Jul 28 2017

A New Tool from Splunk Could Sort Through Data and Stop Ransomware

Colleges can fight cyberattacks with the help of data visualization tools.

With the recent rash of WannaCry attacks, ransomware has been top of mind for those in IT. At least five U.S. colleges were affected by the WannaCry attacks, EdScoop reports. University of Washington says only a handful of computers were compromised and MIT tells EdScoop the attack only reached 100 of its computers.

While these attacks reached a small group of U.S. universities, Newsweek reports that nearly two-thirds of universities in the U.K. have been assaulted by ransomware. Large, well-known universities like the University of Oxford admitted they didn’t have anti-virus software that protected against ransomware.

“These findings shine a light on the growing ransomware threat and the fact that universities are seen as potentially lucrative targets,” University College London lecturer Gianluca Stinghini tells Newsweek.

Data giant Splunk is looking to protect universities from this potential threat with its new tool, Splunk Insights for Ransomware. The new solution is made with small or understaffed IT departments in mind as it detects, investigates and responds to key indicators of a ransomware attack, EdScoop reports in a different article.

“The key to combating ransomware is to find potential ransomware activity early and contain any threats quickly,” says Jae Lee, a product marketing specialist for Splunk’s security division.

The solution, which builds off Splunk’s existing data analytics tools that many universities use, allows for IT departments to catch threats quickly without compromising their valuable time.

“By enabling a broader analytics-driven approach to security, Splunk Insights for Ransomware enables understaffed IT and security shops to gain end-to-end visibility into potential ransomware activity across the IT environment,” reads Splunk’s website.

Northwestern University was one of the first colleges to embrace Splunk’s new tool, EdScoop reports. Though the university’s IT team is a lot larger than some, the solution saves a lot of time by streamlining the process of detecting and remedying abnormalities.

“There’s just an unholy amount of noise,” Northwestern data security analyst Mary Carp tells EdScoop. “[Splunk] is doing a lot of the legwork in determining what’s expected and what’s strange.”

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Best Practices Shield Universities from Evolving Security Threats

With ransomware jumping up 35 percent in recent years, David Hutchins, vice president of higher education for CDW•G, writes on EdTech that now is the time for universities to make security their top tech investment.

“One attribute of the security landscape has become permanent: the reality of constant change,” Hutchins writes.

To maintain security, universities need to be able to monitor activities constantly, which is where tools like Splunk Insights for Ransomware prove their worth. Data can be extremely helpful in thwarting cyberattacks when a tool is enabled to detect patterns quickly.

Using a data visualization tool that they invented, Yang Cai, the director of the Visual Intelligence Studio at Carnegie Mellon’s Cy Lab, tells EdTech that analysts can easily recognize anomalies in their networks.

“Through 3D navigation, we can see how a virus propagates through a network,” says Cai.

As more technology that makes it easier to sort through data is released, universities can be poised to stop a threat in its tracks.

“The savviest institutions are also vigilant to the distant horizon and the threats — still unknown — that will emerge in the future,” writes Hutchins.


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