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.