CSIRO’s Data61 has inked a major research project with cyber security firm, Penten, to build AI-enabled cyber security defence technology, better known as ‘deception’ technology that includes cyber traps and decoys.
The Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre (CSCRC) struck the research project between CSIRO’s Data61, the data and digital specialist arm of Australia’s national science agency, and Penten, in a bid to extend Australia’s sovereign advantage in autonomous and active defence.
The project will provide Penten with access to Data61’s AI research expertise. The research will focus on extending Penten’s work on applying AI to turn the tables on cyber attackers, using deception technology like ‘cyber traps’ and ‘decoys’, part of an emerging category of cyber security defence.
“This is a significant announcement for the Australian cyber research community,” CSCRC CEO Rachael Falk said.
“The collaboration brings together one of Australia’s most innovative companies with our national science agency to collaborate on solving challenging problems in our field. The CSCRC continues to focus on industry led research, bringing the best scientific and engineering minds together to create tomorrow’s commercial opportunities.
“Strong cyber security is critical for our economy and for Australia’s prosperity. The CSCRC’s primary focus is collaboration with academia, industry and government to deliver industry-driven cyber security outcomes. We want our research and work to have an impact benefitting Australia both now and well into the future. We are excited by the opportunities this collaboration presents,” Falk said.
Penten CEO, Matthew Wilson, said the company has been exploring how to fight back against cyber attackers by interspersing decoy computers and data amongst real assets.
“Because they don’t have any real value, the decoys act as digital tripwires. We discover the attackers and learn more about them by capturing their actions, observing what they choose to interact with and placing homing beacons in the decoys.
“Cyber traps work best if the content is realistic, enticing and does not interfere with legitimate users. Making these cyber traps by hand and optimising for these requirements is very time consuming for cyber defenders.
“Our solutions use artificial intelligence to learn the patterns of activity and content from surrounding computers and data. We then use this information to create realistic and believable mimics. This means we can deliver suitable content extremely efficiently, tailored to a customer environment and with minimal effort on the part of the defender,” Wilson said.
Penten has developed AI tools that generate and update decoy and trap documents, military radio communications, Wi-Fi access points and active network hosts.
Dr Surya Nepal, senior principal research scientist at CSIRO’s Data61 and security automation and orchestration team leader at CSCRC said the partnership could help Australia create new technologies that can reach global scale.
“As cyber threats increase in volume and sophistication, AI and machine learning offer an opportunity to assist overwhelmed human defenders and speed up decision making and response. It also allows us to deliver more agile defences in a way that we were not able to before.
“Cyber security is a critically important area of research, and Data61 is looking to partner with industry to do similar work that builds a competitive advantage for Australian companies.” Dr Nepal said.