Cyber Analytics: The Great Information Revolution
As technology has advanced over the last few decades, many new areas of work and research have developed. From machine learning to artificial intelligence to data analytics, the breadth and depth of information we can study, analyze, and learn from is ever increasing. Cyber analytics is part of that.
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By now, you probably understand that computer operations are simple sequences of numbers. But cyber analytics shows us that there is more going on inside computers than simple number sequences.
In fact, cyber analytics revolves around how those number sequences are organized to carry out specific functions – usually in the realm of cyber security. This field is much more complex, though.
Cyber Analytics Defined
The The first task is to define cyber analytics.
A basic definition is that cyber analytics is the process in which computer scientists analyze data to create, implement, and maintain digital security.
Also known as cybersecurity analytics or security analytics, cyber analytics is critically important to the health of organizations’ networks. By monitoring networks, cyber analysts can determine weak areas in the network, correct problems, and identify when a network has been compromised. Additionally, cyber analytics can be used to prevent hacks in the first place. Having the capability of preventing attacks can save organizations millions of dollars.
For example, according to the 2021 IBM Cost of Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach was $4.24 million. That’s up from $3.86 million on average the year before and represents the highest average cost at any point during the 17-year history of the annual report. The cost of breaches will no doubt follow the trend of the last 17 years and continue to increase. This makes cyber analytics all the more important.
It’s impossible to tell the future, but by deploying cyber analytics measures, vulnerabilities in networks can be detected and security holes can be plugged before attackers have a chance to exploit them.
Yet, many cyber attacks aren’t noticeable when they happen. In fact, they are often only obvious when a company realizes a breach has occurred months after the initial digital invasion.
Typically, these breaches are caused by compromised credentials. According to IBM, a full 20 percent of breaches in 2021 occurred because a user’s login information was compromised.
A cyber data analyst strives to protect a company’s digital property and investment by comparing real-time and historical events connected to the network. The analyst then identifies past security breaches and attempted breaches and uses the information gained from that research to identify weak points in the company’s digital system. From there, corrective measures can be taken to minimize the risk of future breaches.
What are Some Examples of Cyber or Security Analytics?
The job of a security analytics expert may sound as if it’s primarily concerned with looking at a computer screen for evidence of digital malfeasance, but there are many ways to monitor a company’s network and analyze it for threats.
One method is to analyze the company’s network traffic to identify expected patterns.
For example, when network traffic patterns don’t adhere to historical norms, the digital security analyst can identify an attack, as well as prevent an attack from occurring by creating safety measures that will engage when traffic patterns are not what they are expected to be. Beyond general traffic patterns, analysts may also monitor the behavior of users on the network to identify normal versus abnormal behavior.
One of the most important facets of cyber analytics is that analysts can identify threats from outside the company’s network, as well as those that originate inside it. By preventing attacks from all angles, a security analyst can prevent data exfiltration, which occurs when the data housed at a company’s servers is copied or transferred without authorization. These are precisely the kind of security breaches that cyber analytics seeks to minimize.
Where is Data Collected by Analysts?
A digital security analyst may examine server traffic and behavior from many angles, including actions that occur on the company’s cloud resources and those that happen within the business applications used by employees. Analysts can also examine general network traffic, as well as the company’s endpoint and user behavior data.
In some circumstances, analysts may use adaptive learning systems that will automatically accumulate real-time data and analyze it. Data types collected by adaptive learning systems include metadata, geo-locations, and IP context. Not only can these data types be used by analysts to identify immediate threats, but the information can also be used to design future threat responses.
How are Cyber Security Analysts Trained?
Becoming a cybersecurity analyst usually requires some time spent in college and may also require official certification, depending on the organization of employment.
In the grand scheme of things, the job of the cybersecurity analyst isn’t one that has existed for all that long. That means that in the past students usually enrolled in general information technology degree programs that featured a concentration in cybersecurity or cyber analytics. Stand-alone degrees in cyber analytics weren’t all that common.
Today, though, there are more degree program options for people interested in cyber analytics than ever before.
In fact, degrees are offered in a range of areas, including:
- Security Analysis
- Cybersecurity Analysis
- Information Security
- Computer science
Some careers in this field only require an associate’s degree, or perhaps an associate’s plus some relevant experience working in cybersecurity. For more advanced positions, though, a bachelor’s degree in one of the areas listed above is a better option.
Where an associate’s degree is usually a two-year, introductory program, a bachelor’s degree is usually a four-year program that offers more in-depth studies both inside and outside of the area of major.
So, for example, in an associate’s degree program in cybersecurity, you might take 10 or so courses in information technology. But in a bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity, you might take 20 or more courses on topics related to information technology, information security, and cybersecurity.
In some cases, employers may want cyber analysts to also be certified. A certification offers employers peace of mind that an applicant has advanced their studies and learned additional skills that enhance their ability to perform the duties of their job. A popular certification in this field is the CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional.
If you want to expand your marketability even further, you might consider getting a master’s degree in cybersecurity or a closely related field. Having an advanced degree only gives you more knowledge, skills, and experiences from which to draw in order to perform at a higher level on the job.
There are many master’s degree programs in this field, including many online options that typically take about two years to complete.
Of course, the level of education and experience you need for a career in cyber analytics will depend largely on what employers are looking for. As noted earlier, in some cases, jobs can be found with a two-year degree and some related experience. But other positions will require much more in the way of formal education and on-the-job experience.
What is the Purpose Behind the Creation of Cyber Analytics?
The first experimentation with cyber analytics was an academic mission to determine the ability of computers to analyze mathematical expressions. One was to find an end to Pi—a never-ending task. Another task was to discover the highest prime number.
These simple experiments with the logic capability of computers led academics to find ways to use computers to reduce research time and compile data. As another example, the military chimed in and found worth in the ability of cyber analytics to position troops, supplies, and target weapons on the battlefield. With that, the trend was on.
Since then, space and air transportation industries have benefited immensely from cyber analytics. For example, cyber analytics helps airlines protect their customers’ data while data analytics can be used to help reduce congestion at the world’s busiest airports.
Another consequence of the creation of cyber analytics is that digital analytics tools can be used to improve communications and research online. Think about it – the internet is home to whole libraries that were digitized and made available to the general public, creating a whole new way of finding and analyzing data than the old method of using books as data havens.
So, in addition to becoming a primary means by which online information can be secured from cyber threats, the science of cyber analytics has also grown to become a focusing tool for research projects.
How Many Uses are There for Cyber Analytics?
In considering how many uses there are for cyber analytics, there’s a pretty simple answer: there are as many uses for cyber analytics as the human imagination can create.
Cyber analytics has ventured into every known field and has made new fields of discovery possible. For example, recent studies in astrophysics using cyber analytic techniques have discovered planets around stars that are invisible to the naked eye or even to the typical telescope. Another example of the use of cyber analytics in astrophysics is the discovery of the present limit of the universe.
The medical field has benefited immensely from the use of cyber analytics as well. Symptoms and cures of diseases lodged in a general database have allowed medical doctors to make more accurate diagnoses and develop more appropriate treatments for their patients. Compare that to decades ago when doctors had to rely more on past experience when determining a potential course of action for a patient.
What are the Cons of Cyber Analytics?
While cyber analytics has been hugely beneficial in a number of ways, there are a few downsides, too.
According to Forcepoint, cyber hackers design viruses to break through computer security formats to steal identities, funds, and even pets. Sometimes hackers have used cyber analytics to target customers of certain merchants to gain personal information. These kinds of threats are small scale, individually, but thousands of such intrusions occur each year.
However, the greatest danger in cybersecurity is at the national level. Every nation on earth has money, secrets, intelligence, and other high-value information on servers somewhere. Keeping that information safe and secure is of paramount importance.
While a hacker uses cyber analytics to find and invade systems used by government agencies, security-minded analysts design and redesign security walls to ward them off. In many cases they are successful in doing so. But sometimes, despite best efforts, hackers are still able to compromise information stored on the networks that belong to governments, businesses, organizations, and the like.
New versions of cyber analytic security systems seek out telltale signs of hackers’ activity and trace them back to their source. By looking for the signs of a looming attack, cyber analytics enables security experts to get ahead and stay ahead of some of the threats they face.
Is Cyber Analytics a Boon or a Curse
Without the advent of cyber analytics, much of the modern amenities people enjoy would not exist. The unimaginable focus involved through the application of cyber analytics keeps cars on the road, enhances medical procedures, and provides us with gaming devices for personal entertainment during our downtime.
Only a few decades separate us from the “dark ages” when we poured over pages of data to analyze problems and come to a solution. Cyber analytics creates and maintains that focus for us and makes the process of data analysis vastly easier.
So, what’s in store for cyber analytics in the future?
One thing is for sure – cyber analytics and its related pursuits like cybersecurity will only grow as time goes by. Their importance will grow too, as will the methods that online security experts use to prevent hacks.
For example, predictive analytics might be used to predict when or how a cyberattack might be carried out, that way a business or organization can take measures to prevent such an attack from ever happening.
As another example, some cybersecurity firms are testing the use of bots as a means of protecting online data. Bots are typically used in hacks, but by using bots to prevent hacks, security officials might be able to detect bugs more quickly and even launch attacks on hacker bots that are trying to compromise the system.
It all sounds like something out of The Matrix, but as cyber analytics continues to grow and evolve, we will undoubtedly find new and more advanced ways to use it that were once thought impossible. In that regard, the future of cyber analytics is wholly exciting!