IT Brief New Zealand logo
Technology news for New Zealand's largest enterprises
Partner content
Story image

A deeper dive into the false positive quandary

By Contributor
Mon 2 May 2022

Article by Darktrace director of enterprise security APJ Tony Jarvis.

False positives are often used as a key metric by decision-makers trying to identify the effectiveness of a cybersecurity solution. The reasons for this are understandable: organisations are struggling with overstretched and burnt-out teams with ever-increasing workloads, and know the pain involved in dealing with thousands of alerts each day. 

With a lot of the traditional security protections, there never seem to be enough people or hours in a day to go through every alert and identify whether they are genuine threats or if they can simply be dismissed. 

Disruptive false positives

False positives may arise from a binary approach to security that focuses exclusively on matching a signature, or identifying something coming from infrastructure which has been deemed malicious. 

In the case of ‘bad’ public IP addresses, these can be burned down by attackers once they have been identified, and are often later acquired by legitimate businesses. The ownership changes. So it’s no longer ‘bad’, but it may take days or weeks for your threat feeds to tell you this is the case. 

This is the type of false positive organisations should be worried about – not only is it creating overhead for security teams (who then have to manually perform checks), but it results in business disruption at a critical time when new relations are being formed with partners, suppliers or clients.

Interesting false positives

Compare this with an approach that uses AI to understand how every device normally behaves in order to identify deviations that indicate a threat. Unusual activity may not always indicate a live threat, but can point to interesting findings from a compliance perspective. 

Having passwords stored in plain text, using insecure protocols, DNS being tunneled over HTTPS and even pinpointing the use of shadow IT in the cloud are all activities that a security team should have visibility over. Many of these findings often come as a surprise, since an organisation’s existing security stack often doesn’t provide this level of granularity.

How AI filters itself

Managing false positives is time-consuming. For every red flag, security teams must correlate various alerts together and build out a timeline of an attack to identify if and how an environment was infiltrated and what happened thereafter. This process can take hours with traditional tools.

With AI, that situation changes dramatically. AI models are prioritized according to severity, and human operators can easily filter out lower-severity alerts that may point to compliance issues or other interesting-but-not-immediately-threatening events. On top of that, the AI does another level of analysis, asking additional questions about individual alerts to try and work out if they are a part of a broader attack – and stitching multiple alerts together into an overarching incident for a human to review. 

So instead of dealing with hundreds of alerts, an analyst may simply see 5-10 on a daily basis, with all of the investigation already having been done, with all the context immediately available. 

For example, in the case of ransomware, a single-point-in-time analysis may result in a tool detecting encryption and raising an alert to the security team. But ransomware is a multi-stage attack, and encryption on its own is not necessarily malicious. An AI-powered investigation will ask additional questions such as: 

  • How many files were encrypted? 
  • Who initiated the file encryption?
  • How quickly did this happen? 
  • What was seen immediately before and after this activity? 

Why catch rates are misleading

The notion of false positives has become such an issue in the cybersecurity industry that security solutions are often tested independently and assigned a ‘catch rate’ score that measures what percentage of alerts generated are ‘real threats’ – defined by whether they appear on Threat Intelligence lists. Solutions which have a higher catch rate are often viewed more favorably than others, but this loses perspective that there is far more to establishing whether something may or may not be malicious than whether a specific signature exists in a database. What about cases of zero-day threats? If those signatures have not been pushed down to security solutions yet, how are they going to be able to identify such threats? 

Summary

It’s understandable that false positives play such an important role in the decision-making process, but metrics must be carefully considered in the wider context of what they represent. Not every false positive is the same: a useful insight on something that isn’t a live threat but may represent a significant hygiene issue should not be measured on the same ground as something that is disruptive and time-consuming to manage and fix. 

The best way to judge a technology is to see how it works in your own environment, to see how it copes with rich and complex datasets that arise from dynamic organisations.

Find more insights and solutions from Darktrace here.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Employment
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Migration
Let’s clear the cloud visibility haze with app awareness
Increasingly, organisations are heading for the cloud, initiating new born-in-the-cloud architectures and migrating existing applications via ‘lift and shift’ or refactoring.
Story image
Remote Working
Successful digital transformation in the hybrid work era is about embracing shifting goalposts
As organisations embraced remote working, many discovered they lacked the infrastructure needed to support history’s first global load test of remote work capabilities.
Story image
Vectra AI
Understanding the weight on security leader’s shoulders, and how to shift it
Millions of dollars of government funding and internal budgets are being funnelled into cybersecurity to build resilience against sophisticated threats, indicating how serious this issue has become.
Story image
Wireless
Cradlepoint expands its Cellular Intelligence capabilities
Cradlepoint has announced additional Cellular Intelligence capabilities with its NetCloud service.
Story image
Apple
Apple previews new features for users with disabilities
Apple says new software features that offer users with disabilities new tools for navigation, health and communication, are set to come out later this year.
Story image
Digital Transformation
How to modernise legacy apps without compromising security
At a time when digital transformation has become central to business, even the most important applications come with a ‘use-by’ date.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
How to ensure ethical deployment of AI implementations
The increase in automation and machine technology such as AI and machine learning has unlocked a whole new level of scale and service to organisations. 
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
SAS announces new products amid cloud portfolio success
Analytics and AI company SAS is deepening its broad industry portfolio with offerings that support life sciences, energy, and martech.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Microsoft
New Relic enters multi-year partnership with Microsoft Azure
New Relic has announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft to help enterprises accelerate cloud migration and multi-cloud initiatives. 
Story image
Sustainability
Legrand unveils Nexpand, a data center cabinet platform
Legrand has unveiled a new data center cabinet platform, Nexpand, to offer the necessary scalability and future-proof architecture for digital transformation.
Story image
Attain
Revenue operations is taking centre stage
As the business world continues to evolve, new demands need to be met to keep up with the ever-changing landscape. 
Story image
Qualys
Qualys updates Cloud Platform solution with rapid remediation
The new update is designed to enable organisations to fix asset misconfigurations, patch OS and third-party applications, and deploy custom software.
Story image
Commerce Commission
ComCom appeals $2.25 million fine in Vodafone FibreX case
The Commerce Commission has filed an appeal in the High Court against a $2.25 million fine imposed on Vodafone NZ for its offending under the Fair Trading Act.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
CFOs using digital workers and AI to prevent unnecessary loss
New technology is now allowing CFOs to use digital workers to automate their accounting processes, making it easier for them to avoid unnecessary losses.
Exabeam
Find out how a behavioural analytics-driven approach can transform security operations with the new Exabeam commissioned Forrester study.
Link image
Story image
Nozomi Networks
Nozomi Networks, Siemens reveal software integration
Nozomi Networks and Siemens have extended their partnership by embedding Nozomi Networks’ software into the Siemens Scalance LPE local processing engine.
Story image
Digital Transformation
The Huawei APAC conference kicks off with digital transformation
More than 1500 people from across APAC have gathered for the Huawei APAC Digital Innovation Congress to explore the future of digital innovation.
Story image
Digital Transformation
The impact of COVID-19 on healthcare environments and care delivery
The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionised the healthcare industry while overcoming staff shortages, social distancing requirements, and lockdowns.
Story image
Excel
Could your Excel practices be harming your business?
While Excel has been the de-facto standard for budgeting, planning, and forecasting, is it alone, enough to support organisations in the global marketplace that’s facing rapid changes due to digital transformation?
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Ransomware
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
Microsoft
PwC NZ unveils new Cloud Security Operations Center
PwC New Zealand has unveiled its new Cloud Security Operations Center for the entire Microsoft technology stack.
Story image
ChildFund
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Cloud Security
Aqua Security createa unified scanner for cloud native security
“By integrating more cloud native scanning targets into Trivy, such as Kubernetes, we are simplifying cloud native security."
Story image
Supply chain
Jetstack promotes better security with supply chain toolkit
The web-based resource is designed to help organisations evaluate and plan the crucial steps they need to establish effective software supply chain security.
Story image
Cybersecurity
NCSC advisory highlights poor security configurations
The GCSB's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has released a cyber security advisory identifying commonly exploited controls and practices.
Story image
Sustainability
Power at the edge: the role of data centers in sustainability
The Singaporean moratorium on new data center projects was recently lifted, with one of the conditions being an increased focus on power efficiency and sustainability.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Pluralsight and Ingram Micro Cloud team up on cloud initiative
Pluralsight has teamed with Ingram Micro Cloud to build upon cloud competence and maturity internally, and externally support partners’ capabilities.
Story image
Cybersecurity
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
Fonterra
Fonterra to use automated guided vehicles by Dematic
New Zealand's dairy giant Fonterra is upgrading its manufacturing facility in Edendale with new automated guided vehicles (AGVs) from Dematic.
Story image
SaaS
Rubrik Security Cloud marks 'next frontier' in cybersecurity
"The next frontier in cybersecurity pairs the investments in infrastructure security with data security giving companies security from the point of data."
Story image
Customer experience
Gartner recognises Okta for abilities in Access Management
Okta has announced it has been recognised as a Customers' Choice for the fourth time in a row in the Gartner Peer Insights "Voice of the Customer" report.
Softiron
For every 10PB of storage run on HyperDrive vs. comparable alternatives, an estimated 6,656 tonnes of CO₂ are saved by reduced energy consumption alone over its lifespan. That’s the equivalent of taking nearly 1,500 cars off the road for a year.
Link image
Darktrace
Threat actors are exploiting weaknesses in interconnected IT/OT ecosystems. Darktrace illuminates your entire business and takes targeted action to stop emerging attacks.
Link image
Story image
Data Center
Preventing downtime costs and damage with Distributed Infrastructure Management
Distributed Infrastructure Management (DIM) can often be a lifeline for many enterprises that work with highly critical ICT infrastructure and power sources.
Story image
Cybersecurity
More than 40% of banks worried about cloud security - report
Publicis Sapient's new report finds security and the lack of cloud skills and internal understanding of business benefits are big obstacles for banks moving to the cloud.
Story image
Vodafone
Vodafone NZ buys remaining stake in retail joint venture
Vodafone New Zealand has purchased the remaining 50% stake in the specialist joint venture (JV) with private equity company Millennium Corp.
Story image
Ransomware
A third of companies paying ransom don’t recover data - report
Veeam's report finds 76% of businesses who are victims of cyberattacks paid the ransom to recover data, but a third were still unable to get their information back.
Story image
Sustainability
Grasping the opportunity to rethink the metrics of a sustainable data centre
A data centre traditionally has two distinct operations teams: the Facility Operations team, and the IT Operations team. Collaboration between them is the key to defining, measuring, and delivering long-term efficiency and sustainability improvements.
Story image
Sisense
Data and analytics could be key to higher selling prices in APAC
Sisense's latest report has found that almost half of data professionals in APAC think customised data and analytics can create better selling prices for their products.
Booster
Booster Innovation Fund. A fund of Kiwi ingenuity – for Kiwi investors.
Link image