Financial technology firm Intelligent Environments partners with Queen’s University to combat cybercrime

1 June 2016

  • Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) collaborates with digital financial solutions firm Intelligent Environments through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership
  • The partnership is recruiting a graduate whose role will focus on developing the world’s first attack-aware software, Interact AppSensorFS
  • Interact AppSensorFS involves innovative use of machine learning to recognise when a hacker is entering, or is already inside, a banking system
  • Security tie-up aims to cut down cyberattacks on financial institution

The Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s is entering a new partnership with leading financial technology firm Intelligent Environments, in a world-first cybersecurity endeavour.

The collaboration is part of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme, which embeds 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, Interact AppSensorFS.

The partnership will further boost Intelligent Environment’s capability to develop secure and innovative digital financial solutions by benefiting from CSIT’s research into cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence while CSIT will likewise gain new real-world experience in the financial technology sector. The wider academic community investigating cyber-security will benefit from the resulting research into ever-changing attack trends on the banking sector.

The 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[1]. According to a PWC report, security breaches were at an all-time high in 2015, rising to 90 per cent from 81 per cent in 2014[2].

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.

CSIT and Intelligent Environments’ collaboration aims to put an end to this through its Interact AppSensorFS proposition, which uses a state of the art detection approach using machine learning and prior knowledge.

Machine learning, a form of Artificial Intelligence, 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 together into a common security console, helping to monitor the overall security risk and will activate alarms if defensive action is required.

Clayton Locke, chief technology officer, Intelligent Environments, said the development of Interact AppSensorFS is an important step towards solving what is becoming one of the biggest problems for the financial services sector today.

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

“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 CSIT to develop Interact AppSensorFS will be key to this evolution.”

Lorraine Marks, Queen’s University’s KTP Manager, said: “Our Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Intelligent Environments, aims to share expertise between our 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 graduate.”

The Queen’s 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 said “This partnership is a cybersecurity world-first, and it’s exciting that we are able to play a part in it. The learning and experience from this project will also feed back into the regular review of our new Masters in cyber security’s course content, and provide further real-world examples of technology application.”

This proposition is what 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 (OWASP), a global not-for-profit charity focused on improving software security.



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