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October 19, 2015

Cyber security now a matter of “survival of the fittest”

C Level Briefing: Dave Palmer, Director of Technology at Darktrace, tells CBR how he is deploying machine learning in the on going cyber security battle.

By Charlotte Henry

Darktrace takes a different approach to cyber security to its rivals. Instead of building firewalls or similar protective products, the software acts as an immune system, says Dave Palmer its Director of Technology, identifying incidents when they have occurred.

"Rather than being a broad cyber security company, there is exactly one thing we’re interested in which is the application of advanced mathematics and machine learning to try and move forward some of the hard issues in cyber security" he says.

Given the product offered by the firm, he must think there is a problem with how things have been done previously? "Bluntly, if that worked, then we wouldn’t see cyber security in the news every day," he say.

While Palmer accepts that his firm is not the answer to all securities problems, he clearly puts a lot of sway in the power of mathematics and machine learning.

"Regardless of what the drawing says, and what their job title says they should do, we just learn what does happen, not matter how complicated the business and let business know what has changed its changed in a way that might be worthy of having a look at.

Palmer pours cold water on Cisco’s claim that it can find breaches within 46 hours. "I would love to see how they are doing that" he says, before saying that after it has gone through the learning process, which takes about 4 weeks, his software can locate a problem on a network in one second.

The IoT revolution is clearly at the heart of what Palmer and his colleagues are thinking about, and Darktrace has clients in the manufacturing and oil and gas industries.

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"When you look at manufacturer, or areas like oil and gas, safety is the number thing." The consequences of cyber attacks on factories or car plants can literally, be fatal.

What happens, for example "if someone inadvertly makes a shop floor robot turn around in a way its never done before or is not supposed to and that injures her factory work or an employer or a visitor?" Palmer says. He wants to make sure that this is a situation his clients are never faced with.

Aside from human risk, Darktrace wants to mitigate the business damage caused by cyber breaches. He believes its now got to the point where it will be "survival of the fittest" for firms with good digital hygiene.

Palmer is also confident about the UK’s position in the cyber security universe, saying: "Maybe there’s a gap between where we want to be and where we are, but we shouldn’t lose track of how far in front the UK is compared to a lot of global regions."

As for the future of Darktrace, things seems to be positive: "Darktrace is only 2 years old, but we’re in 19 countries where we have a physical presence, and we have customers in more than that, I don’t know the exact number, but it’s probably about 25, or maybe a bit higher," says Palmer.

No security system can ever be perfect, but in Darktrace, the hackers of the dark web have come up against a very savvy opponent.

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