Skip navigation
Industry News

The Toronto Raptors, User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) and Shifting Technology Trends


The Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship. That much is well known, unless you live under a rock. Unfortunately, I do live under a rock. To me the Raptors brings to mind their 1990s jersey. That’s the one with the red dinosaur dribbling a basketball across a great purple expanse. And it’s the history of the jersey that tells us something about the future of security.

The Raptor’s iconic basketball jersey was, like many things, driven by technological limitations. In this case, embroidery. Each design element required stitching. Each stitch added cost, added weight and reduced airflow. Cost is always a factor. And when the goal is winning games, weight and heat are absolutely to be avoided.

These are the same design challenges we face in IT security. Each data point requires compute and storage. Each data point adds cost and time for analysis. Better to keep it simple: username, password, logs for people logging on and logging off, and access determined by role. 

RBAC is the Chicago Bulls jersey: a classic design born from the limitations of its time.

A New Era in Printing Jerseys: Dye Sublimation

Back to the 1990s, a new technology disrupted the jersey market and destroyed these previous limitations: dye sublimation. All of a sudden, jerseys could have any number of colors or designs without increasing the price, weight, or heat. A wave of new designs swept the NBA. The crazy basketball sun for the Phoenix Suns. A flaming horse head on teal for the Detroit Pistons. And of course, that red dinosaur for the Toronto Raptors. The 1990s exploded in color.

A New Era in Big Data and Machine Learning: UEBA

What’s our equivalent of dye sublimation? Big Data and Machine Learning are forerunners. We’ve seen an explosion in User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) in the last few years. IT Security teams can now add more data points and do deeper logging, performing analytics that would have been impossible a decade ago. Many new companies have launched to fill this need, with an explosion of new products. It’s security in full color.

I was disappointed to learn the Raptors were not wearing dinosaurs when they won the NBA championship. After the period of graphic design exploration and innovation, a counterwave swept the NBA. The ideas, themes, and technologies of the 90s jerseys were absorbed into the broader style. Dye sublimation and colors have become features of jerseys, rather than the reason for the jersey themselves.

We’re beginning to see the same shift in UEBA. Our abilities to discover threats and investigate incidents is broadening out. Rather than needing standalone equipment and dedicated staff, newer UEBA tech is becoming features of existing security tools. It’s a predictable innovation pattern. And it’s a welcome pattern, too, as this moves UEBA closer to the devices and users, and places UEBA in the hands of more security professionals.

And, who knows? Perhaps in twenty years, today’s UEBA software will be as much a collector item as the Toronto Raptors dinosaur jersey. Disruptive innovations play out in ways which inform us of where the ball is going next. Hold onto those classic controls, keep an eye towards what’s coming, and enjoy the game.

For more on the history of the Toronto Raptors jersey design, visit the 99% Invisible Podcast (https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-barney-design-redux/).