Is Artificial Intelligence the Future of Cyber Security?

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This blog is the first in a series of  posts from employees within PatSnap UK

Olivia Bazell is an IP Consultant at PatSnap 

With cyber hacks up 300% since 2012, and costing the economy roughly $27bn a year, it comes as little surprise that the cyber security industry is fast becoming a highly competitive space.Cylance, a start-up founded in 2012 by Stuart McLure, the former global CTO for McAfee, took off at the perfect time. Their innovative approach to cyber security involves the use of Artificial Intelligence to identify malicious intruders, and prevent them from getting in and joining the party. Think bodyguard on the door of a prestigious club in London. Their competitors, for example Crowdstrike, focus on targeting the intruders once they have already broken in - think the patrolling security guard in the club who constantly scans the room for trouble.

The name of Cylance’s artificial intelligence defence system in disguise is: ‘System and method for internet security’. The description for US8578487 is as follows: “A computer implemented method performed by one or more processors for preventing SQL injection attacks”. Companies purposely use titles that confuse their competitors in order to fly under the radar. The date of the patent is November 5, 2013 and you can see where it lies on the green line on the innovation graph below.

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To expand further on the graph above you can see that it shows the number of patents applied for and granted to Cylance since its founding in 2012. Between 2012 and 2015 the start up filed 18 patents, which indicates an innovative initiative within the business. One thing to note here is that the graph suggests that towards the end of 2012 a patent was granted before it was even applied for. The explanation for this is that the patent was applied for in 2010 by Derek Soeder, the head of R&D, before the company was founded.

Two very different approaches to cyber security, yet two very successful ones at the same time. Both companies have just completed their series D funding, acquiring over $100 million and gaining them entry to the elitist ‘Unicorn Club’ (a start-up valued at over $1billion). And now here’s where the plot thickens… Stuart McClure, and George Kurtz, CEO of Crowdstrike, were former partners and the best of friends.

Their joint venture Foundstone was acquired by McAfee in 2004 for $84m and resulted in them both becoming global CTOs for McAfee. However, in hot pursuit of a larger slice of the bulging $22bn dollar cyber security industry, combined with a differing of opinions, the two friends parted ways in 2012, and so came about the birth of Cylance and Crowdstrike.

The difference in their characters filters all the way through their companies with one focusing on prevention rather than detection and visa versa. They do share one cohesion however – IP Strategy. In a world where software has historically been lightly patented, Stuart and George have ensured the fruits of their labour are well protected – a practice probably picked up from their time at the heavily patented McAfee. Protecting their innovation is undeniably a great step up the ladder but now there is the possibility to extract insight from the IP landscape that will enable them to stay ahead of the curve. The radar map below, pulled from PatSnap Insights, shows each companies technological trajectory and it is very clear that their strategies are completely different with the only shared strategic interest in ‘Market-Driven R&D’.

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 AI is another highly competitive industry, and one that is also highly patented. This means there’s a wealth of data to unlock within this space through intellectual property - millions of patents to reverse engineer, thousands of licensing opportunities, hundreds of companies to form partnerships with and one market trend to stay bang on top of. Essentially, you’re being given the homework of the smartest kid in class to use and improve upon with minimal effort on your part. So why aren’t all companies using the information available to them through IP data?

This synergises perfectly with the Patsnap ethos – be proactive rather than reactive. Earlier this month we held an online webinar with Donal O’Connell from Chawton Innovation Services as our guest speaker. He spoke on risk with Intellectual property and focused specifically on the importance of being proactive rather than reactive. Click the link below to watch the webinar. After all, why would you choose to act after the horse has already bolted, when you had the choice all along to keep that horse stabled?

The synergy between AI and cyber security is an interesting one. I think its genius that the AI within Cylance will get smarter with every piece of data it scans by learning what thugs to look out for and deny entry to. A technology that is constantly improving itself automatically without human interaction is something that every company is striving for. How long will it be before Cyber Security is completely automated and run by AI?