The desire to be safe and secure is nothing new. This tendency is as intrinsic to our humanity as eating, drinking and breathing; it is rooted in our DNA. Unfortunately, history is littered with examples of destructive technology outstripping more conservative, more defensive, protocols.

Castles, for example, were doing just fine until cannons came along and started smashing everything up. Trench networks mapped out a defensive line which remained pretty much static for most of the First World War, but put them up against a modern Special Forces squad, backed by remote-operated UAVs, and they quickly become toast.

So it is with cyber security. Systems that were state-of-the-art only a few years ago now just can’t cut it. Whether a cyber criminal is a teenage boy in the bedroom of his parents’ house, or a crack team of evil geniuses waging acts of data war from an underground bunker somewhere, it doesn’t matter; staying safe and secure is still the bottom line.

Cyber security needs to develop. It needs to develop faster than the crooks who wish to test it. It is data visualization which is driving this development.

Complex Data Transmission

In an ideal world, there is no need for a response of any kind. Threats are predicted – either through behavioral analytics or via another method – and quickly neutralized. Unfortunately, in the real world, this is not the case. Sure, we must be proactive and develop our ability to prevent cyber breaches before they happen, but we must also support this with fast reactions.

Time is of the essence when dealing with cyber security, which means large amounts of information needs to be transmitted quickly and effectively, while retaining their message. This is – according to Masergy’s Craig D’Abreo – why data visualization is so vital in the fight against digital theft.

He explains how the human brain is far more receptive to information delivered via visuals than by text alone, and is able to process this information up to 60,000 times faster. In fact, 90% of the information our brain processes is derived directly from visual cues. This is something which can be used to great effect by data visualizers.

For fast, efficient communication, data visualization is difficult to beat. The human mind has a habit of getting lost in reams and reams of facts and figures, and for misinterpreting the insight as it is delivered. Eliminate this with data visualization, giving your teams the information they need to defeat cyber criminals.

Identifying Naked Insight

The problem used to be that we didn’t have enough data. Nowadays, cyber security teams are more concerned with how to process the vast amounts of raw data they already have. Data sources have become more and more abundant over the last few years and storage structures have been enhanced sufficiently to accept the data derived from these sources. The difficulty lies in figuring out what to do when the time comes to interpret this data.

In terms of cyber security, this interpretation is critical. It is a little troubling to feel that evidence of a security breach or data theft could be already there, unanalyzed, in our own data stores. Trawling through data manually is simply too time-consuming and, to be frank, mind-numbing. After a while, the figures blend into one and it becomes easy to let a suspicious data-point slip through the net.

Using visualization software, we become eagle-eyed hawks, able to slice through mountains of data with comparative ease. Does the activity of a particular user look suspicious? The DV will present this information to you clear as day, enabling you to flag it up and get it checked. Is there a suspicious discrepancy between two data points? The visual makes this obvious, and something which may have been missed is spotted and dealt with.

The time for being afraid of too much data has passed. Instead, we can gather as much data as we need, adding additional sources whenever required to augment our understanding, safe in the knowledge that we have the tools required to analyze and gain insight from this data. This is the power of data vis, and the reason why it is such a vital weapon in the modern cyber-security analyst’s arsenal.

Visualization as Exploratory Tool

All of this is great. It is helping organizations just like yours to save thousands of dollars in potential data breaches every year, but what is the next step? How do we push the science of data visualization even further to prevent data breaches before they happen?

For this, we need to develop visualization even further, using it as a tool. Not to present what we already know, but to explore the permutations and possibilities of the future. This is data visualization as a landscape to be explored, discovered, and acted upon.

Using the data derived from analytics we can understand which behaviors have led to data breaches and compromises in the past. From here, we can feed this information into smart systems, teaching them what potential breaches look like or what situations can lead to possible vulnerabilities.

This is where it gets exciting. Once these systems ‘understand’ what a breach looks like, the data relating to these potential breaches can be visualized. Cyber security teams can then delve into this information by looking at data visualizations, altering parameters here and there and then mapping what the permutations of each set of data will be.

We then find ourselves in a position of foresight. We are more able to react to dangerous situations ahead of time. We can always stay one step in front of the unscrupulous types who wish to breach our security protocols and systems.

Imagine a world in which cyber attacks can be defeated before they occur; a world in which your own, in-house cyber security teams do not need to play catch up, but work proactively to prevent data theft. This world might not be so far away. It is data visualization which is bringing this world ever closer.

Image via Pixabay

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