving this balance between accessibility and security requires a shift in mindset from perimeter-based security to one that can detect and respond to threats on the inside. The complexities involved requires technology that can identify malicious behavior in real time based on the wider context of an incident. A particular behavior or connection may be benign in one context and yet critically disruptive in another — tools and technology must be able to discern between the two.

This is why I considered Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI a suitable fit: rather than defending at the perimeter, it focuses on detecting and responding to malicious activity already inside. Because it learns the unique ‘patterns of life’ of its surroundings, it can detect subtle deviations that indicate a threat and initiate a targeted response – without relying on pre-programmed rules and playbooks.

IT/OT convergence

The second key challenge is the issue of IT and OT convergence. Typical stadiums and arenas consist of a wide range of Industrial Control Systems (ICS).

Figure 1: The interconnected IT/OT components of a stadium

This involves a complex and messy array of switches, cables, CCTV cameras, as well as devices and technologies being brought in by the media and the press, and all these IT and OT components are now interconnected, which means these technologies now have Internet Protocol (IP)-based threats to manage.

The same challenges that the corporate infrastructure for stadium management faces in cyber security are therefore also now an issue for ICS security.

This challenge cannot be addressed by viewing IT and OT security in isolation — these two environments are linked because of the analogue migration to IP. A unified approach is required to detect and respond to threats that start in IT before moving to industrial systems. In addition, cyber security technology must be able to deal with complexity.

Darktrace’s AI thrives in the most complex environments, with more data points adding more context to inform the AI’s decision making. It covers OT and IT with a single, unified AI engine, that can also detect and respond across cloud infrastructure, SaaS applications, email systems and endpoints. It is ready to adapt to the messy, interconnected systems that make up large stadiums’ digital infrastructure.

The time factor

Finally, the nature of stadium events means that timing is critical and puts enormous pressure on the organizers and operators. ‘D-Day’ cannot be replayed or postponed, and so if cyber disruption occurs during the event, every minute is crucial.

There is consequently a strong emphasis on two key metrics that will be familiar to the wider audience: Mean Time To Know (MTTK) — how long it takes the security team need to be aware of an incident; and Mean Time To Restore (MTTR) — how quickly a team can act to contain the threat. It is perhaps more imperative in stadium event management than anywhere else that these two metrics be minimized.

This leads to the third criteria in assessing cyber security technology: does it help with response? And critically, can that response be nuanced and targeted, able to contain that threat without causing further disruption?

To this end, Darktrace’s Autonomous Response takes machine-speed action to contain cyber-attacks, when humans are too slow to react or aren’t around at all. It’s powered by Darktrace’s AI, so it has a nuanced and continuously updating understanding of what’s ‘normal’ across IT and OT systems. This means its response actions are targeted: designed to eliminate the threat, but not at the cost of disruption. Depending on the nature and severity of the threat, the technology can block specific malicious connections by enforcing the normal ‘pattern of life’ of a device or account. When every second counts, this is the speed and granularity that you need in a cyber security technology.

Plug and play

For stadiums and large venue operators, Darktrace’s trial period is typically extended for the AI to learn ‘normal’ over a longer period of time, capturing both ‘business as usual’, and ‘event time’. The sophistication of the AI enables it to factor event day into its understanding of ‘normal’.

When event day comes around, the technology has a nuanced understanding of how every user and device typically behaves, and can identify subtle deviations indicative of a threat.

It can be deployed across every area of the digital enterprise – including email, adding an invaluable layer of defense as any new event will entail thousands of email exchanges with new senders to prepare for the event, adding to the propagation risk of viruses or ransomware. It also covers cloud and SaaS environments with the same self-learning approach, stopping anomalous behaviors that point to account takeover and other cloud-based threats.

Wherever it is deployed, Darktrace allows the stadium operator to focus on the vital part of the game and offers real-time protection without any modification in the network topology or infrastructure.

An adaptive defense

Cyber-criminals are constantly developing their approach in an attempt to evade security tools trained to look for specific hallmarks of an attack. As they get creative and continuously experiment with new tactics and techniques, the human operators using these tools are forced into a constant state of catch up.

Figure 2: Cyber security is an evolving game of attack and defense

An AI-based approach that learns an organization from the ground up puts an end to this game of ‘cat and mouse’, shifting the balance in favor of the defenders and allowing them to stay ahead of the threat.

With a nuanced understanding of what’s ‘normal’ for the business, unified IT/OT coverage, and an Autonomous Response solution that takes immediate, targeted action, the playing field is levelled and large stadium and events operators can focus on delivering the best possible experience for attendees, digital viewers, partners and performers.

INSIDE THE SOC
Darktrace cyber analysts are world-class experts in threat intelligence, threat hunting and incident response, and provide 24/7 SOC support to thousands of Darktrace customers around the globe. Inside the SOC is exclusively authored by these experts, providing analysis of cyber incidents and threat trends, based on real-world experience in the field.
AUTHOR
ABOUT ThE AUTHOR
Karim Benslimane
VP, Cyber Intelligence

Karim Benslimane is Darktrace’s VP of Cyber Intelligence, working with clients in the public and private sector to analyse the most sophisticated cyber-threats today, and advising security professionals on the employment of artificial intelligence to strengthen their defensive strategy. Karim is a technical specialist in cyber and counter-terrorism exercises with over two decades of experience defending the sports and event industry from sophisticated threats. He has led major IT and cyber security projects for international arenas and events such as the Football World Cups, Rugby World Cups, World Athletics Championships and over 500 events.

Karim is also Lieutenant-Colonel (RC) at the Command of the Gendarmerie in Cyberspace, also known as ComCyber-MI, in charge with steering, leading and coordinating the French Gendarmerie Nationale's efforts to combat cyberthreats in the areas of prevention, monitoring of digital spaces and judicial investigation of cybercriminal organisations.

Karim is based in Middle East.

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Email

Looking Beyond Secure Email Gateways with the Latest Innovations to Darktrace/Email

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09
Apr 2024

Organizations Should Demand More from their Email Security

In response to a more intricate threat landscape, organizations should view email security as a critical component of their defense-in-depth strategy, rather than defending the inbox alone with a traditional Secure Email Gateway (SEG). Organizations need more than a traditional gateway – that doubles, instead of replaces, the capabilities provided by native security vendor – and require an equally granular degree of analysis across all messaging, including inbound, outbound, and lateral mail, plus Teams messages.  

Darktrace/Email is the industry’s most advanced cloud email security, powered by Self-Learning AI. It combines AI techniques to exceed the accuracy and efficiency of leading security solutions, and is the only security built to elevate, not duplicate, native email security.  

With its largest update ever, Darktrace/Email introduces the following innovations, finally allowing security teams to look beyond secure email gateways with autonomous AI:

  • AI-augmented data loss prevention to stop the entire spectrum of outbound mail threats
  • an easy way to deploy DMARC quickly with AI
  • major enhancements to streamline SOC workflows and increase the detection of sophisticated phishing links
  • expansion of Darktrace’s leading AI prevention to lateral mail, account compromise and Microsoft Teams

What’s New with Darktrace/Email  

Data Loss Prevention  

Block the entire spectrum of outbound mail threats with advanced data loss prevention that builds on tags in native email to stop unknown, accidental, and malicious data loss

Darktrace understands normal at individual user, group and organization level with a proven AI that detects abnormal user behavior and dynamic content changes. Using this understanding, Darktrace/Email actions outbound emails to stop unknown, accidental and malicious data loss.  

Traditional DLP solutions only take into account classified data, which relies on the manual input of labelling each data piece, or creating rules to catch pattern matches that try to stop data of certain types leaving the organization. But in today’s world of constantly changing data, regular expression and fingerprinting detection are no longer enough.

  • Human error – Because it understands normal for every user, Darktrace/Email can recognize cases of misdirected emails. Even if the data is correctly labelled or insensitive, Darktrace recognizes when the context in which it is being sent could be a case of data loss and warns the user.  
  • Unclassified data – Whereas traditional DLP solutions can only take action on classified data, Darktrace analyzes the range of data that is either pending labels or can’t be labeled with typical capabilities due to its understanding of the content and context of every email.  
  • Insider threat – If a malicious actor has compromised an account, data exfiltration may still be attempted on encrypted, intellectual property, or other forms of unlabelled data to avoid detection. Darktrace analyses user behaviour to catch cases of unusual data exfiltration from individual accounts.

And classification efforts already in place aren’t wasted – Darktrace/Email extends Microsoft Purview policies and sensitivity labels to avoid duplicate workflows for the security team, combining the best of both approaches to ensure organizations maintain control and visibility over their data.

End User and Security Workflows

Achieve more than 60% improvement in the quality of end-user phishing reports and detection of sophisticated malicious weblinks1

Darktrace/Email improves end-user reporting from the ground up to save security team resource. Employees will always be on the front line of email security – while other solutions assume that end-user reporting is automatically of poor quality, Darktrace prioritizes improving users’ security awareness to increase the quality of end-user reporting from day one.  

Users are empowered to assess and report suspicious activity with contextual banners and Cyber AI Analyst generated narratives for potentially suspicious emails, resulting in 60% fewer benign emails reported.  

Out of the higher-quality emails that end up being reported, the next step is to reduce the amount of emails that reach the SOC. Darktrace/Email’s Mailbox Security Assistant automates their triage with secondary analysis combining additional behavioral signals – using x20 more metrics than previously – with advanced link analysis to detect 70% more sophisticated malicious phishing links.2 This directly alleviates the burden of manual triage for security analysts.

For the emails that are received by the SOC, Darktrace/Email uses automation to reduce time spent investigating per incident. With live inbox view, security teams gain access to a centralized platform that combines intuitive search capabilities, Cyber AI Analyst reports, and mobile application access. Analysts can take remediation actions from within Darktrace/Email, eliminating console hopping and accelerating incident response.

Darktrace takes a user-focused and business-centric approach to email security, in contrast to the attack-centric rules and signatures approach of secure email gateways

Microsoft Teams

Detect threats within your Teams environment such as account compromise, phishing, malware and data loss

Around 83% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Microsoft Office products and services, particularly Teams and SharePoint.3

Darktrace now leverages the same behavioral AI techniques for Microsoft customers across 365 and Teams, allowing organizations to detect threats and signals of account compromise within their Teams environment including social engineering, malware and data loss.  

The primary use case for Microsoft Teams protection is as a potential entry vector. While messaging has traditionally been internal only, as organizations open up it is becoming an entry vector which needs to be treated with the same level of caution as email. That’s why we’re bringing our proven AI approach to Microsoft Teams, that understands the user behind the message.  

Anomalous messaging behavior is also a highly relevant indicator of whether a user has been compromised. Unlike other solutions that analyze Microsoft Teams content which focus on payloads, Darktrace goes beyond basic link and sandbox analysis and looks at actual user behavior from both a content and context perspective. This linguistic understanding isn’t bound by the requirement to match a signature to a malicious payload, rather it looks at the context in which the message has been delivered. From this analysis, Darktrace can spot the early symptoms of account compromise such as early-stage social engineering before a payload is delivered.

Lateral Mail Analysis

Detect and respond to internal mailflow with multi-layered AI to prevent account takeover, lateral phishing and data leaks

The industry’s most robust account takeover protection now prevents lateral mail account compromise. Darktrace has always looked at internal mail to inform inbound and outbound decisions, but will now elevate suspicious lateral mail behaviour using the same AI techniques for inbound, outbound and Teams analysis.

Darktrace integrates signals from across the entire mailflow and communication patterns to determine symptoms of account compromise, now including lateral mailflow

Unlike other solutions which only analyze payloads, Darktrace analyzes a whole range of signals to catch lateral movement before a payload is delivered. Contributing yet another layer to the AI behavioral profile for each user, security teams can now use signals from lateral mail to spot the early symptoms of account takeover and take autonomous actions to prevent further compromise.

DMARC

Gain in-depth visibility and control of 3rd parties using your domain with an industry-first AI-assisted DMARC

Darktrace has created the easiest path to brand protection and compliance with the new Darktrace/DMARC. This new capability continuously stops spoofing and phishing from the enterprise domain, while automatically enhancing email security and reducing the attack surface.

Darktrace/DMARC helps to upskill businesses by providing step by step guidance and automated record suggestions provide a clear, efficient road to enforcement. It allows organizations to quickly achieve compliance with requirements from Google, Yahoo, and others, to ensure that their emails are reaching mailboxes.  

Meanwhile, Darktrace/DMARC helps to reduce the overall attack surface by providing visibility over shadow-IT and third-party vendors sending on behalf of an organization’s brand, while informing recipients when emails from their domains are sent from un-authenticated DMARC source.

Darktrace/DMARC integrates with the wider Darktrace product platform, sharing insights to help further secure your business across Email Attack Path and Attack Surface management.

Conclusion

To learn more about the new innovations to Darktrace/Email download the solution brief here.

All of the new updates to Darktrace/Email sit within the new Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform, creating a feedback loop between email security and the rest of the digital estate for better protection. Click to read more about the Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform or to hear about the latest innovations to Darktrace/OT, the most comprehensive prevention, detection, and response solution purpose built for critical infrastructures.  

Learn about the intersection of cyber and AI by downloading the State of AI Cyber Security 2024 report to discover global findings that may surprise you, insights from security leaders, and recommendations for addressing today’s top challenges that you may face, too.

References

[1] Internal Darktrace Research

[2] Internal Darktrace Research

[3] Essential Microsoft Office Statistics in 2024

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About the author
Carlos Gray
Product Manager

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Managing Risk Beyond CVE Scores With the Latest Innovations to Darktrace/OT

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09
Apr 2024

Identifying Cyber Risk in Industrial Organizations

Compromised OT devices in ICS and SCADA environments pose significant physical risks, even endangering lives. However, identifying CVEs in the multitude of complex OT devices is labor-intensive and time-consuming, draining valuable resources.

Even after identifying a vulnerability, implementing a patch presents its own challenges limited maintenance windows and the need for uninterrupted operations strain IT and OT teams often leading organizations to prioritize availability over security leading vulnerabilities remaining unresolved for over 5 years on average. (1)

Darktrace’s New Innovation

Darktrace is an industry leader in cybersecurity with 10+ years of experience securing OT environments where we take a fundamentally different approach using Self-Learning AI to enhance threat detection and response.

Continuing to combat the expanding threat landscape, Darktrace is excited to announce new capabilities that enable a contextualized and proactive approach to managing cyber risk at industrial organizations.

Today we launch an innovation to our OT Cybersecurity solution, Darktrace/OT, that will add a layer of proactivity, enabling a comprehensive approach to risk management. This industry leading innovation for Darktrace/OT moves beyond CVE scores to redefine vulnerability management for critical infrastructure, tackling the full breadth of risks not limited by traditional controls.  

Darktrace/OT is the only OT security solution with comprehensive Risk Management which includes:

  • Contextualized risk analysis unique to your organization
  • The most realistic evaluation and prioritization of OT risk
  • Effectively mitigate risk across your OT infrastructure, with and without patching.
  • The only OT security solution that evaluates your defenses against Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) Groups.

The most comprehensive prevention, detection, and response solution purpose built for Critical Infrastructures

Darktrace’s Self-Learning AI technology is a cutting-edge innovation that implements real time prevention, detection, response, and recovery for operational technologies and enables a fundamental shift from the traditional approach to cyber defense by learning a ‘pattern of life’ for every network, device, and user.  

Rather than relying on knowledge of past attacks, AI technology learns what is ‘normal’ for its environment, discovering previously unknown threats by detecting subtle shifts in behavior. Through identifying these unexpected anomalies, security teams can investigate novel attacks, discover blind spots, have live time visibility across all their physical and digital assets, and reduce time to detect, respond to, and triage security events.  

  • Achieve greater visibility of OT and IT devices across all levels of the Purdue Model.
  • The industry's only OT security to scale threat detection and response, with a 92% time saving from triage to recovery.  
  • The only OT focused security solution to provide bespoke Risk Management.

To learn more about how Darktrace/OT approaches unique use cases for industrial organizations visit the Darktrace/OT Webpage or join us LIVE at a city near you.

Read more below to discover how new innovations to Darktrace/OT are bringing a new, contextualized approach to Risk Management for Industrial organizations.

For more information on the entire Darktrace/OT Solution read our solution brief here.

Darktrace/OT and New Risk Management

Risk Identification

Leveraging the visibility of Darktrace/OT which identifies individual systems throughout the Purdue Model and the relationship between them, Darktrace/OT identifies high-risk CVEs and presents potential attack routes that go beyond techniques requiring a known exploit, such as misuse of legitimate services. Each attack path will have a mathematical evaluation of difficulty and impact from initial access to the high value objectives.  

Together this gives comprehensive coverage over your real and potential risks from both an attacker and known vulnerability perspectives. OT attack paths as seen here even leverage insights between the industrial and corporate communications to reveal ways threat actors may take advantage of IT-OT convergence. This revelation of imperceptible risks fills gaps in traditional risk analysis like remote access and insider threats.

Figure 1: Darktrace/OT visualizing the most critical attack paths at an organization
Figure 1: Darktrace/OT visualizing the most critical attack paths at an organization
Figure 2: A specific Attack Path identified by Darktrace/OT

Risk Prioritization

Darktrace/OT prioritizes remediations and mitigations based on difficulty and damage to your unique organization, using the established Attack Paths.

We ascertain the priorities that apply to your organization beyond pure theoretical damage answering questions like:

  • How difficult is a particular vulnerability to exploit considering the steps an attacker would require to reach it?
  • And, how significant would the impact be if it was exploited within this particular network?

This expanded approach to risk prioritization has a much more comprehensive evaluation of your organization's unique risk than has ever been possible before. Traditional approaches of ranking only known vulnerabilities with isolated scores using CVSS and exploitability metrics, often leaves gaps in IT-OT risks and is blind to legitimate service exploitation.

Figure 3: Darktrace/OT leverages its contextual understand of the organization’s network to prioritize remediation that will have the positive impact on the risk score

Darktrace provides mitigation strategies associated with each identified risk and the relevant impact it has on your overall risk posture, across all MITRE ATT&CK techniques.

What sets Darktrace apart is our ability to contextualize these mitigations within the broader business. When patching vulnerabilities directly isn’t possible, Darktrace identifies alternative actions that harden attack paths leading to critical assets. Hardening the surrounding attack path increases the difficulty and therefore reduces the likelihood and impact of a breach.

That means unpatched vulnerabilities and vulnerable devices aren’t left unprotected. This also has an added bonus, those hardening techniques work for all devices in that network segment, so apply one change, secure many.

Figure 4: Darktrace prioritizes mitigation reducing accessibility of vulnerability and the overall risk score when patches aren’t available

Communicate Board Level Risk with APT Threat Mapping

Darktrace/OT bridges theory and practice as the only security solution that maps MITRE techniques, frequently used by APT Groups, onto AI-assessed critical Attack Paths. This unique solution provides unparalleled insights including sector and location intelligence, possible operating platforms, common techniques, exploited CVEs, and the number of potential devices affected in your environment, supporting holistic risk assessment and proactive defense measures.

Ultimately, this becomes a power dashboard to communicate board level risk, using both metric based evidence and industry standard threat mapping.

Conclusion

Darktrace/OT is part of the Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform a native, holistic, AI-driven platform built on over ten years of AI research. It helps security teams shift to more a productive mode, finding the known and the unknown attacks and transforming the SOC with the various Darktrace products to drive efficiency gains. It does this across the whole incident lifecycle to lower risk, reduce time spent on active incidents, and drive return on investment.

Discover more about Darktrace's ever-strengthening platform with the upcoming changes coming to our Darktrace/Email product and other launch day blogs.

Join Darktrace LIVE half-day event to understand the reality versus the hype surrounding AI and how to achieve cyber resilience.

Learn about the intersection of cyber and AI by downloading the State of AI Cyber Security 2024 report to discover global findings that may surprise you, insights from security leaders, and recommendations for addressing today’s top challenges that you may face, too.  

References

1. https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/313646831/Catch_Me_if_You_Can.pdf

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About the author
Mitchell Bezzina
VP, Product and Solutions Marketing
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