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Our Unofficial Top Ten Cyber Trends for 2014

(I pulled this list together with the help of my colleague Martin Chorich. Or maybe it was the other way around. )

Every year, publications ranging from supermarket tabloids to serious academic journals issue forecasts for the coming year. Those with foresight hold on to these articles and read them again the following December for a good laugh, as we all know how accurate they can be. With that in mind, and following a long week of staring into a well and inhaling the fumes, we offer the following unofficial 2014 guide to trends for cyber security practitioners. These should not be construed in any way as representing Cisco expectations of future market or business conditions. As for their true value, this article and about $4.50 will get you a double mocha latté at a national coffee chain.

1. Changes in the Global Framework Governing the Internet – It is no secret that government policies around the world have had trouble keeping pace with the cultural and economic changes enabled by the Internet. At the same time, the Internet would not be the juggernaut it is without its borderless and unregulated nature. The Internet has developed around a multi-stakeholder model led by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). In recent years, some stakeholders have called for a more government-centric model of Internet governance. In 2014, this conversation will intensify. Debate topics will include whether governance of the Internet should change, and what sort of new governing bodies might find consensus, as stakeholders consider the risks of Internet balkanization and the potential stifling effects of mounting regulatory requirements.

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Big Data in Security – Part V: Anti-Phishing in the Cloud

TRACIn the last chapter of our five part Big Data in Security series, expert Data Scientists Brennan Evans and Mahdi Namazifar join me to discuss their work on a cloud anti-phishing solution.

Phishing is a well-known historical threat. Essentially, it’s social engineering via email and it continues to be effective and potent. What is TRAC currently doing in this space to protect Cisco customers?

Brennan: One of the ways that we have traditionally confronted this threat is through third-party intelligence in the form of data feeds. The problem is that these social engineering attacks have a high time dependency. If we solely rely on feeds, we risk delivering data to our customers that may be stale so that solution isn’t terribly attractive.  This complicates another issue with common approaches with a lot of the data sources out there:  many attempt to enumerate the solution by listing compromised hosts and  in practice each vendor seems to see just a small slice of the problem space, and as I just said, oftentimes it’s too late.

We have invested a lot of time in looking at how to avoid the problem of essentially being an intelligence redistributor and instead look at the problem firsthand using our own rich data sources – both external and internal – and really develop a system that is more flexible, timely, and robust in the types of attacks it can address.

Mahdi: In principle, we have designed and built prototypes around Cisco’s next generation phishing detection solution.  To address the requirements for both an effective and efficient phishing detection solution, our design is based on Big Data and machine learning.  The Big Data technology allows us to dig into a tremendous amount of data that we have for this problem and extract predictive signals for the phishing problem. Machine learning algorithms, on the other hand, provide the means for using the predictive signals, captured from historical data, to build mathematical models for predicting the probability of a URL or other content being phishing.


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Big Data in Security – Part IV: Email Auto Rule Scoring on Hadoop

TRACFollowing part three of our Big Data in Security series on graph analytics, I’m joined by expert data scientists Dazhuo Li and Jisheng Wang to talk about their work in developing an intelligent anti-spam solution using modern machine learning approaches on Hadoop.

What is ARS and what problem is it trying to solve?

Dazhuo: From a high-level view, Auto Rule Scoring (ARS) is the machine learning system for our anti-spam system. The system receives a lot of email and classifies whether it’s spam or not spam. From a more detailed view, the system has hundreds of millions of sample email messages and each one is tagged with a label. ARS extracts features or rules from these messages, builds a classification model, and predicts whether new messages are spam or not spam. The more variety of spam and ham (non-spam) that we receive the better our system works.

Jisheng: ARS is also a more general large-scale supervised learning use case. Assume you have tens (or hundreds) of thousands of features and hundreds of millions (or even billions) of labeled samples, and you need them to train a classification model which can be used to classify new data in real time.


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Big Data in Security – Part III: Graph Analytics

TRACFollowing part two of our Big Data in Security series on University of California, Berkeley’s AMPLab stack, I caught up with talented data scientists Michael Howe and Preetham Raghunanda to discuss their exciting graph analytics work.

Where did graph databases originate and what problems are they trying to solve?

Michael: Disparate data types have a lot of connections between them and not just the types of connections that have been well represented in relational databases. The actual graph database technology is fairly nascent, really becoming prominent in the last decade. It’s been driven by the cheaper costs of storage and computational capacity and especially the rise of Big Data.

There have been a number of players driving development in this market, specifically research communities and businesses like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. These organizations are looking at large volumes of data with lots of inter-related attributes from multiple sources. They need to be able to view their data in a much cleaner fashion so that the people analyzing it don’t need to have in-depth knowledge of the storage technology or every particular aspect of the data. There are a number of open source and proprietary graph database solutions to address these growing needs and the field continues to grow.

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Big Data in Security – Part II: The AMPLab Stack


Following part one of our Big Data in Security series on TRAC tools, I caught up with talented data scientist Mahdi Namazifar to discuss TRAC’s work with the Berkeley AMPLab Big Data stack.

Researchers at University of California, Berkeley AMPLab built this open source Berkeley Data Analytics Stack (BDAS), starting at the bottom what is Mesos?

AMPLab is looking at the big data problem from a slightly different perspective, a novel perspective that includes a number of different components. When you look at the stack at the lowest level, you see Mesos, which is a resource management tool for cluster computing. Suppose you have a cluster that you are using for running Hadoop Map Reduce jobs, MPI jobs, and multi-threaded jobs. Mesos manages the available computing resources and assigns them to different kinds of jobs running on the cluster in an efficient way. In a traditional Hadoop cluster, only one Map-Reduce job is running at any given time and that job blocks all the cluster resources.  Mesos on the other hand, sits on top of a cluster and manages the resources for all the different types of computation that might be running on the cluster. Mesos is similar to Apache YARN, which is another cluster resource management tool. TRAC doesn’t currently use Mesos.


AMPLab Stack

The AMPLab Statck

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