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Virtual reality lets cyber security experts patrol their networks Matrix style



Virtual reality will give cybersecurity analysts the ability to patrol their networks like cops On the beat in the real world, and it could lead to significant gains in productivity and protection.


The future of the workplace is, understandably, a hot topic for many corporate executives around the world at the moment and funnily enough most of the conversations centre around the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation and bots, and the extension of flexible working schemes, with the occasional company, like Nvidia, who recently created a pixel perfect virtual head office, talking about their employees working in Virtual Reality (VR).


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However, despite all the supposed benefits of working in VR, as cool as it sounds, very few companies have gone ahead and done anything about it, or even played around with it. But now, thanks to Colorado based start up ProtectWise, companies might now have the perfect excuse to move at least some of their employees, their cyber security analysts, into a VR world because, as it turns out VR, combined with gamification and AI could provide them with a valuable new, and effective way, to identify and counter cyber attacks. That’s the theory anyway.



Cyber Cops take on a new beat


After all, when we consider the size and richness of the virtual world of cyber space being asked to patrol it via nothing more than a 2D screen today is the equivalent of being asked to work in the dark.

So, thanks to ProtectWise’s new VR tool cyber security professionals could soon find themselves patrolling computer networks like real world beat cops but inside a 3D VR world. Scott Chasin, CEO and co-founder of ProtectWise, sees a future where one day customers might even have SOC war rooms full of Oculus Rift wearing security analysts who are patrolling their networks in the same way Neo explored the Matrix.


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“I see an opportunity in the not-too-distant future in which a large organization who has a lot of IT infrastructure might have rooms full of security analysts with augmented reality and VR headsets on,” he says.

Using ProtectWise’s new platform, which is called Immersive Grid, companies can connect all of their ICT on premise and off premise ICT assets, such as mobiles, networks, PC’s, servers and storage  together and have them represented as buildings inside a virtual city, that, depending on where the physical infrastructure resides, can be organised by business unit and geography into zones and neighbourhoods.

For example, the marketing department might have their devices located in one part of the virtual city, called “Barbados” – yes marketing guys we know what your days are like – while the London offices are grouped in another, in a zone called “The dungeon”. Ha just kidding, seriously London’s great.


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Then, just as the police do in the real world these new “cyber cops” could monitor and patrol these data rich neighbourhoods and identify and counter threats in real time.

Taking things a step further they could be teamed up with autonomous and semi-autonomous AI agents, like those now being deployed into the heart of the Pentagon’s critical systems, and predictive cybersecurity solutions like the ones from BAE that predict cyber attacks before they happen – or at least try.

In the Immersive Grid the shape of the building, perhaps it’s round or square, designates what type of device it is, the height represents the IP network traffic, and the width indicates how much bandwidth is going to the device, and if a building turns red or orange, an analyst would know there’s an elevated level of risk or unusual activity associated with that particular asset.


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Chasin hopes visualisation technology like this might transform the technically complicated work of a security analyst into something more like playing a video game, and if that sounds like they’re trivialising cybersecurity then the US Government recently went down the same track, announcing that they were trying to “gamify” cyber war.

Have fun with that.

The new VR based approach could also help reduce the industry’s cyber security talent gap, and lower the barriers to entry. For example, a rookie cyber cop teamed up with an AI agent could identify an attack in progress and, just like we’ve seen across the way in the industrial sector with GE and their revolutionary Digital twin technology, the AI could automatically recommend the right course of action to take, and the rookie could execute it, and again, as crazy as that sounds it’s something that the NSA are also considering, expect they talk in terms of dropping “Cyber bombs.”

“Today, you have to work with terminal windows, shell-scripts, python scripts, and have an understanding of forensic analysis. Using visual filtering techniques — someone without any experience in shell-script or python can see everything at once,” Chasin says.


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Chasin also points out that a younger generation of employees might be well suited for the new interface.

“We see an opportunity to tap into that next generation, the Minecraft generation, that can reason about data visually. There’s now a younger generation who understand virtual worlds and the mechanics of games with a skill-set that’s suited to a platform like Immersive Grid.”

All this almost sounds like a vision straight from science fiction, like Neuromancer, where hackers prowl the virtual reality “cyberspace” for corporate and military targets, or Ender’s Game, where a youthful, games savvy generation are used to create real world consequences through their gameplay.

As society continues to see explosive growth in the popularity of eSports and a cultural shift towards valuing competitive video games, this could help bring an increasingly in demand, and complicated technology field within the reach of the masses, and Chasin believes this type of interface will have a real world impact on the way security is managed in the future.


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“We’re talking about a technology set that will allow us to actually build cyberspace,” he says, and what he’s talking about may have an impact beyond cybersecurity. We humans are natively 3D thinkers, so moving to Augmented Reality (AR) and VR worlds to interact with data could accelerate our ability to influence and change the real, and while at the moment this might all sound like sci-fi, well, the real sci-fi will come when we’re plugging our cyber security analysts directly into the network via their brains using technologies like the Neural Lace, and low jacking them into a hive mind.

Analysts get all the fun…

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