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Georgia Tech launches early warning system for cyberthreats

Jul 28, 20143 mins
CybercrimeData and Information SecurityIntrusion Detection Software

Called BlackForest, the system can provide early warnings for distributed denial-of-service attacks or the latest malware variations under development

Georgia Institute of Technology’s applied research arm has launched an early warning system to help organizations prepare for possible cyberattacks.

The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) developed the open source system called BlackForest, which will complement the institute’s malware and spear-phishing intelligence systems.

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GTRI describes BlackForest as being on the “cutting edge” of anticipating when cybercriminals may be planning a distributed denial-of-service attack or the latest malware variations under development.

To gain insight on attackers, the system collects information from hacker forums and other sites where malware developers post new code to advertise its availability and ask questions or seek feedback from other code writers.

Other discussions BlackForest can tap into include planning of distributed denial-of-service attacks, advice given on network break-ins and the posting of stolen digital assets, such as payment card data and login credentials.

By collecting the information and relating it to past activities, the system can help organizations understand the nature of the threat and whether it’s building toward a possible attack.

For attacks that have already taken place, BlackForest can help identify the source, so organizations can track and prepare for future developments.

All the information is stored in a graph database, which is a storage system in which every element contains a direct pointer to its adjacent elements. Index lookups found in other types of databases is not necessary in a graph data store.

A customer of GTRI’s Emerging Threats and Countermeasures Division uses the group’s software to input keywords to draw the latest related information, which is displayed in a dashboard.

The information can also be exported to a security information and event management (SIEM) product or an intrusion detection system (IDS).

The analytics that draw relationships from the criminal activity is unique from other threat-intelligence services, Bryan Massey, associate head of GTRI’s Threat Intelligence Branch, said Monday.

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The branch intends to work with the university’s graph database experts to help in drawing the relationships and in filtering the data when customers do a search.

Since no technology can predict the future, BlackForrest won’t be able to say for sure whether or when an attack will occur, Massey said.

“It’s not going to necessarily predict an attack,” Massey said. “It’s going to alert you to the fact that things are happening more quickly and could potentially be a threat in the future.”