Security: Automating the unspoken word

The unspoken knowledge shared by cyber security analysts could convert into an automated tool that helps analysts strengthen their cyber defenses.

12/04/2013


The unspoken knowledge shared by cyber security analysts could convert into an automated tool that helps analysts strengthen their cyber defenses.

Sound odd? Xinming “Simon” Ou, associate professor of computing and information sciences at Kansas State University, and Mike Wesch, associate professor of anthropology at KSU, don’t think so. They just received nearly $700,000 from the National Science Foundation to fund a three-year project that takes an anthropological approach to cyber security. They will use data to develop algorithms for improved cyber security.

Ou and Wesch, along with Sathya Chandran Sundaramurthy, India, and Yuping Li, China—both doctoral students in computing and information sciences—are working alongside analysts in the university’s office of information security and compliance. The researchers are using anthropological techniques to understand how analysts perform their job duties. These techniques help them learn tacit knowledge rather than traditional formal knowledge about the job duties and manpower requirements for security operations centers.

“Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that we have about something that we can’t verbalize,” Wesch said. “You cannot walk into a New Guinea village and just ask people what their culture is. You have to live it and experience it to understand it.”

Researchers will translate this tacit knowledge into algorithms that will speed up various tasks and job duties performed by the analysts. For example, it takes a professional analyst between five and six minutes to find the Internet Protocol address and physical location of a compromised computer. An algorithm could complete the process in five to six seconds.

“We’d like to automate the boring, repetitive part of the tasks that aren’t heavily reliant on human intelligence but are more about humans doing them because they do not have better tool support,” Ou said. “That would free analysts to concentrate on the more complex tasks, such as investigating more large-scale, sophisticated attacks and plugging potential security holes in a network.”

The lack of understanding of the tacit knowledge in cyber security may be why so few commercial and open-source support tools are available to help cyber security analysts understand an attack in detail, Ou said. Often the tool developers do not understand the job and time requirement of security analysis, which limits the ability for them to design useful algorithms for these tools. As a result, finding information such as how the attacker got into the system and what data ended up compromised and damaged is a very labor-intensive process.

“A network is bombarded with attacks all of the time, and many of those attacks themselves are automated,” Wesch said. “We’re trying to automate parts of the defense.”

In addition to streamlining the repetitive tasks, researchers said their findings comprehensive cyber security analysis in this unique collaboration will lead to better training and education for the field.

“We’re ultimately building something like a conceptual model of how cyber security actually works, not just how it should work from a researcher’s perspective,” Wesch said.



No comments
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
2014 Product of the Year finalists: Vote now; Boiler systems; Indirect cooling; Integrating lighting, HVAC
High-performance buildings; Building envelope and integration; Electrical, HVAC system integration; Smoke control systems; Using BAS for M&V
Pressure piping systems: Designing with ASME; Lab ventilation; Lighting controls; Reduce energy use with VFDs
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Consulting-Specifying Engineer case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Protecting standby generators for mission critical facilities; Selecting energy-efficient transformers; Integrating power monitoring systems; Mitigating harmonics in electrical systems
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software
Integrating BAS, electrical systems; Electrical system flexibility; Hospital electrical distribution; Electrical system grounding
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.