How Big Data is Helping Live Oak Bank Prevent Hacking

August 9th, 2017

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While there’s a myriad of technologies and companies on the market trying to make banking data more secure and prevent hacking, knowing which technologies and partners to choose from can be a daunting task. With cyber criminals looking for any conceivable way to get into banking systems, monitoring for potential threats can seem almost impossible. Think of cyber security as a house with multiple “points of access” for potential burglars, like windows or doors. The problem is that each digital access point, from branch networks to remote data centers, presents a distinct set of cyber security problems. This often leads banks to involve multiple software, solutions and partners. The result can be a disjointed cyber security strategy where banks are spread thin dealing with multiple vendors and systems.

That’s precisely the issue that Live Oak Bank—a North Carolina institution specializing in small business loans—faced as the bank’s employees were looking to improve their cybersecurity. Part of Live Oak’s promise to its customers is top-notch cyber security, but with their systems, the bank struggled to gain visibility into every potential point of access that cyber criminals might seek to exploit.

“We really wanted to protect ourselves across the board,” recalls Thomas Hill, chief technology officer at Live Oak. “But we had to address each potential security issue with separate technologies, which quickly became overwhelming. You’ve got to monitor all these devices and systems all the time, and be on top of them if—and when—a hacker comes in.”

Hill and Live Oak began evaluating options to respond to breaches quickly when they happen, and possibly detect them ahead of time. They decided to partner with Seattle-based cybersecurity company, DefenseStorm.

“Live Oak needed visibility into all areas of its network to support company-wide security and operational activities,” explains DefenseStorm chief technology officer Sean Cassidy. “With branches, staff and data centers located across the U.S., [employees] had multiple systems to monitor each point of access. They needed a way to consolidate visibility into each system, while still allowing the systems to continue operating as intended.”

DefenseStorm’sstack of cybersecurity capabilities includes real-time incident reporting, automated initial threat response and—most importantly—a proprietary big data engine built specifically for banks to analyze metadata patterns that could be indicative of a hack. Live Oak was then able to aggregate all their cyber security logs and event data into one analysis engine—with the objective of increasing visibility of security threats, and speeding up reaction time to potential breaches. They did this by implementing software that aggregates data from existing systems, and places it all into a single, easy-to-monitor dashboard. Incident tracking for compliance purposes also became more efficient, allowing the bank to report cyber incidents to state and federal regulatory agencies sooner than before.

“DefenseStorm’s incident response system allows me to not only easily see data indicating a potential hack, it allows me to immediately assign it to one of our engineers,” says Hill of Live Oak. “It really empowers them to focus in-depth on potential threats and dig deep to see if there’s a hack underway.”

DefenseStorm also continues to provide Live Oak with 24-hour monitoring and support through its so-called Guardian team, who are also responsible for offering assistance in investigating—and uncovering—potential threats. The Guardian team provides advice and recommendations to Live Oak on how to better secure its network in the future. This underscores the trend of“threat hunting,” as businesses and organizations seek to be more proactive in how they monitor systems for potential hackers.

Live Oak’s previous security system was unable to perform accurate and timely security analyses, mainly due to the increasingly large amount of data traffic occurring on the bank’s networks. Reaction time to security incidents has been greatly reduced, says Cassidy.

Finally, one of the most unique parts of this partnership is that Live Oak has chosen to participate as a proof of concept customer for features and capabilities of DefenseStorm’s software that are in the final stages of development. “With all the tools and support they provide, DefenseStorm is really turning out to be a Swiss Army knife for us—and potentially the entire banking industry," says Hill. “This partnership has been a huge win.”

David Harrington is a writer and contributor to FinXTech.com.