A computer network in Finland is attacked by zero-hour malware — and soon everyone who accesses the local newspaper’s website is infected with spyware. A virus spreads like wildfire through businesses in the southeast U.S. A social engineering attack using a celebrity scandal quickly spreads around Facebook.

Every minute of every day, attacks like these are happening all around the world. As billions and billions of bytes of data are created, shared and stored on computers and networks across the globe, it’s become increasingly difficult to stay on top of what the threats are and where they will strike. Once upon a time, it might have been easy to pinpoint the source of a particular virus or where a hacker was located, but in today’s connected society, that task has become more complicated.

Thanks to big data analytics, though, you and your data are protected against malicious attacks and those who want to steal your data. With so much information — and attacks from every corner of the globe — without the ability to examine and analyze large amounts of data, everyone is vulnerable.

What is Big Data Analytics?

In the simplest terms, big data analytics is the process of examining huge amounts of data and looking for trends. It’s not looking at data from one region or from one particular virus. It’s the process of collecting data from all over the world — billions of terabytes worth of information from IP addresses, e-mail, mobile apps and more — and then identifying, correlating and analyzing that data to determine where the threats are, using human data analysis, established algorithms and other research methods.

For example, most traditional protection measures — antivirus protection, firewalls and user education — do a fairly good job of blocking intrusions into company networks. However, many of these methods are based on old knowledge and understood threats. With cybercriminals becoming ever more sophisticated and developing advanced attack methods such as customized attacks, it’s difficult to proactively protect against those threats.

Big data analytics takes the information from both normal computer user behavior and suspicious behavior and develops models that will help identify a particular problem. When user behavior deviates from the established patterns, it indicates a potential security breach — and that information is used to develop a robust database against which to compare future patterns of information. In that sense, big data is constantly building on itself and growing stronger, continuously creating better protection for users every day.

How Big Data Is Protecting You

These days, computers, networks and data are vulnerable to attack from multiple sources. No longer do we simply need to worry about viruses being spread via e-mail from supposed Nigerian princes. Cybercriminals are sophisticated, using social engineering, mobile malware and other targeted attacks to gain unauthorized access to information. Because of the wide range of attacks, analyzing one type of data from one defined region is going to produce inaccurate results, thereby limiting the level of threat protection that is provided.

Big data analytics allows businesses to have a more comprehensive strategy. With a cloud-based protection network based on big data, patterns are analyzed in real time. For example, one aspect of such a network is a Web reputation service. The Web is full of millions of sites designed to download malware onto unsuspecting users’ machines. A Web reputation service rates websites against a specific set of criteria; users can only access sites with sufficiently high scores, which are determined via a number of factors, including information gathered from other sites and patterns within big data.

This is just one way that big data analytics helps protect your business against threats. Additionally, the constant collection and analysis of data allows such protection to occur in real time, instead of waiting days or even weeks for updates. As more and more data is collected and correlated to known threats, it allows for immediate protection.

As cybercriminals become ever more sophisticated and look for new ways to steal data, it’s important for IT professionals to stay one step ahead of them. While it’s impossible to analyze every single piece of data that is created or shared each day, looking at a substantial amount of data allows for a better understanding of threats and for proactive protection to prevent the significant loss of data, time and money.

About the Author: Melissa Cromwell is an IT specialist for Trend Micro. She writes about IT issues for several publications, sharing how with the Smart Protection Network, global threats can be managed and your data kept safe.

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