AIT spearheads second phase of groundbreaking EU-funded cybersecurity project

1 Aug 2018

Researcher Mary Pidgeon. Image: AIT

AIT researchers are involved in a multimillion-euro cybersecurity research project as part of the EU-wide Horizon 2020 initiative.

Cybercrime is growing at a rapid rate throughout the world and researchers are working on various solutions to curb the potential damage it can cause.

One such project, dubbed Protective, is funded by the EU under the Horizon 2020 innovation umbrella. Protective is a €4.16m cybersecurity safety net designed collaboratively by partners including the University of Oxford, Technische Universität Darmstadt and Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT).

Unique threat detection tool

AIT researchers have launched the second phase of the project, which is aimed at combating the proliferation of cybercrime through unique detection and monitoring systems. It is now in its operation testing phase.

The Protective project uses a smart awareness tool for cybersecurity management, along with an enhanced threat awareness system.

It can shield networks from cyberthreats such as viruses and worms, and provides more visibility for security teams, allowing them to recognise and neutralise threats as they happen. This real-time aspect will ostensibly make it easier to protect the most vulnerable computers on a network.

AIT leading the pack

According to Mary Pidgeon, a Protective research engineer at AIT’s Software Research Institute (SRI), cybercrime is a world-scale problem of epic proportions. “The significant growth in malicious activity online, helped considerably by the proliferation of new technologies, means that cybercrime is now costing the world economy €600bn annually.

“This escalation has led to a massive technology arms race between attacker and defender, with the two engaging in a cybersecurity game of cat and mouse.”

Pidgeon said cyberattacks are one of the biggest and most widespread threats to general society today. Unsolicited emails, texts and messages can affect everyone from an individual to a multinational company – nobody is exempt.

As far as the future of Protective goes, Pidgeon is ambitious. “Our hope is that our Protective software will ultimately form part of a network monitoring kit with two main innovations: the sharing of information on attacks known as threat intelligence with other network monitoring organisations, and providing a model of the network that shows which are the critical assets, ie the most important computers on a network.

“By creating a system through which data and security information can be collected, processed and shared, organisations can enjoy enhanced decision-making capabilities.”

The software is designed to help computer security incident response teams (CSIRTs) as well as National Research Education Networks, such as HEAnet in Ireland. It will also be made available to managed security service providers, which will in turn help SMEs (which are often short on resources) to protect their networks.

The Protective project kicked off in September 2016 and is being led by Dr Brian Lee, director of the SRI at AIT. It includes key research partners from the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland, England and Germany.

Protective’s next software deployment is scheduled for January 2019.

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