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Endpoint Security

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Researchers Bring AI to Endpoint Security

FFRI has an AI approach to malware defense - and it will protect systems with no Internet connection at all.

In the era of Skype and Facetime, it's easy for introverts (and CFOs) to ask why face-to-face events like Black Hat are still important. I've asked similar questions myself but ten minutes at Black Hat provided multiple examples of the value a gathering still possesses. On my way to the media center I had two research reports pressed into my hands (you'll hear more about at least one of them before I leave the conference), had lined up two guests for future episodes of Voice of Security Radio, and had pretty much filled my schedule for the rest of the week.

And that's before I grabbed my first cup of coffee.

Once I sat down, the encounters continued. One of the first was with Yuji Ukai and Pablo Garcia of Fourteenforty Research Institute, which is more commonly known as FFRI, Inc. Yuji is well known in the security research community, serving on the review board for presentations at Black Hat.

Ukai and Garcia met as technical staff members at eEye and are now at FFRI, where Ukai is CEO and Garcia is CEO of FFRI Americas. FFRI is in the business of data security and attack prevention. Their product, yarai, is an AI-based malware prevention program that runs entirely in software on the endpoint. When I talked with Ukai about the software, he told me that the artificial intelligence algorithms used in the software are a direct result of the research he and his team do into malware and vulnerability exploitation.

Most of the conversation, in fact, was about research -- it's obvious that the research side is where Ukai's passion lies. In taking the research to market, they decided to go with protection rather than becoming a pure security research and consulting firm. Garcia pointed out that the AI basis means that the client software can run on an entirely air-gapped computer; there's no need for regular network connection for updating signatures or using cloud-based analysis.


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yarai has been available to large enterprise customers in Japan for more than four years and is now expanding into the North American through the third-party channel of resellers and integrators. From a technology perspective, yarai is interesting because it's an example of machine intelligence applied to security. In conversation after conversation the phrases "machine learning" and "artificial intelligence" come up when applied to security, but they're often mentioned in terms of rapid response to alerts.

Malware protection has traditionally been based on either signature matching or heuristics, which often takes the form of fuzzy behavior-based pattern matching. Genuine AI is still relatively rare in the endpoint security space; still less common are such products and services coming from a security research team.

There's plenty more to come from Black Hat -- refresh the home page often and watch my twitter feed (@kg4gwa) for more news.

— Curtis Franklin is the editor of SecurityNow.com. Follow him on Twitter @kg4gwa.

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