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How behavioral detections can uncover targeted cyber attacks

Noora Hyvärinen

27.04.18 4 min. read

How do you protect your organization from targeted cyber attacks? Only a broad understanding and visibility of advanced threats across your organization can help you stay ahead of today’s sophisticated attacks. You need constant monitoring of your security status, behavioral events, and the broad IT environment to stay safe. Makes sense, but how can an average organization find resources to do all this in practice?

Fileless and behavioral attacks are the most harmful ones

 Traditional endpoint products do a very good job of protecting companies from the vast majority of threats. But they cannot detect the most harmful advanced attacks.

These fileless and behavior-based attacks are very difficult to detect. Most of the times, they don’t contain any malware. Someone could enter your system through clicks you made on a file on your computer. Once they have access to your environment, they can move within the network from one machine to another. There might be nothing suspicious about the behavior. How can you detect targeted cyber attacks like this?

Take a deeper look into the topic in less than 5 minutes with the Cyber Security Crash Course video:

Finding a needle in a haystack

There are billions of events happening in a network environment all the time. The events can be anything you do on your computer – logins, clicks, or downloads. The biggest challenge is distinguishing bad behavior from the normal activity. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. This is where artificial intelligence and machine learning step in.

Processing billions of events is not possible for a human. That’s why machine learning is used to analyze the data to find suspicious events. Machine learning is the building block of solid detection and response solutions. It helps humans in detecting, when a login is malicious and when it is normal behavior. Nidhi Singh, the product owner of F-Secure’s Endpoint Detection and Response solution, says:

A login is a login, but a login done by someone who has bad intentions and finding that from normal users’ logins is what the endpoint detection solution does. Not only it detects that there is a bad login, but it detects what that login does.

Human experts develop the intelligence further, and a smooth co-operation of man and machine is needed to stay ahead of the advanced criminals.

Look at the broad context

You need to look at the big picture to understand the severity and scope of a targeted cyber attack. Targeted cyber attacks start with one computer and spread across the network. This means you need to look into more than just one detection on one machine.

F-Secure has developed Broad Context Detection™ mechanism to build a view of all relevant events in the company network. Nidhi Singh explains:

When we find problematic behavior on one computer, we do not stop there. We try to find traces of similar behavior, such as a similar file, on other machines. If we find similar behavior on other machines, we try to find more detections of that type and combine them. Instead of point detections, we look into the broader context and present the customer insights covering other aspects of the organization.

Broad Context Detection™ is a prime example of F-Secure’s “man and machine” approach in action. With such technologies, businesses are able to detect and stop attacks swiftly. The technology helps organizations prioritize and react to attacks. When you understand the risk level, the relative importance of the affected machines and the general threat environment, you can make better decisions on the scope of your response actions.

On the video, Juhani Eronen from the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority summarizes the challenge of every CEO today:

A key question is: if we were hacked, would I have a way of knowing that?

With proper detection and response tools, you would.


F-Secure Cyber Security Crash Course explains in simple terms what kind of threats are out there and how they can be spotted and stopped. Linda Liukas, a programmer, children’s book author and TED speaker, explores the wonders of cyber security with the best talent in the industry. She even agrees to let F-Secure’s experts hack her. Watch the six short videos to learn what you can do to detect and respond to advanced cyber attacks. Include the Cyber Security Crash Course videos in your security training programme to foster awareness within your organization.

Noora Hyvärinen

27.04.18 4 min. read

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