At a time when global enterprises have no dearth of cybersecurity professionals, technologies and firewalls, it can be strange to hear of them being targeted so extensively by hackers and disruptors.
While cybersecurity has evolved over the years thanks to the coming of age of advanced firewalls, end-to-end encryption technologies and malware trackers, so have the nature of hacking tools and expertise of cyber criminals.
It is hence no wonder that as many as 42% of large businesses in the UK who hire over 100 staff have been victims of cybercrimes over the last twelve months. With hackers seemingly finding ways to beat every possible piece of technology, one wonders if there will ever be a way to finish the menace of cyber-attacks for good.
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Fortunately, there are some, even if they do not claim to outlast the crusade.
Today's cyber criminals can not only play havoc with your systems and steal confidential data, but can also resort to deceptive methods like altering data, stealing or changing codes which can take up to a year to trace. Some have been so effective and precise that the fate of today's cybersecurity protocols is more like that of a Falklands-era battleship hunting a modern day nuclear sub.
For example, Dido Harding, who served as TalkTalk's chief executive when its data was plundered by hackers, shared her concerns with the media that even the British Government's Cyber Essentials security programme wouldn't have saved her company from the eventual hack.
Since big businesses didn't have lasting solutions, a string of cybersecurity start-ups are now leading the fight on behalf of the good guys.
Darktrace, a UK-based security firm, is now taking inspiration from the human body's immune system, which has survived millions of years of constant viral, bacterial and environmental attacks, yet sustains and evolves itself as a natural process.
"The philosophy of our entire portfolio, or our approach, is largely based on this DNA: human immune system. How have human beings, for millions of years, thrived and survived? (It) is because of our immune system. Almost every day, we're hit by unknown unknowns, which is the way organizations are also hit ... in terms of viruses and malware," said Sanjay Aurora, managing director for Asia Pacific at Darktrace, to CNBC.
Darktrace is taking advantage of new machine learning capabilities to understand how systems work, how they respond to commands and this way, singles out incidents which are not part of the machine's normal behaviour and can be results of external manipulations. Antigena, a technology which the firm owns, is capable enough to detect present threats and neutralise them without manual intervention, while not hampering a system's normal functions, just like what antibodies do inside our bodies. If implemented by firms that store consumer data, Antigena would do well to stall ongoing threats which would otherwise take many months to trace and locate.
What Darktrace is up to isn't just a mere fancy of its owners. ABI Research recently argued that machine learning and AI technologies could significantly enhance cyber security capabilities in the future and may help kick-start a flurry of investments on intelligence and analytics which could reach £72 billion in the next four years.
"It is undeniable that within machine learning (ML) and its parent technology artificial intelligence (AI) exists the sheer potential to greatly enhance current analytic capabilities and transform literally every digital system currently available—from space exploration and neuroscience to business endeavors to tackling societal and climate challenges. Recently, ML has been hailed as the brand-new weapon emerging from the multi-layered discipline of data science to enter the arsenal of cybersecurity," said the ABI Research report.
The firm has also argued that machine learning can help firms develop innovative monitoring applications, reinforce security domains, recognize patterns and behaviours and create predictive technologies to defeat threats at their source. While the scope of such technologies is huge and beneficial, they will require huge investments in the initial stages which may not be something smaller firms would be able to afford. Nevertheless, considering that existing security protocols haven't been able to satisfactorily push back hacking attempts, machine learning tools could ultimately become inevitable to protect customer privacy and data security of businesses and government departments.