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Why a well-designed HCI is critical to your AI driven cybersecurity solution

November 24, 2017

Author: Nithen Naidoo, Founder and CEO   Most readers of this post will know Deep Blue, the computer that beat chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1996. Since then, and more so recently, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been an industry buzzword and “the Tao” of the future. I love everything about AI, but I believe in Intelligence Amplification (IA). IA is the synergy of human and machine (as opposed to the substitution), augmenting our capabilities (not replacing them). So, why do I think IA is better? Let’s begin with a lesser known story, about a lesser known chess competition. Eight years after Deep Blue, Kasparov competed in another chess competition which allowed humans to pair up with computers. Naturally, you would expect the best human-computer duo to dominate. Actually, amateur chess players with suboptimal computing platforms won. The upset was credited to a well-designed interface between a well-trained human and a data-rich computing platform. So, having a data-rich platform with effective AI capability is important – but meaningless, if you (the analyst) can’t rapidly navigate, correlate, contextualise and gain insight from your data. Hence, we developed Snode’s cybersecurity solution with - data fusion at scale and machine-assisted analytics. However, more importantly, we designed a frictionless Human-Computer-Interface (HCI) - prioritising, maximising and galvanising the synergy between human and machine.

How Cyber Intelligence Works When All Else Fails

November 16, 2017

Author: Nithen Naidoo, Founder and CEO   At Snode, we like to see things differently and naturally gravitate towards alternative analysis. We are often asked why we use the phrase “Cyber Intelligence” as opposed to “Cybersecurity” to describe our real-time analytics platform. Our view is a paradigm shift (by design) and therefore not strictly aligned to standard definition. That said, it’s an excellent way to describe Snode’s unique value proposition. We see Cybersecurity as a technology layer, consisting of automated, signature based systems (e.g. Intrusion Prevention Systems); searching for known, commonly indiscriminate and unsophisticated attacks. We believe these traditional security controls are essential to a good security posture and complement the Snode Cyber Intelligence solution. Cyber Intelligence, in a Snode (design) context, is viewed as an autonomous layer that lies above the traditional cybersecurity stack; assessing network behaviours, threat intelligence and leveraging machine assisted analytics. Such technologies are designed to protect against more sophisticated and targeted attacks that have never been seen before and therefore circumvent signature based controls. As an example, consider the following: an authenticated, authorised finance staff member accesses a financial system database. Such activity would not be considered malicious by a signature based control and generally goes unnoticed as this is role-based acceptable behaviour. However, a Cyber Intelligence platform may report this behaviour as anomalous since it deviates from the user’s normal pattern of behaviour. Therefore, such activity may be indicative of, and reported as, a potential disclosure of sensitive data. This scenario was an actual finding at a Snode mining client. A subsequent investigation found that the employee was colluding with an organised labour (union) member to supply sensitive financial information ahead of an upcoming wage negotiation. Hence, we describe Cyber Intelligence as the technology layer that goes to work; when all else fails.

#SS17HACK extends to Northern Cape

July 12, 2017

Source: ITWeb   The hackathon to be held at ITWeb Security Summit 2017 is extending to the Northern Cape. Spearheaded by Geekulcha, and run in conjunction with ITWeb Events and Snode, it is the first hackathon to take place at ITWeb Security Summit, and is aimed at stimulating and growing skills capacity in information security. Various organisations are collaborating on the hackathon, where participants will interact and get a chance to be guided by over 500 cyber security minds at the summit. As a first edition, the hackathon will only accommodate 30 people at Vodacom World in Midrand. The Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism has commissioned a parallel Security Hackathon in Kimberley, on 16 and 17 May, in collaboration with Sol Plaatje University, Geekulcha Student Society (GKSS). The Kimberley edition of the hackathon will be managed by the GKSS and local entrepreneurs from the Diamond Creative Vision Hub. A team of 11 people from the department and GKSS attended the training Ideathon in Pretoria, to get a sense of how to run things. A team from Snode will help the Kimberley edition of the hackathon by providing mentorship to ensure the participants build the most secure solutions possible. #SS17Hack Midrand and Kimberley will be broadcast live to each other, giving a sense of concurrency, although each hackathon will have its own judging process.

Maths deployed as cybercrime ‘street fighter’

May 17, 2017

Source: ITWeb   By deploying mathematical algorithms in the fight against cybercrime, organisations stand to gain the 'street fighters' of cyber defence in their arsenal. This is according to Snode chief technology officer and founder Nithen Naidoo, who told delegates at the ITWeb Security Summit 2017 that algorithms already in use in other sectors stood to significantly improve cyber defence. "Maths is fast, doesn't lie and makes no assumptions. By using advanced algorithms, we are able to introduce intelligence amplification - rather than artificial intelligence - to the fight against cyber crime." He says these algorithms will help organisations catch over 80% of attack attempts, whereas artificial intelligence (AI) catches only around 30 - 40%. "We took statistical analytics from other spheres and applied it to cyber security. I don't know why we haven't used it before, but now it's here."   "Maths is fast, doesn't lie and makes no assumptions."   Naidoo said machine learning and mathematical algorithms combined could be harnessed to constantly monitor user behaviour and seek anomalies across any data, as well as patterns that are precursors to events.

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Data Wizards’ Magic Proved Too Strong at #SS18Hack

May 25, 2018

Author: Alastair Waldeck, Head of Marketing (Snode)   One month after the successful Ideathon was held in Johannesburg CBD, the Hackathon participants gathered once again for the main event at Vodacom World in Midrand, the #SS18Hack! In total, 42 infosec aspirants from all around the country arrived for a two-day event that would test their stamina, concentration, teamwork and coding abilities to the limit! The theme of these year’s Hackathon was ‘Man vs Machine – Securing the future of business against an ever-changing threat landscape’; focusing, as the title suggests, on machine learning and creating a solution that could solve real-world security problems that continue to plague many organisations today. The 11 teams arrived early on the morning off 22 May, full of energy and motivation, and immediately started getting to work on their ideas with the guidance from their respective mentors. By the evening of the 22nd, the participants had made themselves comfortable and settled down for a long night of hard work and coding. When delegates from the Security Summit walked in the next day, the room was virtually unrecognisable; bean bags, energy drinks and snacks were scattered everywhere! The long-haul proved too much for some as they caught a quick power nap to give themselves the ability to push through the last few hours before the final presentations and judging. The participants truly had pulled out all the stops to ensure that they can keep going, keep coding, with their eyes constantly focused on the top spot! At half-past two on day two, time was up! The teams now had to pitch their ideas to the judges in the hopes that what they had manage to create was good enough to earn them a place in the winner’s circle. Each team had 6 minutes to present followed by Q&A from the judges. After all the pitches were complete, the judges went away to deliberate as the teams anxiously waited for the results. A few minutes later, it was done, the scores were tallied and the winners were known. Doreen Mokoena, Internet Governance Coordinator at .ZA Doman Name Authority had the honours of announcing the top teams. In third place was team Knowzee who presented a solution that allowed individuals to determine whether or not they were sharing too much information on their social media accounts. First and second place were neck-in-neck with the judges having to discuss long and hard in order to reach a consensus as to whom they believed should be the winner. Moringa IT, a team from Kimberley, ultimately claimed second place. Their idea was a platform that utilised the power of IoT in order to assist farmers with the irrigation of their crops by sensing the moisture levels in the soil and allowing the irrigation systems to automatically determine when and for how long the crops should get irrigated. The magic of team Data Wizards, however, proved to be too much as they claimed top spot at this year’s hackathon! Their solution was to prevent fraudulent activity in real-time at a transactional level. As a transaction occurs, each transaction would be assigned a risk score based on a several factors, this score would then determine whether or not the transaction should be accepted or declined. The winning team walked away with R20 000, followed by the second and third teams receiving R10 000 and R5 000 respectively. We would like to thank everyone who participated in the Hackathon for their hard work and dedication and for assisting in pulling off yet another successful event! Here’s to many more! The #SS18Hack was sponsored by the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Geekulcha, Snode, The Business Clinic, MTN and CISO Alliances.

Proof: SA Is First In Line For Emerging Advanced Attacks

May 21, 2018

Author: Alastair Waldeck, Head of Marketing (Snode)   In an article published by ITWeb last week, Nithen Naidoo (Snode Founder and CEO) stated that South Africa is often first in line for newly emerging, advanced attacks. Developing economies such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and South Africa are viewed as soft, and lucrative, targets by organised crime syndicates with highly advanced cyber capabilities due to the fact that they have not made the same kind of security investments as their developed nation counterparts. One of the interesting findings mentioned in the article was the increasing trend of Snode clients being affected by an old "commercial-grade" Trojan called FinSpy, which was widely reported in 2013. "The malware is not necessarily new but the attack vectors to deliver the malware are new and quite advanced. This is similar to the Terdot malware, which delivered the old Zeus Trojan.", stated Naidoo. At the same time we were detecting this type of activity within our SA client base, AlienVault’s Open Threat Exchange (OTX) reported the discovery of a new version of FinFisher, a malware that is currently evading notice and leveraging social media to threaten critics in Turkey and beyond. It is specifically coded in order to appear as simple criminal malware, however there are several forensic artefacts which provide a clear indication that the agent identified is in fact FinSpy. The most substantial change in this latest version when compared to the original FinSpy malware is the steps it has taken to address the failures that led to the original software’s discovery and acknowledgement by security researchers. FinSpy infects its targets by redirecting the user, when downloading an application, to a version of an application that is infected with the FinFisher malware. This then allows the attacker to perform several activities such as live surveillance through webcams and microphones, keylogging, and exfiltration of files. The fact that this trend of the new, emerging FinFisher malware was detected by the Snode Guardian Cybersecurity Platform at the same time as organisations abroad is proof that South Africa is indeed a prime target for new and advanced cyberattacks. The need for South African organisations to not only ensure that they have adequate security measures in place to detect, prevent and respond against these attacks but also to share their threat intelligence and disclose when and how they are being attacked, is now more crucial than ever. In this ever-changing technological landscape, organisations are forced to find new ways to increase their security posture and minimise their risk. The Snode Guardian cybersecurity platform utilises learning machines, mathematics, and a synergy between both human and artificial intelligence (Intelligence Amplification) to monitor, detect and proactively respond to all threats on every device within your network, from traditional network devices through to BYOD, cloud and IoT devices. Naidoo will be presenting at the upcoming ITWeb Security Summit, and delegates attending his talk will learn about the emerging threats we see in Snode's South African client environments, as well as the key issues affecting the majority of its South African clients. He will also discuss the defence strategies clients have used that best address these issues. The ITWeb Security Summit is southern Africa’s definitive conference and expo for information security, IT and business professionals. This year, over 70 expert speakers will deliver key insights across 7 tracks, including workshops and training courses during the expanded 5-day event. The ITWeb Security Summit will be staged at Vodacom World, Midrand, from 22 – 23 May 2018; and CTICC Cape Town on 29 May 2018. Focused and interactive workshops as well as in-depth training courses will be run in the days around the main conference and exhibition. For more information, go to www.securitysummit.co.za. For information on Security Summit Cape Town, click here.

Young Minds Prepare For #SS18 Hack

April 21, 2018

Author: Alastair Waldeck, Head of Marketing (Snode)   A group of motivated young men and women gathered in the offices of The Business Clinic in Johannesburg CBD early on Saturday morning for the 2nd Annual #SS18Hack Ideathon. The Ideathon provided these aspiring cybersecurity and IT professionals with an opportunity to meet and greet with some of the top minds in the industry as well as to learn a thing or two from the four main workshops presented on the day. The Ideathon serves as pre-selection event for the larger, main event; the #SS18 Hackathon which will be held at Vodaworld in Midrand on the 22-23 May. The day began with an introduction from Mr Lucky Litelu (Executive Chairman and CEO of ICRD GROUP) and the sponsorship team of Tiyani Ngonyama (COO, Geekulcha), Allyson Towle (Senior Conference Director, ITWeb Events) and Alastair Waldeck (Head of Marketing, Snode). Our first speaker of the day was Ridewaan Hanslo from the CSIR who gave the attendees a comprehensive overview of Web App Security by providing several examples of different types of attacks, attackers, interactive examples how to practically identify and prevent these attacks as well as how to ensure that your next application is created with security as a priority. Second up was our very own Founder and CEO, Nithen Naidoo. He provided an introduction to the AI and Infosec industry by discussing the latest tools and methods within the cybersecurity and data analytics industry as well as how to analyse vast quantities of data in real-time in order to pull various insights, detect anomalies and trends and to be able to predict and defend against ever-evolving cyberattacks. After a quick break where the guys were able to refuel, get to know one another, ask questions and discuss ideas with the presenters, sponsors and other attendees, we returned to our seats for the 3rd workshop of the day. Francois Mouton from the CSIR was up next. Francois gave us a presentation on Ethical Hacking with a focus on his speciality, social engineering. By providing us with some simple, everyday examples of how human’s inherent trust can be our own downfall, he made us realise how simple a cyberattack can really be and how our perception of a cybercriminal being a person in a hoodie hiding behind a laptop is far from the truth. Last, but certainly not least, Kimoon Kim from Siatik spoke us through the concepts of Big Data and Machine Learning. By focusing on powerful platforms that are readily available for us to use such as Google Cloud and BigQuery, the attendees discovered how to easily analyse all their data, regardless of size, in real-time. The rest of the day was spent brainstorming ideas, absorbing even more information and inspiration from the mentors and speakers, and coming up with ideas that will not only take them through to the next round in Midrand, but also to potentially win them top spot at the #SS18 Hackathon later next month! The top three teams with the ideas that showed most potential were: - Bro-Coders - CleverKleva - TechnoGeeks - A special mention went to team Nosey. We look forward to seeing everyone again in a month’s time and would like to thank all the sponsors and speakers for their involvement in making this event successful!   Sponsors for the event: Snode, ITWeb, Geekulcha, The Business Clinic, Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

Re-invented Zeus malware Terdot, defied explanation, but cannot defeat detection

December 6, 2017

Author: Nithen Naidoo, Founder and CEO (Snode)   During October 2017, Snode's cybersecurity platform (Guardian) found an increasing trend in SA networks being infected by the well-known Zeus malware. Although the Zeus Trojan (discovered back in July 2007) is still considered one of the most prolific malware variants affecting the Internet today; the retro plague perplexed our analysts. The finding’s fallacy is that most (if not all) traditional anti-malware controls today can reliably defend against the Zeus malware threat. At the time, we could not explain how a 10-year-old Trojan was (as reported by our learning machine) effortlessly propagating through large SA corporate networks; unhindered and undetected. A fitting explanation was later provided courtesy of the global security technology firm, Bitdefender. Bitdefender’s researchers released a paper (mid November 2017) on the discovery of a new “Zeus inspired” Trojan, called Terdot. A surprising insight from their research is that they first discovered the Trojan in October 2016; which highlights a challenge in our machine-assisted analytics. You see, the machine-learnt Zeus malware's "pattern of behaviour" was now mimicked by Terdot. As a matter of fact, Snode's learning machine could only learn to accurately identify Terdot, by unlearning everything it knew about the Zeus malware. Hence why our learning machine is augmented by our (human) analysts as it allowed us to reliably distinguish between these two malware variants. Now, it is not often that a cybersecurity vendor will openly discuss the flaws in their machine learning and pattern recognition software. However, at Snode we do not build software, we deliver solutions (and we value transparency). This is why our machine-assisted analytics is backed by (and never delivered without) our human intelligence. Something to keep in mind, if you believe that AI-supported threat detection (neural network based pattern recognition) software will transcend your security posture to a cybersecurity nirvana, it won't, at least not yet. However, by enhancing your posture with such technology (defence in depth), you wont get trapped in a false sense of security, solely relying on the latest antivirus signatures to save you. Keep in mind that Terdot, was circulating in the wild for an entire year without signature-based detection. I would like to thank and give credit to the Bitdefender Research Labs for making the Terdot discovery. For more information, you can find the full research paper here.

Videos

Nithen Naidoo on South African start-up Snode’s use of Big Data analytics for Cybersecurity

February 26, 2018

Nithen Naidoo, Founder and CIO, Snode talks about: what the company does and how; how Snode Guardian can identify cyber-attacks; how the company has been funded; and future plans.

PHP Meetup (16 Jan 2018) – Part 2

February 15, 2018

The second in a series of videos from the PHP Meetup event hosted at the Hello Group on 16 January 2018.

PHP Meetup (16 Jan 2018) – Part 1

January 25, 2018

The first in a series of videos from the PHP Meetup event hosted at the Hello Group on 16 January 2018.

Snode | Who We Are

September 8, 2017

Snode is a data analytics platform that is designed to make the lives of whomever uses it easier, to assist in solving problems that were previously thought impossible, and to ultimately make a fundamental difference in the world as we know it.