Category Archives: IAM

What it means to adopt a Cloud strategy?.

Cloud computing in the areas of  Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a service (SaaS) were the words of 2012. Vendors like SAP, IBM,Microsoft, RedHat, Oracle, VMWare and Citrix all entered this space early on and now we see that these solutions are  evolving into second generation products in 2013 (Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2013/01/14/the-second-generation-of-cloud-startups-is-here/#ST0T4K7MFbYxhGlA.99)

Now that cloud computing is making a huge impact in other market areas like big data, social and mobility, to help drive and support new business scenarios, we will see more and more hardware and software vendors embarking this journey around their products and solutions. ( See: Gartner: 10 critical IT trends for the next five years)

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Source: Business value of Cloud Computing

Benefits of the cloud offerings is often associated with reducing cost and increasing agility.  While this is true, the more strategic role that cloud solutions can play for the customers and the vendors are in achieving operational excellence, product leadership, customer intimacy, and open innovation.  Cloud computing is part of a long and powerful trend towards virtualization. Virtualization acts as a stepping stone for cloud which mainly helps to bring down the operation cost down, at the same time facilitate speed and agility in deployment and maintenance in the long run.

Given the above factors, the following are typical areas to consider when thinking of ROI when adopting a cloud strategy:

                  1. Hardware costs – how much will this save in terms of the servers and storage devices.
                  2. Maintenance for the hardware – will there be any savings ?
                  3. Software licenses cost – usually the license post for a cloud solution is priced less than on premise. How much cost can be reduced per seat?
                  4. Maintenance for the software – include both the vendor support and your internal support costs
                  5. Facilities costs – can you lower the power, HVAC, building costs etc.?
                  6. Productivity/efficiency costs– what is the learning curve, are the people who will use the new system more productive? what is the cost involved for training?
                  7. Agility around new opportunities – are you able to respond faster, but cheaper, to opportunities that otherwise would have taken more development time and money?
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Security Intelligence – Role of Big Data in Fraud Prevention and Management

Fraud is a serious problem and requires new way of thinking to address this problem. Irrespective of the market  type whether its financial services, online retail, point of sale or healthcare, fraud prevention and management is the biggest pain point for all customers these days.

In the security market  to address Fraud, the real-time security intelligence along with the power of  Big Data is spearheading the growth of solution vendors to innovate and differentiate their solutions from old-school security vendors.

Fraud causes companies to lose money in many ways. These days there is a greater need for a real-time solution to help to organizations automatically detect the anomalies with their users or system behaviours early on, which then can help  to notify and  take appropriate action This will prevent fraud and the loss of revenue.

Let’s take the example of healthcare to list out some of the well know challenges around fraud.

  • Organized groups defrauding insurance companies through elaborate schemes against government-sponsored programs or private health insurers
  • Patient medical IDs are stolen or duplicated for financial benefits
  • User impersonation for prescription drug benefits and many more…

Meanwhile, hospitals and HMO pay a heavy price  through fines and litigations if they don’t comply to all the Healthcare laws that are enforced by the government.  So, they  have to ensure appropriate checks and measures to prevent violations by their users/patients/doctors when they use the applications and systems.

Old school way of Fraud management:

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Most companies have invested and adopted multi-factor authentication methods (ex: password, smart cards, One-Time Password (OTP), biometrics etc) as an only mechanism  to identify and protect their users who are using their applications and systems but also a way to manage fraud. The picture here suggests a mechanism that they enforce currently to do a fraud evaluation.

These companies have quickly understood that multi-factor authentication alone cannot scale and address fraud issues since the bad guys have figured out a way to break through these multi-factor authentication mechanisms.

This is why there is a need for  real-time intelligence  security solution!.

Real-time Security Intelligence through Big Data

The challenges that makes realtime intelligence gathering the right approach to address fraud are:

  1. No single layer or a multi factor authentication is enough to keep determined fraudsters out of enterprise systems. Multiple layers must be employed to defend against today’s attacks and those that are yet to appear.
  2. No authentication measure on its own, especially when communicating through a browser, is sufficient to counter today’s threats. Additional fraud prevention layers must be utilized.
  3. Malware is the biggest immediate threat,  malware-based attacks are spreading to multiple sectors and enterprises.

Picture _raw1 2Let’s take the example of an online retail scenario where users have to shop for good through the browser supported on the PC, smart phone or the tablet.

Like the picture shows, a typical user will make multiple clicks and will interact with multiple applications in the background through a browser before he gets to the shopping cart. This would mean there is a way for us to gather a lot more data and information about the user and analyse his behavior realtime

Here are come of the steps that will help us build real-time intelligence around the user behavior:

1. End point Data : involves capturing context of users at the endpoint which is his device. For example is he using the browser on a PC, desktop, tablet, smart phone.  Capture the user’s IP, geo-location, authentication credentials and many more.

2. Session Data:  gather, monitor and analyze user’s session (ex. http post parameters and other session attributes) and his navigation behavior on the browser.  Compare this with his earlier navigation patterns to identify abnormal patterns based on his transitional history.

3. User Data: gather to monitor and analyzes user’s behavior to identify any anomalous behaviors during the transaction .

4.  Context Analysis:  Analyse the relationships among internal and/or external entities, systems and their attributes (for example, users, accounts, account attributes, machines and machine attributes etc.). Analyze the application logs, system logs, database logs and build predictive models for the user behaviour around applications and the systems involved.

The intelligence gathering and analysis in the above steps involves gathering the right data and also analyzing the data with an effective algorithm. This is where the Big Data plays a role to help build an effective and accurate model based on the user’s interaction with the application and system, that will help detect anomalies and prevent and manage fraud efficiently.

The secret to the success of such a Real-time Security Intelligence solution boils down to the quality of data collection and the advanced algorithms that addresses the 3 Vs of Big Data not only to build accurate predictive models but also support self learning for the solution to get smarter over time.

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