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Hackathons and the war of the bots


07 November 2016

Andy Rowland

Blogs by author: Andy Rowland, Head of Customer Innovation: Energy, Resources and Manufacturing, BT.


With personal connected devices increasingly being used to launch attacks, Andy Rowland explains why it’s the ‘war of the bots’ that will lead cyber security in the future.

The Internet of Things Hackathon.

Two weeks ago we ran our first Internet of Things Hackathon, and 60 people gathered expectantly at our Infinity Lab in Shoreditch. I was leading our vehicle team: ‘Stig’s Connected Cousins’, the plan being to spend two frantic days and nights coding. The objective? To derive greater value from existing vehicle sensor data.

Vehicle telemetry and Britain’s road toll.

One of our key focus areas was to reduce the number of serious accidents on Britain’s roads. You know the scenario, you’re driving along the M25 and someone’s weaving dangerously through the lanes to get ahead, cutting everyone up in the process. With the limited police presence on the roads today, and the threat of speed cameras having little impact on driver behaviour, they’re on their way to causing a pileup.

Last year there were almost 8,000 fatal and life-changing accidents on our roads. By taking vehicle telemetry data on speed, cornering forces and harsh braking, and combining this with information about local weather conditions, road type and congestion levels, we could start to predict accidents.

How data can smooth bumps in the road.

And it’s not just serious incidents that this information can prevent. It’s also possible to detect potholes with the same data. These currently appear as small impacts and, because the information isn’t considered important, it’s typically is discarded.

But potholes damage a vehicle every 11 minutes in the UK, not to mention injuring numerous cyclists — who typically end up with broken collar bones and ribs when they come off their bikes. While this isn’t as serious an issue as fatal and life-changing accidents on the road, it still affects people’s quality of life and places an avoidable burden on the NHS.

So it’s clear to see that there’s huge value in this data, and with the combination of better connectivity and faster data analytics, there’s a real possibility of scaling these solutions for the mass-market. By 2020, 5G is planned to provide 1,000 times the capacity of 4G and 100Mbps everywhere. The only problem is stopping the hackers using our smart cities, cars and homes against us.

The war of the bots.

The threat of cyber crime has been present for a long time, but what’s becoming more apparent is how valuable home devices are to these individuals and groups. The recent outages at Twitter and Spotify are a clear example. In these cases the attackers used connected home devices to launch a denial of service attack, a so-called ‘Thing Bot’.

In response to these types of attacks, we’ve significantly ramped up BT’s security presence. There are now over 3,000 analysts across the world taking part in the war on cyber crime. And more are being recruited every day.

But as more and more devices become connected to the Internet of Things, it’s impossible for humans to monitor all of these and keep us safe. That’s why bots (the same technology used to corrupt such devices) are being developed to monitor activity on connected technology. And this form of artificial intelligence will safeguard the device against other bots attempting to infiltrate it and use it to launch attacks.

Without bots, cyber security wouldn’t be as effective, or as vigilant. The first line of defence is this artificial intelligence, working hand-in-hand with our analysts to find the ‘needle in a haystack’ threat. And it’s this ‘war of the bots’ that can keep us all safe from what are increasingly sophisticated, state-sponsored attacks.

If you’re interested in finding out more, there’s plenty of information available on how to improve your security. And if you’re visiting the Gartner ITXpo in Barcelona, I’d recommend Ramy Houssaini’s theatre session: ‘Working together to disrupt cybercrime’ on 8 November. Visit http://www.bt.com/gartner2016www.bt.com/gartner2016 for more information.