What the immune system can teach us about cybersecurity

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The body's immune system can teach organizations a thing or two about cybersecurity and protecting data.

In a contributed post to The Wall Street Journal, Nicole Eagan, CEO of cybersecurity company Darktrace, compared hackers who infiltrate networks to viruses in the body.

"Like a secret agent behind enemy lines, these undetectable viruses can have an organization under complete and total surveillance, waiting months or even years before making an attack," Ms. Eagan wrote. "When the malware becomes active, which may be for only a few seconds, it can prove fatal."

As these types of cyber incidents rise, Ms. Eagan wrote organizations should change and update their approaches to cyber defense. The threats are evolving, and organizations simply can't keep up.

"The problem, in short, is that we've been sending a human to a machine fight," she wrote.

Strong cyber defenses should leverage machine learning to adapt and learn from data. Human involvement should be minimized, according to Ms. Eagan. Developing and implementing advanced machine learning algorithms to protect against cyber attackers will help organizations fight off breaches in the same way the body leverages the immune system to fight off illnesses.

"Advanced — and, more important, constantly evolving — algorithms behave like an immune system for the enterprise," Ms. Eagan wrote. "When the network is breached by a suspicious activity, whether from an insider or from an external threat, the system alerts the security team to that anomaly."

She mentioned "digital antibodies," which are spurred to action after detecting a serious threat, much like antibodies in our immune system are triggered when detecting a certain virus against which they defend. All these processes are automatic and don't rely on human intervention. The same goes for organizations.

"Machine learning filters the great swaths of notifications that hit security teams every day, guiding the expertise of trained personnel to respond to the threats that pose real danger," Ms. Eagan wrote.

More articles on cybersecurity:

NFL cybersecurity woes continue: Hackers infiltrate Twitter account, say Commissioner Roger Goodell died
Not just a hospital problem: Malicious code tops cybersecurity threat list for government entities 
Hospitals cannot prevent cyberattacks, but they can protect patient data 

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