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Collaborating to beat cyber threats

Cyber Security regularly rears its head in the press, with calls for ever-more sophisticated solutions to counteract the myriad of threats to all aspects of our lives – from the our personal data on smart phones and NHS systems, to the integrity of our infrastructure and energy supplies. In fact, experts at the government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) clocked up 1,131 incidents since last October, 590 of which they deemed as significant.

To manage the risk of fraud – and out-think the ‘hackers’ – industry, government and academics from a multitude of disciplines are joining forces.

Only last week, Imperial’s Prof Niall Adams and Dr Nicholas Heard hosted an event showcasing the cutting-edge research being undertaken by commercial, policy-making and educational organisations on the use of data science in cyber security applications. Their group, for example, are employing statistical methodology, machine learning and Big Data analytics tools to perform scalable anomaly detection in high volume data streams (such as social and telecoms networks) to protect them against cyber-attacks and fraudulent activity.


What’s more, as our homes, infrastructure and healthcare services are further digitised, our physical world will need protection from all manner of cyber threats – which NCSC Chief Executive Ciaran Martin described as “large, growing and diverse.”


The adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) will increase the use of Big Data and machine learning, but result in less human oversight, so collaborative groups like the PETRAS IoT Research Hub are looking at the associated privacy, ethical and security issues. In turn, the NCSC recognised Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research is working on improving defences for our smartphones, mobile apps and tablets – plus their tools and autonomous system architectures provide sensor networks, policy-based systems and IoT environments with ‘built-in’ resilience to malicious compromise, allowing them to operate and maintain integrity even if they do become affected.


Another NCSC backed group, RITICS, is looking at the protection of Industrial Control Systems used by manufacturers, rail systems and power plants (to name but a few). Through analysis of their vulnerabilities, they are helping them optimise defence strategies and improve the detection of network intrusion. Plus, experts within SERECA (Large-Scale Distributed System Group) are developing hardware-assisted secure environments for today’s cloud applications using Intel’s Software Guard eXtension (SGX)technology. Their goal? To provide high levels of security in cloud environments to allow the trusted execution of sensitive code, without the performance overhead of data encryption and decryption.


This is just a taste of the collaborative research being conducted by Imperial College London right now, with new avenues being explored as environments and criminal technology evolve – FinSec, Patient data and IoT medical devices being key examples.


To find out more about our work on Cyber Security – or advice on solutions – you can contact the groups directly or go through Imperial Consultants, the College’s consultancy arm.

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