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Cyber and AI experts bring ideas to life to help combat national security concerns

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Cyber security and artificial intelligence (AI) experts at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have been given an opportunity to turn their ideas into commercial products as part of a government-funded accelerator programme.

The initiative, called CyberASAP (Cyber Security Academic Startup Accelerator Programme), is funded by the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) and delivered through KTN and Innovate UK. It aims to develop and sustain a security sector that meets national security demands as part of the government’s £1.9billion national cyber security strategy.

(Image: Adi Goldstein/Unsplash)

Two teams made up of academics from DMU’s Cyber Technology Institute (CTI) and Institute of Artificial Intelligence (IAI) successfully secured funding in the first phase of the programme, which requires each team to identify the value proposition of their prospective product.

With the support of KTN, the two teams have learned a lot of skills needed to operate in a start-up environment, through a series of interventions (including bootcamps, workshops, and mentoring), giving participating teams vital insights into the key milestones necessary to take their product from the lab to the market.

Dr Richard Smith, Associate Professor of Cyber Security at DMU, said: “The CyberASAP programme provides academics with the skills to operate in the commercial world. It is about taking the skill base in UK universities and teaching academics how to exploit their research, skills and expertise within the commercial market.”

CyberASAP was launched in 2017 and since then has helped more than 90 teams from universities across the UK to develop their innovations.

The first DMU team, called CyberAgents, is led by Dr Smith alongside Professor Daniela Romano. Together they are developing an incident response team using human/AI hybrid technology.

“Many organisations have limited Incident Response capabilities and need to improve them in a safe environment,” explained Dr Smith. “We use behavioural science and data science to create innovative human/AI team defending together.

“The AI-agent learns human-like creativity but with faster than human reasoning, and can plug any skill gaps in an organisation’s capability. Also, the more the agent learns, the more it improves.”

The second team, ‘SACRED’, is being led by Dr Mary He, alongside Professor Yingjie Yang and Dr Francisco J Aparicio Navarro.

They are developing a unique and innovative web security tool, driven by advanced AI technology, to detect malicious web crawlers (computer programs that are calibrated to automatically search the Internet, also called spider or bot), thus protecting online services and websites of businesses or organisations and ensuring their customers’ privacy and data security.

“Both teams have made effort to analyse the market size, competitors and potential collaborators of their prospective products,” added Dr He. “The CyberASAP initiative will speed up the pace of the UK cybersecurity development, tackling the global challenges in cybersecurity, and therefore helping to implement the National Security Strategy of the UK; to use all our national capabilities to build Britain’s prosperity, extend our nation’s influence in the world and strengthen our security.”

Dr Smith added: “Not only does CyberASAP help to grow the innovation produced by DMU academics, it increases our university’s footprint and brand in the commercial sector.”

Posted on Thursday 10th June 2021

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