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How Darktrace is riding the AI boom

Cyber security firm known for its artificial intelligence smarts doubled its headcount across Asia-Pacific last year in key markets including Australia and South Korea

When Darktrace executives showed how their artificial intelligence (AI) technology could uncover the weakest cyber security links at a well-known company in Singapore, the CIO of that company remained silent throughout the meeting.

“That was the third meeting we had to summarise all the things we found in their network,” said Sanjay Aurora, managing director of Darktrace Asia-Pacific. “It was quite late in the day and the CIO just kept listening with no response.

“Then he got up and went over to a bunch of contractors working on his website in the other room. It was that ‘aha’ moment when he could see that it wasn’t so much about AI solving his problems; rather, it was AI that showed how his contractors could bring his website down.”

The use of AI in cyber defence is alluring. After all, faced with a dearth of cyber security talent and the menace of cyber attacks, it is nearly impossible for anyone to keep up with the constant stream of threats without using some form of automation and AI.

Indeed, Darktrace has benefited from the growing interest in its portfolio of self-learning cyber defence products that detect subtle signs of emerging attacks using AI – even responding to them.

“Three years ago, we launched the Antigena autonomous response solution with the principle that the speed and complexity of attacks will make it impossible for human beings to respond on time,” said Aurora. “The machine will have to take over the response.”

Taking things further, Darktrace last year rolled out Cyber AI Analyst, a technology that emulates human thought processes to continuously investigate cyber threats at machine speed.

“We’ve been learning from our team of cyber analysts to see how they would triage a threat,” said Aurora, adding that Cyber AI Analyst can now perform the same task 92% faster.

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Darktrace has consistently maintained that AI is no substitute for security analysts. Rather than sieve through heaps of log data to triage an incident, which machines can now do a lot faster, human analysts, with more time on their hands, will be able to delve into the motives of attackers and other devices that could be exhibiting suspicious behaviour, said Aurora.

But for all its promises, AI is not a silver bullet for all types of attack. Although AI can detect anomalies and security issues faster than humans can, successful hackers often exploit human weaknesses and emotions through social engineering and spear phishing to penetrate a system.

“Those who don’t know how phishing attacks work will fall prey to them,” said Daryl Pereira, partner and head of the cyber security practice at KPMG Singapore. “The panacea and antidote for phishing attacks is cyber education, which, when tailored for a person or function, is more effective than technology in stopping such attacks in many cases.”

Globally, Darktrace welcomed its 1,000th employee last year and is growing rapidly in the Asia-Pacific region, where it has doubled its headcount across key markets such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Southeast Asia. “Our growth rates are ambitious – we want to double our revenue,” said Aurora.

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