Cybersecurity was a huge focal point of 2016. With a new hacking scandal being highlighted in the news almost on a weekly basis, cybersecurity has become a major issue for all digital companies. Looking at some of the more severe breaches of 2016, it seems no-one is safe, and that cybersecurity is an area which is only going to grow and become more significant in the years ahead.

Security of the Future

It’s clear that firms are now stepping up their game in response to the numerous cybersecurity breaches and attacks in the last few years, and it’s not just the private sector which is picking up speed on this. GCHQ has recently partnered with Wayra, among others, with the aim of finding new and innovative companies, who use novel techniques to solve real world problems, with the focus being on applying these solutions in a cybersecurity context. Of these start-ups involved in this ‘incubator’ style environment, I’ve picked out a few which are worth watching in the cybersecurity space in the year ahead.

  1. CounterCraft
  2. StatusToday
  3. Spherical Defense

CounterCraft

CounterCraft specialise in counter intelligence campaigns. They utilise deception techniques in order to detect, study and manipulate adversaries, with the idea of turning a passive security system into an active defence. They offer tools and models to clients who wish to build, deploy and maintain these ‘deception’ campaigns. Alongside this they actually interact with ‘adversaries’ in order to further aid the campaign and gather real world data.

In the real world, deception is often used to prevent attacks, or at least reduce the damage a hacker can do, honeypots are prime examples of this. However, honeypots only keep the attacker busy for so long, whilst the owner(s) of the system under attack think up another way to secure their assets. The idea behind CounterCraft is not only to passively protect a system, but to actively engage in its defence with pre-programmed responses, transforming the system from hunted, to hunter.

Furthermore, deception campaigns could be very useful to the banking industry. If banks could deploy effective campaigns to divert hackers away from their critical systems, whilst also learning more about those attackers and responding with active defence measures, they would have much better prospects against potential breaches.

The concern I’d have with the idea of these deception campaigns, and the ability to enable an active defence through pre-programmed responses, is how would it cover the wide range of potential threats? Cyber attacks can come from both internal and external sources. For example, how would you deploy a deception campaign internally to give protection against social engineering? Furthermore, it would be interesting to see how many areas CounterCraft could apply their security models too.

StatusToday

StatusToday provide real-time analytical data on people. They utilise human knowledge, alongside a sophisticated AI learning platform to do so. Furthermore, by collecting large quantities of data, they are able to create more efficient and robust algorithms, which in turn create more accurate data reports. They aim to provide more in depth, accurate information about people, and with social engineering becoming a major threat in the cybersecurity area, being able to accurately report on human behaviour would be a big step in preventing internal attacks. In addition, the fact that it works in real-time, ensures it maximises the chances of finding threats in good time, and minimises any potential impact of a breach.

Moreover, StatusToday provides a very real prospect of preventing and dissolving potential social engineering attacks. With more and more breaches coming from insider attacks, having the ability to monitor and react to human behaviour in real time could be a big bonus to companies at risk of internal threats.

On the other hand, one issue that springs to mind with this sort of technology is data privacy. In a digital age where more and more data is being put out on the web, a lot of people are still concerned with data privacy, as there are still numerous issues surrounding it. Whilst behaviour monitoring software could be an effective counter-measure to social engineering style threats, data privacy could become a problem, as it poses questions about the kind of data being held and analysed.

Spherical Defence

Spherical Defense is really interesting; their product is a web application firewall for structured data. However, there is more to it than that; they utilise deep learning alongside artificial intelligence to prevent attacks. Amongst their focus areas are; intrusion detection systems, neural networks, anomaly detection and API security. One of their target areas is the banking industry, which based on some of the large scale breaches last year, clearly have weaknesses in their security. Through the utilisation of deep learning, Spherical Defence are developing state-of-the-art intrusion detection systems for the banking APIs, which could be a huge boost in preventing large scale attacks in this area. However, they’re not only focused on the banking sector, they’ve also identified areas for their product within defence, healthcare and the ever growing world of IoT.

Again this is a product which could mean big things for the banking and finance industry. With some of the largest breaches in the last few years targeting banks, having the ability to deploy state-of-the-art defence mechanisms would strengthen these systems and give them a fighting chance against potential threats.

Conclusion

It’s clear that cybersecurity will be a major focus of 2017, with more and more organisations choosing to invest heavily in defence of their assets. Capgemini is also investing in this area, from combining automated collection with in-depth human analysis to identify advanced persistent threats to supporting cybersecurity (and other!) start-ups through its global InnovatorsRace50 competition that offers $50k of equity free funding to a winning idea.

Hackers are becoming smarter, and security breaches more difficult to detect and defend against. It will take greater intelligence and perseverance to combat the cyber threat, and these new, innovative companies - whilst not the finished articles - are providing a platform to do just that.

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