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Meet London’s new cyber security hack-busting squad

Cyber attacks are the virtual reality that has just got real . On Friday, hackers suspected of being Russian broke into parliament, in a sustained and determined attack that compromised the network. Using software that reportedly used brute force to overwhelm and guess passwords, only 90 email accounts were breached before the attack was rebuffed, but the UK s defences are looking flimsy against a rising tide of online attacks . Last month, the NHS-crippling WannaCry1 virus crippled dozens of health trusts as computers were frozen . University College London was hit by a major ransomware attack this month that shut down its shared systems.

The devastating nature of such attacks lies in simplicity as much as state-of-the-art technology: it just takes one employee to open or respond to the wrong email . Barclays chief executive Jes Staley was left red-faced last month when he fell for a hoax email purporting to be from Barclays chairman John McFarlane. London, though, is leading a fightback . In February, the Queen opened the National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ in Victoria, which worked around the clock to shut down Friday s attack . The booming fintech sector is a magnet for private-sector cyber security companies such as DynaRisk and CybSafe looking to service them . And so the best and the brightest talent are making their way to the capital . This group of ethical hackers and security experts are the new first line of defence.

The parliament attack was pretty unsophisticated the cyber equivalent of a criminal trying a door to see if it s locked properly, says Oliver Rees, 26, CEO of Southwark company Trustlight, whose job is to make sure cyber back doors stay locked .

He s part of London s fightback against cyber crime in the UK . The new normal is the everyday hackers trying to break into our phones, TVs and anything else that s connected . The good news is that with a few simple steps, we can protect against 99.9 per cent of the attacks. CyLon (Cyber London), Europe s first dedicated cyber security start-up accelerator, is based in Hammersmith and pumps 15,000 each into fledgling cyber security companies with bright ideas but bare pockets . It s a three-month programme where entrepreneurial teams with innovative and disruptive business ideas are provided with access to expert training and guidance from an accomplished network of mentors and investors.

The capital is, therefore, a cyber petri dish, where we scoop out virus cultures and stick them under the microscope, then work on an inoculation . But who are they recruiting?

The AI cyber sentry

Emily Orton, Darktrace

(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures)

Every year hackers are getting better, says Emily Orton, 33, co-founder and director of Darktrace, the 400million-valued London-based cyber security firm, shortlisted for this year s Evening Standard Business Awards, which claims to have beaten the WannaCry hack . There s been an industrialisation of the threat landscape she says, as hackers become better funded and better equipped via the Dark Web.

We re seeing a move towards more automated threats, cleverer cyber weapons, and attacks towards trust in data, where people are in a network for longer, undermining its integrity . The response ? Their machine learning AI which stops emerging threats as they happen . Orton uses the analogy of the human body, with the skin being rudimentary firewall systems that keep out elementary threats .

We re the immune system that works to continually identify anything that gets through, adapting to any internal threat that shouldn t be there, she says . It s an AI that builds an understanding of what s normal for the organisation, so it can spot when a device or person in organisation acts strangely and flag that in real time.

The web s guardian angels

Aleks Koha, Titan Grid

Hackers never sleep, so neither do we, says Estonian Koha, 23, CEO of Titan Grid, one of CyLon s latest incubators . They find the most annoying time to hit you, like a Friday, or a weekend, when the lights are on but nobody s around to defend themselves . Koha works round the clock with his five-man team in Hammersmith, to the extent that his girlfriend is always glaring because my laptop s on in bed late at night .

Titan Grid specialises in cyber counterintelligence it sweeps up and erase clients home addresses, emails, and phone numbers from the internet using automated tools . These are the most basic lockpicks a hacker looks for, with over 60 online identities stolen per second.

It s dangerous, because the information we collect is useful to hackers too, says Koha . We have targets on our backs . Koha practices MMA and jujitsu in his spare time, which helps him develop resistance to high pressure situations . We can t stop 100 per cent of attacks happening in the first place, but we can give you a better lock than your neighbour, he says.

The identity cloaker

Irra Ariella Khi, VChain

I m much more comfortable working with my brain rather than my face, nowadays, says Khi, 33, a former model, an Oxford history and politics grad, and two-time e-commerce founder, who is fluent in nine languages . Her London start-up, Vchain, wants to make your identity unhackable , pitching to replace passports with blockchain technology, a digital ID key that no one can clone, which has so far been chiefly associated with Bitcoin transfers . Data is stored very poorly right now, says Khi .

You trade data for services you need, but have no quality control over how it s captured. International Airlines Group, British Airways s parent company, has already invested megabucks in Vchain which she runs with co-founder Alexander Gorelik after she won the pitch as the only woman on stage . I find that competence wins out, whatever your gender, she says . If in a room full of boys, the girl puts her hand up, chances are you ll be addressed not first or second, perhaps, but you ll be heard . A single mother, she lives in Fulham with her five-year-old daughter.

The e-psychology gurus

Oliver Rees and Alexander Walker, Trustlight

We re new here, says Oliver Rees, 26, CEO of Trustlight, another Cylon incubator that uses both technology and psychology to stop email fraud . He s not just talking about the company . We ve had 200,000 years of human evolution to learn to sense when there s a physical threat behind a bush, he says, but only 20 years to learn to sense threats online.

It s the people who most often accidentally give up the secrets, rather than the machines, agrees CTO Alexander Walker, 29 . Ninety per cent of attacks start with someone receiving an email that isn t genuine, he says . Trustlight, with the permission of companies, crafted fake emails in their testing stage to see who would take what bait.

Invite anyone to be the keynote speaker at an event and they ll click on the link every time, says Walker . Not all hackers are the enemy, though . A Jordanian contacted them to highlight a security flaw, asking for a bug bounty ; Rees replied that they couldn t pay the money, but sent him a T-shirt instead . He sent us a selfie, wearing it, and the happy ending is that now we work together.

The cybersecurity credit raters

Andrew Martin, Dynarisk

Born in Toronto, Canada, Martin, now 35, was a typical hacker in his teens, a near high school dropout, terrible at every subject apart from IT . Having enjoyed the adrenaline rush of breaking into systems , he realised the risks if he actually stole anything , so he stopped, and started working for a bank to stop people like me breaking in . (With his skills, getting a job when he moved to the UK in 2012 was easy.) His best trick was reverse engineering viruses , allowing him to find out where they were talking back to . According to Martin, he uncovered state-sponsored hacking, criminal groups in Eastern Europe, Asian and Central America , handing intelligence to the police . He s now left the fun stuff behind: his own company, Dynarisk, assesses an individual s risk to see how likely they are to be hacked, giving them a credit score and a tailored action plan of the things they need to do to protect themselves.

It also scans devices for vulnerabilities, check to see if emails were breached (his own has been five times), send safe, probing phishing emails and scan home browsers to see if can be accessed via the internet . He and his wife, Yasmin live in south London . They met in cyber security, so you see, you can find love in this line of work too .

The university of hacks

Oz Alashe, CybSafe

Oz Alashe, 40, is the daddy of all cyber security experts . As a father of two, a boy, five, and a girl, 19 weeks old, he worries about the online safety of his kids as much as the work of his GCHQ-accredited Canary Wharf firm CybSafe . He s also served in the UK s special forces, so he knows how to keep us safe . He s therefore all about education: CybSafe is a cloud-based educational tool allowing companies and their staff to learn how to look after their own.

Originally, we worked with cyber security experts, including ethical hackers, to learn the tools of cyber hackers: we then built a platform and modules that address what we learnt . They then assess to see if staff behaviour is changed by simulating attacks, via phishing emails, corrupted SMS text messages or USB stick drops (they work with both government and commercial entities) . You d be amazed at how many people pick up a USB stick with the word bonuses written on it and plug it straight in, says Alashe.

The counter-coders

Pedro Ribeiro, Immersive Labs

If you re going to protect against hackers, you need to know how to hack, says Pedro Ribeiro, 33, CTO of Immersive Labs, another CyLon incubator, which teaches companies staff how to be hackers themselves . It s like playing a game of chess, and if you don t have all the pieces, you don t stand a chance .

Ribeiro s been a legal ethical hacker for eight years, exposing companies flaws on their payroll, earning between 500 and 2,500 a day .

The problem is, there s a severe skills shortage, which means we re expensive, he says . To bring the costs down and with increasing demand for hack-literate employees Immersive Labs shows them how to do it, teaching them to pull source code, manipulate sites to their advantage, spot problems with programmes and exploit them . Ribeiro is a devoted martial arts disciple . These days you have two types of hacker: the old-school doesn t see the daylight type, and the opposite . It s good for the body and the mind, and it fits with the hacking mind-set: you re fighting something big, always going against the current.

Follow Samuel Fishwick on Twitter: @fish_o_wick2

Meet London's New Cyber Security Hack-busting SquadReuse content3

References

  1. ^ WannaCry (www.standard.co.uk)
  2. ^ @fish_o_wick (twitter.com)
  3. ^ Reuse content (www.standard.co.uk)

Champs- lys es incident: Attacker dies after ramming police van with car ‘carrying explosive device and guns’

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    A runner lies on the ground after arriving at the finish line in Frankfurt Germany . More than 1,000 runners climbed the 1202 stairs, and 222 meters of height in the Frankfurt Messeturm skyscraper run

    AP

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    A troupe of Ukrainian dancers perform on the tarmac at Boryspil airport in Kiev, on the first day of visa-free travel for Ukrainian nationals to the European Union

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    French President Emmanuel Macron with his wife Brigitte Trogneux cast their ballot at their polling station in the first round of the French legislatives elections in Le Touquet, northern France

    EPA

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    EPA

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    A Thai worker paints on a large statue of the Goddess of Mercy, known as Guan Yin at a Chinese temple in Ratchaburi province, Thailand . Guan Yin is one of the most popular and well known Chinese Goddess in Asia and in the world . Guan Yin is the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion in Mahayana Buddhism and also worshiped by Taoists

    EPA

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    Originally developed in France, the training discipline is gaining popularity in Brazil

    Mario Tama/Getty Images

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    Usain Bolt of Jamaica salutes the crowd after winning 100m ‘Salute to a Legend’ race during the Racers Grand Prix at the national stadium in Kingston, Jamaica . Bolt partied with his devoted fans in an emotional farewell at the National Stadium on June 10 as he ran his final race on Jamaican soil . Bolt is retiring in August following the London World Championships

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  • 14/42 10 June 2017

    Police officers investigate at the Amsterdam Centraal station in Amsterdam, Netherlands . A car ploughed into pedestrians and injured at least five people outside the station . The background of the incident was not immediately known, though police state they have ‘no indication whatsoever’ the incident was an attack

    EPA

  • 15/42 10 June 2017

    Police officers investigate at the Amsterdam Centraal station in Amsterdam, Netherlands . A car ploughed into pedestrians and injured at least five people outside the station .

    The background of the incident was not immediately known, though police state they have ‘no indication whatsoever’ the incident was an attack

    EPA

  • 16/42 10 June 2017

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    A man looks on at a migrant and refugee makeshift camp set up under the highway near Porte de la Chapelle, northern Paris

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    Damaged cars are seen stacked in the middle of a road in western Mosul’s Zanjili neighbourhood during ongoing battles to try to take the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters

    Getty

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    Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures next to Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto during a welcome ceremony at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico

    REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

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    Soldiers and residents carry the body of a Muslim boy who was hit by a stray bullet while praying inside a mosque, as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who has taken over large parts of the Marawi City, Philippines

    REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

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    Neomar Lander, a 17-year-old boy was killed during a march in the Chacao district in eastern Caracas on Wednesday, taking the overall death toll since the beginning of April to 66, according to prosecutors

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    Getty Images

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    REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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    REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

  • 30/42 8 June 2017

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  • 35/42 7 June 2017

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  • Finsbury Park mosque attack: Suspect Darren Osborne, 47, previously unknown to security services

    The man suspected of deliberately driving a van into a crowd outside a mosque in north London was unknown to security forces, it has been confirmed, as local communities pay tribute to the one person dead and 10 injured after the crash. Police are treating the incident, which took place as worshippers were leaving the mosque in Finsbury Park just after midnight on Monday, as a terror attack1 the third such atrocity to hit the capital in recent months after vehicles were used to mow down pedestrians in Westminster and on London Bridge. Security minister Ben Wallace said the driver, named as 47-year-old Darren Osborne2 from Cardiff, was not known to the authorities in the space of extremism or far-right extremism . He is believed to have acted alone.

    Osborne was originally arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, but he is now also facing charges relating to the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism . Police are investigating whether the victim died as a result of the attack or a separate health emergency, as he was already receiving first aid outside the mosque at the time. Theresa May said the Government will review security at mosques across Britain, vowing that hatred and evil of this kind will never succeed . Outside Downing Street, the Prime Minister said the attack on Muslims near their place of worship was every bit as sickening as those which have come before .

    Extra police resources have already been deployed to reassure communities, and the police will continue to assess the security needs of Mosques and provide any additional resources needed, especially during this final week before Eid Al-Fitr, a particularly important time for the whole Muslim community, she said.

    There has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years and that means extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia . That is why this Government will act to stamp out extremist and hateful ideology both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to grow.

    Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have contrasting receptions at Finsbury Park mosque visits

    Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: My thoughts are with all those affected by the appalling incident at Finsbury Park.

    I am in contact with the Metropolitan Police who have confirmed it is being investigated by their Counter Terrorism Command.

    We must all continue to stand together, resolute, against all those who try to divide us and spread hate and fear. Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, whose Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency lies close to the scene, called for police to review security at mosques. She tweeted: Terror attack outside #FinsburyPark mosque . Police must urgently review security for all mosques #StandTogether.

    Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said her thoughts were with the community and emergency services, adding: We will not be divided. Ms May met faith leaders at Finsbury Park Mosque the afternoon after the attack, but faced heckles as she left the building . Crowds shouted Have you got a faster taxi today ? and how can you be so quick today? , a criticism of her response to last week s devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, in which 79 people are presumed dead.

    At around 12.20am, a speeding white van swerved into people gathered outside the Muslim Welfare House mosque on Seven Sisters Road . Eight people were taken to hospital and two were treated at the scene . All the victims were Muslim. Abdul Rashid, 18, who witnessed the aftermath of the attack, described the driver as desensitised and said he wasn’t distressed, not in the slightest . He told The Independent it appeared the suspect knew exactly what he was doing .

    When people were holding him down he was saying ‘you can kill me, I’ve done my job’ . He was saying he had come here to kill Muslims, said Mr Rashid .

    He looked blank . You could tell he didn’t care . It was 100 per cent deliberate. Searches are being carried out at a residential address in Cardiff in condition with the mosque attack, according to the Metropolitan Police . Images of the van used in the attack showed it was rented from Pontyclun Van Hire, around 12 miles west of Cardiff.

    Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the capital would stay strong in the difficult period and not allow these terrorists to succeed.

    While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge, it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect, he said. There has been a reported surge in hate crime against Muslims in Britain following the London attacks carried out by Islamist extremists and a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on May 22 that killed 22 people, almost half of whom were aged under 20. The week after the Manchester attack, which was claimed by Isis, verified reports of Islamophobic hate crimes increased more than fivefold, according to the organisation Tell Mama, which monitors anti-Muslim hatred in Britain.

    In the seven days after the London Bridge attack on 3 June, there was a 240 per cent rise in reported hate crimes, said the charity . Figures from City Hall also show a sharp rise in anti-Muslim incidents after three attackers hit pedestrians on the bridge before launching a knife attack on people in bars and restaurants in nearby Borough Market. An imam reportedly saved the van driver involved in the suspected Finsbury Park attack from being attacked by members of the public in the immediate aftermath of the crash . One witness said the furious crowd might have injured or killed Osborne were it not for the intervention of Mohammed Mahmoud. An eyewitness who gave his name as Abdul told The Independent Osborne tried to run away but we brought him down .

    He would’ve died because so many people were punching him but the imam came out and said ‘No more punching, let’s keep him down until the police come’. Community groups and charities have condemned the attack, warning against entering a cycle of tit-for-tat violence that is the goal of extremists . In a statement, the organisation Hope Not Hate said we must oppose far-right extremism with the same intensity that we oppose Islamist extremism – a plague on both their houses is our call, as we said back in 2013 after the murder of Lee Rigby.

    Finsbury Park Mosque Attack: Suspect Darren Osborne, 47, Previously Unknown To Security ServicesReuse content3

    References

    1. ^ terror attack (www.independent.co.uk)
    2. ^ Darren Osborne (www.independent.co.uk)
    3. ^ Reuse content (www.independent.co.uk)