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Thought Leaders in Cyber Security: Brett Williams, COO of IronNet (Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday, Feb 11th 2020

Brett Williams: Attackers have increasingly become sophisticated. In Cyber Command, I saw that capabilities that were earlier exclusively only nation state capabilities are now readily available on the dark web and other places.

Companies need to move beyond simple firewall and signature detection systems. Our product is based on behaviors and being able to recognize when a common communications protocol or an application is being used in unusual ways.

Attackers manage to get in with a phishing attack or something like that. They steal somebody’s credentials. We have to have algorithms. We’ve got to use AI and machine learning to identify when there’s unusual activity in the network. That’s extremely difficult to do.

If you think about it, you’re trying to find anomalies in an environment that’s fundamentally anomalous. Your computer networks are changing all the time. That’s where the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning applies to sort through all that data and find the very few things that would indicate malicious activities. That’s our product.

We’re based on the premise that collective defense and security is the only way we’re going to be successful against the threat that is outpacing all of us. A private-public partnership that is bi-directional and mutually supportive is extremely critical.

We have to start taking advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning in order to analyze behavior on a network so that we can get past the traditional defenses.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s double-click down a little bit and give me an ecosystem map of where exactly you are in the cyber security spectrum. What does the lay of the land look like?

Brett Williams: At our core business, there are probably 20 competitors. There are a number of companies that are focused on using behavioral analytics for finding unusual activity in computer networks. As you might imagine, it’s hard to get a full insight into how exactly they approach the problem and solving it.

We’ve had some folks do some bake-offs. We found that our advantage is our ability to scale. A lot of the products out there are able to handle small to mid-sized businesses. When they try to get to 20GBps to 40GBps, they have trouble.

The other thing we found is people throw AI and machine learning around. They’re the buzzwords for the last couple of years. You have to take a close look at the level of analytics and rigor with those analytics to understand if the technology offered is able to identify the anomalies that are most likely malicious, and then be able to sort through those and provide a fairly finite list of alerts to examine.

At the end of the day, almost always it’s going to take a human to look at the most sophisticated threat. They’re so good at hiding in the noise. They’re so good at making it look like it’s normal activity that your ability to provide actionable data and quickly do forensics are really critical. When we look at our competitors, our advantage is in scale. Our advantage is being to really apply AI and machine learning.

Sramana Mitra: Where are you seeing traction?

Brett Williams: We’ve got a long standing customer. It’s a large Wall Street bank. We’ve got a number of large energy sector companies that are in the Dome. We’ve got some overseas work in Singapore with both government and private entities. We’ve got a telecom provider in Japan that we work with. Now we’re continuing to expand our market with a number of healthcare customers and finance customers.

We’ve been targeting the larger enterprise level. We also have a number of initiatives with states in the US that are interested in dealing with ransomware and other attacks that you see in the news. Primarily, large customers and governments. We’ve also got some work in the Middle East. We’ve opened up an office in London. We’re starting to explore ways to move down market through channels.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cyber Security: Brett Williams, COO of IronNet
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