Tech firm Intelligent Environments partners with Queen’s University to combat cyber crime

Queen's University in Belfast

Queen’s University in Belfast

The Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s University in Belfast is entering a new partnership with leading financial technology firm Intelligent Environments in what’s being described as a “world first” cyber security endeavour.

The collaboration is part of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme, which is designed to embed the latest academic research within leading businesses. A graduate will be recruited to work in Intelligent Environments’ Belfast office as part of the development of the company’s security software proposition, namely Interact AppSensorFS.

The partnership will further boost Intelligent Environments’ capability to develop secure and innovative digital financial solutions by benefiting from the CSIT’s research into cyber security and Artificial Intelligence, while the CSIT will likewise gain new real-world experience in the financial technology sector.

For its part, the wider academic community investigating cyber security is set to benefit from the resulting research into ever-changing attack trends on the banking sector.

Unprecedented volume of security incidents

This new partnership is being developed against the backdrop of the financial industry facing an unprecedented volume of security incidents despite high levels of spending on security measures. According to a recent PwC report, security breaches were at an all-time high in 2015, rising to 90% from 81% in 2014.

Despite the high threat level, no European retail bank has ‘attack aware’ security that automatically detects and responds to intrusions inside perimeter defences. While most bank branches have sensors inside the building as well as on the door, that’s not the standard for financial services technology.

The collaboration between the CSIT and Intelligent Environments aims to put an end to this situation through its Interact AppSensorFS proposition, which uses a state-of-the-art detection approach employing both machine learning and prior knowledge. A form of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning will be used to model user behaviour, teaching Interact AppSensorFS to recognise when a hacker is entering or is in a bank’s system, alerting security officers and providing solutions to negate the threat.

Interact AppSensorFS connects remote sensing detectors into a common security console, helping to monitor the overall security risk and activating alarms if defensive action is required.

Not ‘attack aware’

Clayton Locke, CTO at Intelligent Environments, said the development of Interact AppSensorFS is an important step towards solving what’s now becoming one of the biggest problems for the financial services sector.

“By not being ‘attack aware’, traditional security measures are like putting a lock on the door after the burglar is already inside the building,” suggested Locke. “Now, for the first time, banks can deploy security that responds from inside applications that are self-defending.”

Locke continued: “We believe 2016 is the time for the financial services industry to evolve and start using technology that can anticipate and differentiate between typical user and criminal behaviour and have the capability to cope in real-time. Our partnership with the CSIT to develop Interact AppSensorFS will be key to this evolution.”

Lorraine Marks, KTP manager at Queen’s University, explained: “Our Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Intelligent Environments aims to share expertise between the two organisations, providing a graduate with the opportunity to deliver a highly challenging, but strategically important project at an early stage in their career. The recruitment process for the position of KTP Associate is now underway, and we welcome applications from any suitably qualified graduates.”

Academics supporting the partnership

The Queen’s University academics supporting the partnership will be Dr Phillip O’Kane, a machine learning specialist, and Professor Sekir Sezer who specialises in the acceleration of network processing and cyber security-related functions.

Dr O’Kane commented: “It’s exciting that we are able to play a part in this partnership. The learning and experience from this project will also feed back into the regular review of our new Masters degree in Cyber Security’s course content, and provide further real-world examples of technology application.”

The proposition is what market analyst Gartner refers to as a Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) solution designed to protect Intelligent Environments’ Interact digital banking solutions from cyber security attacks. The initiative was originally based on ideas put forward by the Open Web Application Security Project, itself a global not-for-profit charity focused on improving software security.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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