Cyber security and AI Insights from BCCJ member firm

Oct. 5, 2018


In September, more than 60 BCCJ members gathered for breakfast to hear experts from BCCJ member firms Barclays and Darktrace share their thoughts on developments in cyber security and artificial intelligence (AI).

Barclays are playing an increasingly prominent role in the cyber intelligence dialogue, working with the UK government-backed Cyber Security Challenge UK and providing in-branch staff to facilitate research on the dangers of cyber attacks to SMEs. Darktrace, meanwhile, is an award-winning artificial intelligence company for cyber defence, scooping Best AI Product in Security and Outstanding Innovations in AI: Security at the CogX Awards in 2018.

Opening the event, Paul Ellis, first secretary of defence and security at the British Embassy, Tokyo, said cyber security and AI are vital for a safe economy and safe society. Attacks in the past have placed people at risk of harm, and the cost of data breaches is expected to be more than £6trn by 2022, six times greater than that of 2016. The UK government, therefore, has allocated £2.5bn to support cyber security and AI as part of its commitment to make the UK one of the safest places in the world to do business. 

Its efforts are supported by the private sector. Ellis shared that the UK boasts some 800 firms in the cyber security field. Moreover, one in three of all AI businesses in Europe are established in the UK. Barclays and Darktrace, Ellis added, are two British firms that are leading in the field and have a track record of success in Japan.

Evolving threats

According to Darktrace’s Hayato Shigekawa, businesses have been facing an increasing number and greater variety of threats, making management more challenging for people. In response, Darktrace’s Enterprise Immune System utilises AI to learn what is normal activity within an organisation’s network. When abnormal activity occurs, the technology identifies and responds to it, stopping in-progress cyber threats.Theo Nassiokas, head of APAC cyber security at Barclays, shared that an organisation might experience thousands of attempts to penetrate its firewall per day; threats are mainly infrastructure-based. However, a cyber-attack performed without a computer is possible. He cited a case in Iran in 2009 whereby a system that was not connected to the Internet was compromised by a malicious code named Stuxnet, which was delivered into an appliance by a human.

 IoT can also be hacked, he said. Ransomware capable of self-propagating as a worm, with no command centre operated by the attacker—the first of its kind—was behind the attack on the UK’s National Health Service in 2017 that resulted in malfunctioning hospital equipment, leaving patients at risk. The malicious code used was I Wanna Cry.Shigekawa added that security is a primary concern for IoT. Although people are more aware about security issues, they need to remain vigilant about devices on networks, as IoT devices don’t have antivirus software.

Safe and secure

Though security threats are becoming more advanced, Nassiokas noted that the most common attacks include phishing, which has been commonplace for more than a decade. He insisted that investing in technology to protect your organisation’s network should be accompanied by “getting the basics right,” which includes educating staff and nurturing a responsible culture.“Understand what your business is and what you’re trying to protect, and have a strategy around protecting that,” he said, adding that a security strategy is not about avoiding regulatory penalties. “It’s about delivering high-quality uninterrupted services for customers and maintaining the reputation of a business; one attack can destroy reputation,” he added.For these reasons, any security strategy needs to be proactive, commercially feasible and have buy-in from the organisation’s top stakeholders, he explained.To prevent an attack, Shigekawa noted that the most important considerations are infrastructure and risk assessment. After deploying basic security, including the firewall, the next fundamental step should be to look inside your network with real-time threat detection, autonomous response and network visualisation.   

Future of cyber

Nassiokas outlined the two schools of thought about how cyber security might develop. The first is that it will mature as an industry; people will become more aware of its intricacies and cyber attacks will become commonplace. He cited the example of credit cards, which were thought to be risk-free in the 1950s. Today, their use has an acceptable level of risk. The second is that, as technology continues to evolve, so too will the delivery vehicles for cyber attacks meaning we will need to keep on guard all the time. 

He also noted that more organisations might incorporate strategies that involve snaring attackers with a malicious honey pot placed on their network, which would damage a hacker on attack. This offensive practice is legal in most, but not all, jurisdictions, yet is currently uncommon.

Produced by Sterling Content for the BCCJ