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User and Entity Behavioral Analytics (UEBA)

What is User and Entity Behavior Analytics?

User and Entity Behavior Analytics, or UEBA, defines a cybersecurity process that enables IT security teams to monitor and respond to suspicious behavior across the network. The term “user behavior” encompasses the full range of activities by human and non-human entities in the cloud, on mobile or on-premise applications, and endpoints.

Rather than relying strictly on predefined rules for what kind of behaviors are acceptable, UEBA allows the IT security team to measure and determine what should be considered normal behaviors. This gives them a baseline to help spot abnormal activity when it occurs and respond accordingly. Thus, UEBA provides situational awareness for tracking user activity that deviates from the norm and assists analysts in knowing what to look for in the event of a breach.

How do UEBA security tools work?

Modern UEBA software tools use machine learning, algorithms, and statistical analysis to establish baseline behaviors that reflect normal activity. Deviations from these behaviors are highlighted as potential security threats. UEBA can also aggregate data reports and logs and analyze file, flow, and packet information.

The concept of UEBA security is similar to monitoring spending patterns that credit card companies rely on to detect fraud.  Suppose a card and user credentials are lost or stolen and a thief starts using the card to make big-ticket purchases. In that case, the sudden change in purchasing behavior is a red flag triggering an alert and possibly suspending card activity.

Casting a broad net, UBEA goes beyond tracking events or devices to monitor all users on the network along with servers, applications, and devices. It has proven particularly useful for identifying insider threats from employees who may be abusing their privileges or have had their credentials compromised. This includes contractors and third parties that have access to sensitive data.

What’s the difference between UEBA and UBA?

User Behavior Analytics or UBA has been used in the past to describe tracking, collecting, and assessing user data and activities. A few years ago, the analyst firm Gartner started using the term User and Entity Behavior Analytics in place of UBA though both terms signify the same capabilities. UEBA extends the definition beyond human users to include monitoring the activities of applications, servers, and devices.

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Benefits of using UEBA tools

As noted, UEBA tools help you identify insider abuse and outside attacks that may have compromised the network. UEBA tools are often used in conjunction with other cybersecurity tools and offer a means to help demonstrate compliance with regulations.

Some of the major benefits of UEBA:

  • Automating threat detection – Machine learning and behavioral analysis helps to empower IT security teams that find themselves trying to do more with less, even as the skill shortage among IT security experts puts limits on human resources.

  • Reducing risks from compromised credentials – With approximately 80 percent of breaches involving user credentials, UEBA aids in the early detection of potential threats from compromised users.

  • Condensing the Mean Time to Respond – UEBA tools help reduce the MMtR when responding to cyberattacks, often allowing the IT security team to keep a simple breach from spreading into a cybersecurity disaster.

What is the difference between UEBA and SEIM?

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) technology use data and event information to identify normal activity and alert when patterns or trends deviate from the norm. It works similarly to UEBA, whereas UEBA focuses strictly on user and entity behavior information to detect anomalies.

One major difference in SIEM versus UEBA comes from the rules-based approach that SIEM tools used to thwart cybercriminal threats in real time. UEBA solutions, by comparison, typically use risk-scoring techniques as part of their advanced analysis to identify anomalies or deviant behavior over much longer periods. Many organizations use UEBA and SIEM as complimentary cybersecurity detection tools to improve their overall security posture.