2019 02 10

Battling Cyber Threats: Science for Business

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These days cyber security is becoming an increasingly more pressing concern. Several Lithuanian research groups are working to provide innovative cyber security services and products for businesses from using unique methods for early hacking detection and artificial intelligence for tracking down harmful code to providing virtual cyber security training platforms.

In Preparation for Attack

“The prevalence of cyber attacks is only increasing and these attacks have a great impact not just on political and social life, but on economic life as well. Even with various conventional protective measures, it is difficult to defend yourself from a well-planned attack. What analysis of cyber attacks over the past years has shown is that traditional systems essentially only start reacting when the attack has been initiated and can no longer be stopped,” emphasises Dr. Saulius Japertas of the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Kaunas Technological University (KTU).

Under Dr. Japertas’ leadership, a team of KTU scientists has developed an early detection method for hacking incidents. It uses a logical filter system before an attack even begins to identify that an attack is in the works, allowing the system to take defensive precautions.

This unique product –a hardware and software package –was developed and tested in cooperation with Media Inovacijos, a company specialising in cyber security. The early hacking detection method was presented in March of this year during the Innovation in IT and Communications Technology Forum in Kiev and was met with great interest by Ukrainian businesses and institutions.

Challenges for the Internet of Things

Professor Egidijus Kazanavičius of the Department of Computer Sciences at the KTU Faculty of Informatics points to the increasingly graver risks associated with the growth of the technology underpinning the internet of things. This technology is creeping into all areas of life. Unfortunately, the relatively small computer systems of these computerised objects do not have the capacity to host any kind of substantial antivirus software.

“At Santaka Valley they are doing research on how to track and evaluate potential risks and violations, signal when a potential threat is detected and thus allow the appropriate decision to be made,” explains Professor Kazanavičius of the KTU Centre of Real-Time Computer Systems.

The Centre of Real-Time Computer Systems works closely with businesses in the development of its innovative products and services. For example, a system for ciphering visual content and protecting against theft was developed and installed last year in partnership with Teo, a telecommunications company. A successful partnership with LL Optic produced smart refrigerators, also known as foodomats, which were presented at a trade fair in Milan.

As part of a Horizon 2020 project, KTU scientists and their partners at the Research Institute of Sweden (RISE), Linköping University, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU) and the Lithuanian Centre of Registers are building an IT competence centre for promoting cooperation between science and business. One of their closest objectives is to join the European Research Cluster on the Internet of Things.

To Observe and to Assess

One of the most interesting projects to come out of the partnership between the Faculty of Informatics at Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) and Mykolas Romeris University as well as the Lithuanian Cybercrime Center of Excellence for Training, Research and Education was a concept for monitoring information space that the team developed and tested in order to provide institutions responsible for national defence as well as various business and research partners a method of monitoring the information space for security and commercial purposes without violating information security.

According to Professor Tomas Krilavičius of the Applied Informatics Department, the foundations for this project were laid by another VDU project during which researchers developed a publicly accessible infrastructure for analysing the Lithuanian language. The infrastructure was designed to be used for various linguistic analysis solutions.

Virtual Training Platform

A team of researchers and specialists headed by Dr. Linas Bukauskas of the Institute of Informatics at the Vilnius University (VU) Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics set up a Cyber Security Laboratory. The lab offers software for training, testing and conducting different kinds of research in the area of cyber security.

According to Eduardas Kutka, who lectures at the Institute of Informatics, the Cyber Security Laboratory consists of two separate training platforms. One is for procedural training based on a knowledge of the law as it pertains to the most appropriate reaction in the face of a threat. The platform provides a procedural environment that can be adapted to a specific company, institution or organisation. Training participants can test their abilities and brush up on their skills based on the requirements of law and new substatutory legal acts.

The other platform –a cyber training field –imitates the computer network of a company or state institution. Cyber field training allows participants to learn to work with various systems, improve their ability to deal with cyber incidents and gain new skills and a greater knowledge of the field. Thus, IT specialists can become better equipped to react to incidents and protect their company or institution from various cyber incidents.

Collaborative partnerships with business enterprises are typically confidential. Among the largest publicly declared projects was the 2016-2017 project Cyber Shield, a national cyber training exercise platform complemented by cyber training for military officers.

The Cyber Security Laboratory was also presented this year in Kiev during a meeting hosted by OPEN R&D Lithuania, an organisation curated by the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA). During the visit to Ukraine, Lithuanian specialists got the opportunity to network with local scientists and business representatives.

For Small and Medium-Sized Companies

“IT security is becoming increasingly important. There are many standards that are actively being implemented in Lithuania. For example, from 25 May of this year the General Data Protection Regulation will come into force, and every company will become directly responsible for the protection of the data they keep. Failure to protect this data will result in huge fines,”warns Professor Antanas Čenys, vice-rector for science and innovation at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU).

For large companies, managing these kinds of challenges should not be such a problem because they have their own in-house experts, but small companies typically do not have their own experts and hiring one to, for example, regularly conduct a risk analysis would be something that they simply could not afford. VGTU scientists under the leadership of Dr. Nikolaj Goranin are already developing an expert system for conducting risk analysis in medium and small businesses so that they can save money and comply with security requirements.

Artificial Intelligence to the Rescue

According to Dr. Goranin, vice-dean of the VGTU Faculty of Fundamental Sciences, the VGTU research team – the largest team working on cyber security in Lithuania – has the broadest research range in the field. One of their specialty areas is the detection of anomalies and attacks using artificial intelligence. The infiltration detection system is provided with a large dataset so that it can learn to detect harmful programming code based on how it behaves.

Another specialty area of the VGTU team is network-level anomaly detection. The intention is to identify harmful or suspicious protocols that might be hiding in the general network stream.

Among the team’s partnerships with business, one example worth mentioning is a project completed with the Canada-based company Arcadia, which uses anomaly detection at the OS-level and artificial intelligence.

During a MITA project, a collaboration with nSoft resulted in a product called the Eye of Gediminas –a biometric authentication system that can identify a moving individual by their iris. Also on the topic of biometric research, a project implemented with the VU Faculty of Physics and nSoft aims to develop a multi-faceted system for passage control.

In order to make innovative ideas reach Lithuanian and international companies more easily, MITA set up the Open R&D Lithuania Contact Centre. As the largest open-access network of its kind in the Baltics, OPEN R&D Lithuania has brought together 14 national universities, 13 national research institutes, seven science and technology parks as well as 25 open access centres. The Open R&D Lithuania Contact Centre helps companies find the shortest route to a suitable partner from a research institution, gather information about where they can order the services they need and set up individual meetings. An emailed enquiry to open@mita.ltis enough to solicit an answer as to where a business should refer to next.Not only will network facilitators help organisations find business and research contacts, they will also assist them in becoming partners.

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