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15 May, 2017 - 12:56 By Tony Quested

NHS agency defends WannaCry ransomware attack with Darktrace

Darktrace Cambridge

Cyber security technology from Cambridge business Darktrace has helped an NHS agency and a number of other companies detect and fight back to contain the WannaCry ransomware attack that has struck Microsoft Windows users around the world.

The breakthrough AI technology from Darktrace prevented any damage being inflicted to customers under siege. Darktrace says its solution spotted the threat to the NHS agency “within minutes.” 

The WannaCry malware attack is unprecedented in scale and has affected over 200,000 devices across 150 countries according to Europol, including the UK’s National Health Service, Spain’s Telefonica and FedEx in the US. 

Spread by a pernicious email attachment and supercharged by a worm, the stealthy malware encrypts files, with cyber criminals demanding ransom before users can regain access to their data. Traditional security tools that use rules and signatures to stop cyber-threats at the border fell short in the face of this never-seen-before and fast-spreading malware.

Unlike the old attempts to keep malware at bay, Darktrace’s Enterprise Immune System is a pioneering, machine-learning technology capable of detecting and fighting back against stealthy ‘unknown unknowns’, such as WannaCry, automatically and in real time. 

Modelled on the most powerful biological system – the human immune system – the disruptive technology leverages advances in mathematics and machine learning, to learn the normal ‘pattern of life’ of every user and device on a network. 

Darktrace’s Antigena, its automatic response technology, acts as a digital antibody, taking proportionate, remedial action to neutralise emerging threats. For example, it can slow down or stop a compromised connection or device, but does not impact normal business operations.

Darktrace’s technology alerted its affected customers as soon as the first signs of WannaCry emerged on their networks and as the malware was attempting to spread laterally across the respective organisations. The infection was successfully contained before it had inflicted any damage, proving the fundamental power of the Enterprise Immune System.

CEO Nicole Eagan said: “At Darktrace we catch and contain ransomware every week. WannaCry bypassed traditional security defences proving them futile in this new era of cyber warfare.

“Security teams cannot face this challenge without the right tools in place. Darktrace’s Enterprise Immune System is a true manifestation of AI in action: detecting and stopping threats before the human teams have even had time to notice.”

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