Technology: Ben Azvine on intelligent software

EVERY day, there are intelligent pieces of software probing networks and looking for the right time and place to attack. In a world of ‘Big Data’ and unstructured data, it will only get harder to find the needle in the haystack and to identify and eliminate these threats.

BT Researchers have developed a solution to deal with this challenge of big, unstructured data in the area of security. The solution is based on the old saying that a picture speaks a thousand words or, in this case, gigabytes of data. Visual analysis of data is not new, what is new is that BT has developed techniques based on years of research in artificial intelligence to show patterns in data to humans and get their feedback. The clever system then learns from the feedback and gets better over time. The tool is called SATURN (Self-organising Adaptive Technology Underlying Resilient Networks) that can see through the blizzard of events and identify these software robots at work; but it can also detect patterns around geography, device type and nature of attack.

SATURN is not simply about creating pictures from structured data held in proprietary databases, but about the ability to integrate them with unstructured data, gathered from sources like social network information or even CCTV video cameras. Artificial intelligence now allows such unstructured data to be interrogated in the search for patterns. Bringing structured and unstructured data together creates new levels of insight as well as a clarity that we haven’t had before.

And by visualising what is happening over these countless network events, SATURN allows security experts to spot the danger before any damage is caused. The tool filters hundreds of thousands of network events, to arrive at that handful of instances that require the experts’ attention.

BT is already benefiting from this technology in several areas - for example, analysing the growing problem of thefts of copper cable in our industry. Here we combine structured data such as theft information – what was stolen from where – with unstructured data such as emails and potentially video feeds coming from surveillance cameras – to spot the trends and ultimately catch the thieves. By using artificial intelligence techniques we can interrogate this unstructured data for patterns and signals just as we can for structured data.


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BT is also using the SATURN technology to spot Cyber attacks on its infrastructure and those of its global customers. The BT Assure Analytics product which is powered by SATURN represents an ideal example of BT’s commitment to innovation where an idea that existed in a researcher’s head 3 years ago, is now a globally launched capability to protect BT and its customers.

: : Ben Azvine is head of security future practice at BT Adastral Park.

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