Exabeam trials user monitoring technology on Safeway network

Reaches the places SIEM can't, claims startup

Security startup Exabeam has launched itself out of stealth purdah with a new technology that tracks and risk-scores user behaviour as a way of overcoming the limitations of complex, 'noisy' SIEM monitoring.

The idea of securing networks by monitoring the users and credentials that are used to access them isn't brand new but Exabeam remains confident that adding a layer of 'user behaviour intelligence' above SIEM will help fend off the sort of data breaches that have become disappointingly routine at many US firms.

That's a big claim but the firm does have a big endorsement from its star launch customer, US supermarket Safeway, which acted as a live trial network during the platform's development.

Exabeam's platform detects anomalies using risk-scoring algorithms after first defining a normal pattern for a particular user regardless of how that individual is accessing the network. Mis-used or hijacked accounts should, in theory, stand out, including those of the partners.

"The challenge with SIEM solutions is that you can only find the threats you are actively looking for through a statistical or rule-based model," said Safeway vice president of information technology, Colin Anderson, quoted as part of the release.

"Where Exabeam brings immense value is in identifying what we're not looking for by understanding 'normal' user behavior and alerting us when network activity deviates from that baseline. Without this type of solution, businesses are blind to these threats and waste time chasing the tails of false positive alerts."

Founded in July 2013, the company was also working with three other US enterprises in the telco, tech and financial sectors, Exabeam's co-founder and CEO Nir Polak confirmed to Techworld.

Despite its popularity in recent years, SIEM relied on known patterns to detect irregularity but this was often impossible to anticipate ahead of time, he said. Exabeam was focused on detecting unusual behaviour at the user level, particularly useful when securing attackers abusing stolen credentials.

It's a theme that will strike a strong chord even if the technology sounds like yet another security layer to add to those built from SIEM. For Polak, the use of machine-driven detection is a natural evolution from the simpler policy-driven world that is now struggling to keep out the bad guys.

The partnership with Safeways is a bit of a coup for the young firm, a trial period that involved being let loose to refine the system on the supermarket's complete network of 140,000 employees, Polak said.

Exabeam has a stand at this week's Splunk Worldwide User Conference in Las Vegas.

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