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Cardiff and Airbus demystify AI for Cybersecurity

28 February 2020

Two individuals looking at computer screens

Airbus is teaming up with Cardiff University experts to develop new ways of detecting cyber attacks using Artificial Intelligence – demystifying the frequently perceived ‘black box’ of AI algorithms.

A global leader in cyber innovation and research, the European aerospace corporation has forged an enhanced Knowledge Transfer Partnership (eKTP) with Cardiff School of Computer Science and Informatics.

The partnership has been awarded funding to enhance the adoption of automated detection and response capabilities by finding and testing new ways to ‘explain’ how the AI has decided there is a malicious presence on the network to security operations experts.

The project aims to reduce the cost of cyber attacks and add to the Company’s leading cyber security expertise.

Cybercrime costs the world almost £460bn a year with businesses worldwide incurring increasing losses as a direct result of cyberattacks.

Part-funded through an eKTP awarded by Welsh Government and Innovate UK, an Associate will work with Airbus to embed new knowledge and capability into Airbus’ frontline cybersecurity operations that protect 130,000 employees across Europe from Toulouse, via its new Cyber Lab in Newport.

The Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, said: “Wales is the only part of the UK to offer the enhanced Knowledge Transfer Partnership. I’m pleased Welsh Government is supporting this project and I’m delighted our universities, businesses and graduates are reaping the rewards of this excellent programme.”

As well as ‘explaining’ the decision an AI makes, the eKTP will develop novel methods to test the resilience of AI methods to detect evolving cyber attack techniques that tend to change over time, as well as resistance to attempts to ‘confuse’ the AI by manipulating the algorithms into making an incorrect decision.

The knowledge developed will underpin acceptance and uptake of AI more generally across Airbus through advancements in explainable, resilient and secure AI.

Dr Kevin Jones, Group Chief Information Security Officer at Airbus, said: “Wales is an essential part of the global Airbus operation, and it is fitting that our cyber security innovation in South Wales has a major role in protecting our vast business. Airbus has built excellent relationships with the Welsh Government and with universities such as Cardiff over many years, and I am delighted this will now lead to further collaborations, putting the Newport CyberLab at the forefront of understanding into how Artificial Intelligence will transform cyber security.”

Pete Burnap, Professor of Data Science & Cybersecurity at Cardiff University, sits on the UK Gov AI-Council which is tasked with supporting the uptake and success of the UK industrial strategy in AI and data.

This project has a vital role to play in ensuring the “black box” of AI is unlocked and algorithmic decisions are made transparent so as to engender trust and confidence in the outcomes and increase adoption in AI-augmented cybersecurity operations.

Professor Pete Burnap

The project will further strengthen the relationship between Airbus and the University as they collaborate on a wide range of activities, including the Airbus Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Analytics, launched in 2017.

Cardiff’s multidisciplinary collaboration with Airbus covers areas of mutual interest including artificial intelligence for cybersecurity, advanced risk and impact modelling, and the human factors associated with cybersecurity and decision making in security operations.

The partnership will further promote Wales’ reputation for cyber excellence and support its aims to lead on cyber security research initiatives and academic research partnerships.

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