Cybercrime busters turn to SATURN for inspiration

Cable Theft Hotspot AnalysisSpotting and tracing cybercrime is a time-consuming business. Cyber sleuths can take days to figure out the origins of an attack, by which time the perpetrators have long since fled the scene.

That’s why BT decided to develop a tool that could help in the fight against cyber crime. Led by BT and jointly funded by the UK’s national innovation agency, BT started work on the Self-organising Adaptive Technology Underlying Resilient Networks (SATURN) research programme two years ago.

It crunches through massive amounts of raw, unstructured data in minutes to detect patterns and predict problems. Cruciallly, it displays the results using visualisation tools that make it easier for people to analyse and see exactly what’s happening.

“A picture paints a thousand words,” said Dr Ben Azvine, head of security futures practice, BT Innovate & Design. “Things are always easier to spot when it comes in a picture.”

And that’s just one of the strengths of SATURN.

“Patterns are easy to spot for humans because we prefer looking at pictures rather than tables. This approach allows us to interpret data faster and easier,” said Ben.

It sounds simple. But making it happen takes people with range of dedicated expertise — some of whom work in semi-secrecy behind the scenes.

So far, SATURN has been used in two areas. This visualisation tool allows experts to analyse how a cyber event happened and trace its origins in real-time. This is a major step forward compared to other monitoring solutions on the market.

Leadership position

Said Bob Nowill, director of Cyber Security, Consulting and Information Assurance at BT Security: “SATURN gives BT a significant 18-24 month advantage in large complex data visualisation and interpretation, applicable not only to the Cyber Programme, but also in other operations such as intelligence around metal theft, crisis planning and resilience. It also reinforces BT’s position as a leader in security Innovation, something that customers value highly.”

But SATURN doesn’t just trace crime. As Bob said, it’s also being used to predict criminal activity such as cable theft.

Earlier this year BT unveiled a burglar alarm for its phone and broadband networks as part of a crack down on cable theft.

Called RABIT (Rapid Assessment BT Incident Tracker), the technology constantly monitors the BT network and detects when communication has been disconnected.

When cable thieves attack BT’s phone and broadband network, RABIT detects the breach before accurately pinpointing where the incident took place.

Head start

RABIT then alerts BT’s Security Control Centre and police giving them a head start in tackling this growing crime

SATURN works alongside RABIT to identify patterns of cable theft in a particular area. And thanks to its artificial intelligence – which allows it to learn from past events – it is also able to predict future criminal activity.

“SATURN is unique because it can also learn,” said Ben. “By employing the very latest artificial intelligence – and by clustering things together – we are beginning to explore a whole new world of patterns to help us combat cyber crime,” he said.