Among the expert speakers was Lord Jonathan Evans, former Director General of MI5.
Evans provided a breakdown of the recent attack on SolarWinds, commenting: “You can detect, from the decisions that the attackers have been making, what their real concerns are, because there are thousands of companies infected by it, but only a handful have actually been subject to a full extraction of data.”
This attack, explained Evans, signifies a new frontier in cyber warfare in which thousands of businesses are now “caught in the crosshairs” of state campaigns, and vulnerable to exploitation. He continued: “You may be wide open to this attack, even if it hasn’t happened to you yet.”
On a later panel, experts discussed the role of AI in combatting this new era of sophisticated cyber-threats and the UK’s national stance. Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “Government is never going to be ahead of the private sector. [It must] create the right policy structure so that the private sector can thrive and create solutions [to be] used by the private sector and government.”
Autonomous Cyber AI solutions were at the fore of the discussion about the right technologies to adopt for resilience against cyber-threats. Nick Jennings CB FREng, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at Imperial College London, highlighted the importance of unsupervised machine learning, commenting: “It's dealing with a novel, unusual, unpredicted attack where you need unsupervised learning – and if you haven't got this capability in your system, you're very much at the mercy of inventive folk who will always find new ways of attacking you.”
Leon Shepherd, CIO of Ted Baker, commented: “Deploying AI [has] given us the ability to augment [our] security team. Having an AI automated response to an attack in place buys time for our human team to investigate further and work out what happened.” He continued: “When we talk about great security – AI is absolutely part of it. A combination of humans and AI is what works today for security.”
On the future of the cyber-threat landscape, Dave Palmer, Chief Product Officer at Darktrace, said: “We'll see amplification and improvement in terms of [the attackers’] tech capabilities – it will be a perpetual arms race with defenders as [our] tech gets better.”