The CSIRO’s data and digital arm, Data61, today announced a research partnership with Australian cyber security company Penten to use artificial intelligence to create “cyber traps” and “decoys” as a cyber defence mechanism.

Penten, a Canberra based company, will gain access to Data61’s AI expertise and begin researching “active defence” for cyber through the use of traps and decoys. The initiative also includes two new Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship positions and is offering five PhD scholarships of up to $50,000 per annum. 

The trap approach uses deliberately deceptive computer systems and data to lure in attackers, and deploys “homing beacons” when attacked, eventually identifying them and their motives, something that is difficult to do when regular systems are attacked.

“Unlike what you see on CSI, it is hard to detect intrusions and data theft,” said Penten CEO Matthew Wilson. “Not because traditional systems are incapable, but because criminals and people with malicious intent are always looking for new ways to hide their actions in the noise of everyday computer activity. Even when we do find something, traditional tools don’t often tell us ‘who’ or ‘why’.”

According to Wilson, the traps don’t have any real value to attackers and act as “digital tripwires”. But they still have to appear realistic and making the traps is a time consuming process. 

“Our solutions use artificial intelligence to learn the patterns of activity and content from surrounding computers and data. We then use this information to create realistic and believable mimics.”

The partnership was announced today by the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre (CSCRC), a government funded program supporting industry led collaboration between industry, researchers and the community.

“This is a significant announcement for the Australian cyber research community,” said Rachael Falk, CEO, CSCRC.

“The collaboration brings together one of Australia’s most innovative companies with our national science agency to collaborate on solving challenging problems in our field. The CSCRC continues to focus on industry led research, bringing the best scientific and engineering minds together to create tomorrow’s commercial opportunities.

“Strong cyber security is critical for our economy and for Australia’s prosperity. The CSCRC’s primary focus is collaboration with academia, industry and government to deliver industry-driven cyber security outcomes. We want our research and work to have an impact benefitting Australia both now and well into the future. We are excited by the opportunities this collaboration presents.”

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