The cyber race is on and AI engineering will be indispensable

A neon blue DNA strand is visualized on a dark background to represent Darktrace's new cybersecurity system.

Categories: Technology

1 August 2018

Author: Darktrace


The Internet of Things

From face recognition on our phones to Alexa virtual assistants, our lives are being fundamentally revolutionised by waves of new tech. We are developing smart cities, littering roads and traffic systems with sensors to monitor carbon monoxide levels and push traffic along, and our vehicles are soon to be autonomous. In the business world, new innovations are automating time-consuming and repetitive tasks, creating efficiencies and enhanced productivity never previously imagined.

But whilst hyper-connectivity and the Internet of Things produce a myriad of benefits, they also leave us more vulnerable to an increasingly sophisticated cyber-threat landscape. Engineers and marketers are racing to bring the latest gadgets to market, and cybersecurity is too often an afterthought. At Darktrace, we are seeing the full spectrum of modern attacks on these connected devices.

From video conferencing devices in law firm boardrooms to thermometers in fish tanks, there are a whole host of new entry points for attackers to exploit. As such, networks today are ‘digital jungles’ and even a cohort of highly-trained security experts can be blind to vast swathes of their IT infrastructure.

The increasing complexity of cybersecurity

As well as managing their own cyber complexity, attackers are getting more creative by the day, developing new malware which are impossible to predict. Today’s threats are often ‘zero-day attacks’, which are novel enough to bypass firewalls and anti-virus on network borders. Once inside, they can either sweep through networks quickly and loudly to lock down whole systems or lie low to conduct stealthy espionage and critical compromise. What’s more, hackers are no longer solely external adversaries.

Modern businesses are changing how they operate at a rate too fast for most securities to catch up. Employees are embracing remote working initiatives, connecting work laptops and mobiles to their home networks, or even hotel Wi-Fi. The reality is that threats are inevitable, and a growing number originate from within the organisation. Whether accidental breaches or malicious attacks by an employee, these threats are some of the hardest to detect as they fly under the radar of traditional, outward-looking security tools. However, although there may not be a silver bullet for cybersecurity, there is a silver lining.

Cybersecurity is one of the world’s first and most valuable applications of artificial intelligence. The UK is leading the charge in AI R&D and we are constantly seeing exciting developments from tech hubs such as Cambridge, and expert engineers across academia. Nowhere else is AI having as big an impact as in cybersecurity.

Where security teams previously had to meticulously comb through systems to discover genuine threats, AI is empowering organisations to detect dangers in real-time and, importantly, autonomously respond to them in seconds. This engineering feat is revolutionary for security across various sectors and government bodies.


Darktrace’s Enterprise Immune System is at the forefront of this new approach, leveraging machine learning and mathematics from the University of Cambridge, and is inspired by the intelligence of the human immune system. While human bodies act to protect us from the majority of dangerous viruses and pathogens, some dangers are still able to enter our bodies. The same applies to cybersecurity – some threats will inevitably get in. Not only this, but these threats will be ‘unknown unknowns’.

Darktrace forms a ‘pattern of life’ for any network by modelling the interactions between every device and user on the network, in real-time, and differentiating between ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ behaviour. By spotting the subtly unusual, the technology can detect threats in their earliest stages and automatically deliver ‘digital antibodies’ to quarantine and stop threats from doing damage. All without needing human intervention.

The ability to innovate is integral to our progression into a smarter, more efficient society. Cyber engineers and AI experts are fundamental to the future of cybersecurity. Consequently, as we see threats evolve to increasingly outpace humans, the cybersecurity landscape becomes one of machine fighting machine.

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More on the author, Darktrace

Founded in 2013 by mathematicians from the University of Cambridge and government cyber intelligence experts in the US and the UK, Darktrace is a company developing AI solutions for cybersecurity.

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