How AI Cyber Defenses are Fighting The Next Generation of Bank Robbers

Perhaps the most quintessential crime of them all, in-person bank robberies have become all but a thing of the past. At the same time, cyber-crime cost the average financial services company more than $18 million last year, meaning that this year, the greatest threats to the industry will undoubtedly be found online.

An Evolving Adversary

According to the FBI, the number of annual U.S. bank heists has fallen 60% over the past quarter century, despite significant population growth. The amount of money stolen in these heists, meanwhile, has declined by almost two-thirds since just 2003, even as financial institutions’ assets doubled during that span. Indeed, the typical bank robbery now nets a mere $6,500 for its perpetrators, who are subsequently apprehended at a historically unprecedented rate. The truth is that risking decades of imprisonment for a couple months’ rent simply isn’t worth it.

Smart criminals know these facts and are staying home, with many earning higher incomes than ever before by stealing encryption keys rather than physical ones. In 2018, for the second consecutive year, financial services firms suffered the highest volume of cyber security incidents among all economic sectors, with European banks facing an average of 85 serious breach attempts in just the last 12 months. And while banks and insurers have responded by investing in high maturity security systems, these systems are largely predicated on the traditional approach to cyber defense, which has been antiquated by fundamental shifts in the nature of the cyber-attack.

One such shift is the rise of insider threats, which now account for 74% of all business cyber security incidents. Malicious employees have the advantage of familiarity with the networks and information they manipulate, while their credentials allow them to exfiltrate the most lucrative data without raising red flags. Another critical development in the cyber threat landscape has been the dramatic increase in the speed of cyber-attacks: modern strains of ransomware, for instance, can encrypt an entire network in less than a minute. The reality is that human incident responders cannot counter such fast-acting threats on their own; in fact, the mean time that financial services companies take to detect a security breach is 59 days. And most critically, cyber-criminals today are constantly innovating their tactics to bypass traditional security tools, which use rules and signatures to spot the threats of the past.

A New Era of Cyber Defense

 To counter tomorrow’s unforeseeable, machine-speed threats, companies must go beyond yesterday’s security systems by embracing an innovative approach, one that finally gives their security teams a fighting chance. As the first ever autonomous response tool on the market, Darktrace Antigena is that innovative approach — leveraging artificial intelligence to halt in-progress cyber-attacks within two seconds. Trusted by many of the world’s largest financial companies, Darktrace learns an individual ‘pattern of life’ for each user, device, and network, a sense of ‘self’ that constantly changes as organizations evolve and grow. This ability to differentiate between normal and abnormal behavior allows Antigena to contain both insider threats and never-before-seen attacks, each of which tend to elude conventional tools. And by restricting compromised devices to their typical pattern of life, Antigena can surgically intervene without interrupting business operations.

Antigena has proven capable of parrying highly subtle and fast-acting threats, wherever they originate. During the devastating WannaCry epidemic in 2017, Darktrace detected and neutralized the advanced ransomware strain on behalf of several customers, including an NHS agency. AXA, one of the world’s largest insurers and another Darktrace customer, uses Antigena to guard against increasingly automated cyber-threats. “We’re not being attacked by human beings anymore,” said Yorck Reuber, AXA’s Chief Technology Officer for North Europe. “Computers are attacking us, software is attacking us, and so the only way forward is using AI to protect ourselves.”

In our upcoming webinar, a security industry expert will analyze the most sophisticated cyber-threats of 2018, including insider attacks and ransomware witnessed in the wild. The webinar will also outline expectations for 2019’s threat landscape, specifically as it pertains to the financial services sector, and detail how cyber AI tools like Darktrace Antigena are helping organizations defeat the next generation of bank robbers.

Learn more about AI autonomous response in our webinar:

The Future of AI-Powered Cyber Defense for Financial Institutions

Date: Thursday, January 17

Time: 10:00 a.m. EST (New York) / 3 p.m. GMT (London)

Presenter: Max Heinemeyer, Director of Threat Hunting at Darktrace

Max is a leading cyber defense expert who specializes in offensive security. At Darktrace, he works with customers to help them respond to advanced and innovative threats. Prior to his current role, Max led the Threat and Vulnerability Management department for Hewlett-Packard in Central Europe.

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