SecurityBrief Australia logo
Australia's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
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
Ivanti
Ivanti and Lookout bring zero trust security to hybrid work
Ivanti and Lookout have joined forces to help organisations accelerate cloud adoption and mature their zero trust security posture in the everywhere workplace.
Story image
BeyondTrust
BeyondTrust integrates Password Safe solution with SailPoint
BeyondTrust has announced the integration of BeyondTrust Password Safe with SailPoint identity security offerings.
Story image
SaaS
Absolute Software expands Secure Access product offering
Absolute Software is enhancing its Secure Access product portfolio, enabling minimised risk exposure and optimised user experiences in the hybrid working environment.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Datacom, Micro Focus, SnapLogic and VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 6-12, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
UiPath
Employee retention increasingly important - automation may help
"Technologies like automation can free workers time, enable a better work-life balance, and create vastly improved efficiencies."
Story image
Digital Transformation
Physical security systems guide the hybrid workplace to new heights
Organisations are reviewing how data gathered from their physical security systems can optimise, protect and enhance their business operations in unique ways.
Story image
Akamai
Akamai and Fujitsu team up to protect A/NZ orgs against threats
Akamai Technologies and Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand have entered a strategic relationship to assist organisations in the region.
Story image
Ransomware
Anniversaries remind us to review identity risks
World Password Day provides a timely reminder for ordinary citizens and organisations to stop and think about the risks associated with digital identities.
Story image
APAC
Odaseva expands in APAC and UK with more security features
Odaseva, a data platform for Salesforce, is establishing new headquarters in London as well as a new data center in India.
Story image
Secure access service edge / SASE
Versa Networks recognised as SASE leader in Govie Awards
Versa Networks has announced its SASE offering has been recognised in The Govies Government Security Awards competition by Security Today magazine.
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
Artificial Intelligence
ForgeRock releases Autonomous Access solution powered by AI
ForgeRock has officially introduced ForgeRock Autonomous Access, a new solution that uses AI to prevent identity-based cyber attacks and fraud.
Story image
Cybersecurity
New precedent for cybersecurity after legal judgement of RI Advice
In an Australian first, the Federal Court has found that RI Advice failed to adequately manage cybersecurity risks.
Story image
Blue Prism
Blue Prism Desktop uses IA to defend against vulnerabilities
SS&C Blue Prism Desktop aims to help protect businesses against vulnerabilities, using a combination of security measures and intelligent automation tech.
Story image
Manufacturing
$1 million in cyber skills to stop $100 million in cybercrime
"It is important that the next generation across all industries, including manufacturing, are skilled in cybersecurity."
Story image
Phishing
Developments in phishing and how to protect your business
Phishing, the practice of sending malicious emails to encourage users to perform actions that benefit an attacker, is a key security concern for modern businesses due to its prevalence and impact.
Story image
Malware
Sharp increase in phishing as cybercriminals leverage SEO to lure victims
"Malware lurking everywhere, from cloud apps to search engines, leaving organisations at greater risk than ever before."
Story image
Cybersecurity
HackerOne launches Attack Resistance Management solution
HackerOne has launched Attack Resistance Management - a new category of security solution that targets the root causes of the attack resistance gap. 
Story image
Microsoft
Apple, Google and Microsoft expands plans to get rid of passwords
FIDO Alliance says the world is closer to not relying on passwords after Apple, Google and Microsoft expands their support for a passwordless sign-in standard.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from IronNet
Michael Ehrlich joins us today to discuss the history of IronNet and the crucial role the company plays in the cyber defence space.
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
Mitiga
Mitiga discovers potential hidden dangers in Google Cloud Platform’s (GCP) cloud control plane
The company also says that there is significant risk in cloud development caused by not recognising the differences between cloud and traditional definitions of common architecture terms.
Story image
Training
Fortinet training edges toward closing cybersecurity gap
The Fortinet Training Institute has made significant progress in closing the cybersecurity skills gap, on track to train one million people by 2026.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Three key security challenges facing the Australian insurance industry 
Insurance companies must ensure they proactively address security challenges and protect the privacy of customer data.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Companies rushing to secure print infrastructure
As the pandemic prioritised communication channels and the shift to remote work, IT departments fell behind in updating the security of print and IT infrastructure.
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
Fortinet
Fortinet sees 34% revenue increase in latest financial results
Fortinet has released its financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2022, seeing a total revenue increase of 34.4% compared to the same quarter last year.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Updates from Google Workspace set to ease hybrid working troubles
Google Workspace has announced a variety of new features which will utilise Google AI capabilities to help make hybrid working situations more efficient and effective.
Story image
Cybersecurity
ThoughtLab reveals 10 best practices for cybersecurity in 2022
The benchmarking study reveals best practices that can reduce the probability of a material breach and the time it takes to find and respond to those that happen.
Story image
Forensics
Exterro adds advanced capabilities to digital forensic tool
The launch is in-line with Exterro’s investment in the FTK product line, and underscores the company's commitment to the digital forensics.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Global bot security market to reach US$2.5 billion by 2032
The global bot security market to reach US$2.5 billion by 2032 driven by a growing need for cyber security, according to a new report.
Story image
Cryptocurrency
Norton finds deepfakes and crypto scams rising in Australia
Norton says between January and March of this year, it thwarted more than 37,098,261 threats, the equivalent of around 403,241 threats per day.
Story image
Ransomware
Ingram Micro Cloud adds Bitdefender solutions to marketplace
Ingram Micro Cloud has announced the expanded availability of Bitdefender solutions on the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Cisco, Hitachi Vantara, Tricentis & Zscaler
We round up all job appointments from April 28 - May 5, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Application Security
Data Theorem launches "industry first" attack surface management solution
"No solution uses full-stack application runtime analysis and dynamic inventory discovery to support the challenges around vendor management."
Story image
Phishing
Google reveals new safety and security measures for users
Google's new measures include automatic two step verification, virtual cards and making it easier to remove contact information on Google Search results.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft unveils three new security managed services
Security Experts includes three new managed services, Defender Experts for Hunting, Defender Experts for XDR, Security Services for Enterprise.
Story image
Ransomware
Zerto unveils updates to ransomware recovery capabilities
"Organisations face increased risks from the volume and sophistication of ransomware attacks prevalent today."
Story image
Cybersecurity
CyberArk launches $30M investment fund to advance security
CyberArk has announced the launch of CyberArk Ventures, a $30 million global investment fund dedicated to advancing the next generation of security disruptors.
Story image
Training
HubSpot launches 'The Great Upskill' week to inspire learning
Brands across APAC including Google ANZ, MessageMedia, Meltwater, Seismic and Aircall, will give their employees a full workday to dedicate to upskilling.
Story image
Appian
Appian awarded billions in damages against Pegasystems Inc.
Appian has been awarded USD$2.036 billion in damages against Pegasystems Inc as the result of a jury verdict in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Virginia.
Story image
Surveillance
Genetec launches new enclosure management system for data centers
Genetec has released a new enclosure management solution that will give data centers the ability to secure, monitor and manage access to racks and cabinets remotely.
Story image
Public Cloud
Radware announced launch of CNP spinoff SkyHawk Security
“We recognise the growing opportunities in the public cloud security market and are planning to capitalise on them."