Cyber Security Research Centre, Data61, Penten join forces to build AI-enabled defence systems

Announced during D61+ Live, the joint research project will use Data61's AI research to create "cyber traps" and "decoys".

Cyber Security Research Centre, Data61, Penten join forces to build AI-enabled defence systems Announced during D61+ Live, the joint research project will use Data61's AI research to create "cyber traps" and "decoys".

Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre (CSCRC), together with Data61, the innovation arm of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and cybersecurity startup Penten, have announced a joint research project that will focus on developing artificial intelligence (AI) enabled cybersecurity defence mechanisms.

Under the arrangement announced at D61+ Live on Wednesday, Penten will have access to Data61's AI research, which it will use to extend on its existing work to build AI-enabled technology such as "cyber traps" and "decoys".

According to Penten CEO Matthew Wilson, using AI will help speed up the creation of cyber traps and make them more realistic.  

"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," he said.

He explained that cyber traps and decoys act as "digital tripwires" that allows the company to learn more about the behaviour of attackers.

"Unlike what you see on CSI, it is hard to detect intrusions and data theft. Not because traditional systems are incapable, but because criminals and people with malicious intent are always looking for new ways to hide their actions in the noise of everyday computer activity. Even when we do find something, traditional tools don't often tell us 'who' or 'why'," he said.

"We have been exploring how to fight back against these attackers by interspersing decoy computers and data amongst real assets."

As part of the project, the three organisations are looking to fill two post-doctoral research fellowship positions and offering five PhD scholarships of up to AU$50,000 per annum to work on applying AI and machine learning to create these deceptive defence mechanisms.

This research partnership will create more than seven full-time research positions across the country, with options to extend the work in future years or grow the research team.

Penten recently received two contracts totalling AU$2.2 million from the federal government to improve the Australian Army's cyber capabilities.

Under the deal, Penten will develop technology that seeks to enhance the Australian Army's capacity to send communications over unsecured networks.

A statement from Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price at the time said funding has also been provided to help the Canberra-based startup develop a cyber-management capability and enhance security countermeasures.

Penten is also among a handful of companies that have been working with AustCyber at its recently opened Canberra Cyber Security Innovation Node, which designed to grow the local cybersecurity workforce and help industry commercialise cybersecurity technologies in Australia.

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