Chronicle: A guide to the new cybersecurity venture from Alphabet

25 Jan 2018

Astro Teller, head of X. Image: Bret Hartman/TED/Flickr (CC BY NC 2.0)

Chronicle will ostensibly help organisations manage and understand their own data.

Alphabet’s ‘moonshot factory’ research lab X is known for nurturing a variety of exciting technological advances, from Project Loon to clean energy kite initiative Makani.

Now, another business unit has officially emerged from X: Chronicle.

The new unit will be headed up by CEO Stephen Gillett, a former top official at esteemed cybersecurity firm Symantec.

Chronicle aims to change cybersecurity

Born in 2016, Chronicle hopes to help enterprise security teams find and stop cyberattacks before they even occur.

The company said that by “applying planet-scale computing and analytics to security operations”, it will provide tools for teams to secure their networks as well as customer data.

Chronicle will be a cybersecurity intelligence platform that can help organisations and companies. It claims it will deliver on these promises by making it quicker and easier to analyse data and spot patterns across multiple sources and time periods.

These insights could then provide security staff with vital information in terms of where vulnerabilities are most likely within an organisation’s infrastructure.

It will leverage machine-learning capabilities to find patterns in large volumes of data that humans could not possibly notice, and will provide cloud-based services that grow with the needs of those who use it.

Gillett said the aim was to increase the speed and impact of security teams’ work tenfold “by making it much easier, faster and more cost-effective for them to capture and analyse security signals that have previously been too difficult and expensive to find. We are building our intelligence and analytics platform to solve this problem.”

With data breaches dominating the headlines, it makes sense for Alphabet to be wading into the increasingly lucrative world of cybersecurity.

An immune system for the digital world

CEO of moonshot projects at X, Astro Teller, said that Chronicle wants to look at cybersecurity in new and innovative ways. He said: “I think of it as the ‘yeah, yeah’ problem. As in, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know, internet access is still a problem for billions of people, but existing technologies like cell towers and WiFi are going to get us there eventually, right?’”

He noted that cybercrime is in danger of slipping into the complacent ‘yeah, yeah’ zone and added that by looking at the problem from new angles, new solutions will emerge.

From the point of view of Teller, the digital world needs an “immune system” – a way to adapt to dangers rather than simply treating problems after they have occurred.

Teller explained: “Chronicle is starting by trying to give organisations a much higher-resolution view of their security situation than they’ve ever had by combining machine learning, large amounts of computing power and large amounts of storage.”

Astro Teller, head of X. Image: Bret Hartman/TED/Flickr (CC BY NC 2.0)

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects