In conversation with: Nicole Eagan, Chief Executive Officer, Darktrace 

In conversation with: Nicole Eagan, Chief Executive officer, Darktrace Nicole Eagan has 25 years in the technology sector and has seen first-hand how cyber attacks have become more sophisticated and more ambitious. She shares with us her love of technology, the many challenges her sector presents and how AI is going to change our world, a theme Sanjay Aurora Managing Director, Asia Pacific, will expand on in his discussion the Enterprise Immune System: Using machine learning for next generation cyber defence at CeBIT Australia’s 2017 Cybersecurity conference.

How did you get to your current role?

Nicole: Prior to Darktrace, I have held a number of technology leadership roles. I am passionate about technology and innovation, turning fundamental ideas into real world products and helping companies scale. Powered by machine learning and developed by specialists from the University of Cambridge, Darktrace’s Enterprise Immune System technology gains an understanding of ‘self’ for an organisation. By building a continuously-evolving ‘pattern of life’ for every user, device, and network, Darktrace’s self-learning technology detects emerging threats, without the use of rules, signatures, or prior assumptions.

What do you love most about working in technology?

Nicole: The world of technology is constantly evolving. From virtual assistants to health diagnostics, AI and genuine machine learning are transforming our lives in ways we never could have imagined. Not too long ago, a driverless car was a mere sci-fi phenomenon, now they are driving around San Francisco. Similarly, the advent of self-learning and self-defending networks truly delivers on the promise of AI. It is thrilling to see where technology will take us in the next 10 years.

What is the most challenging part of working in this sector?

Nicole: Our main challenge is to keep up with the insatiable demand for advanced cyber security. As the sector continues to grow at incredible pace, we have to match it with more people in every area of our business. Our headcount increased from 170 to over 360 last year and we now operate from 23 global offices - while we have responded well to demand so far, we have to keep going!

Name a book, podcast or presentation that has had an impact on your worldview. How has it changed your perspective?

Nicole: Originals by Adam Grant. Grant highlights the importance of asking the right questions and thinking differently. Like Grant, Darktrace celebrates challenging the norm. By recruiting open-minded individuals from diverse backgrounds, we have formed a uniquely skilled workforce who have developed a technology that turns traditional cyber security on its head.

What is the technology that will transform the world in the next 10 years?

Nicole: Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence will transform our lives in the years to come. However, it will inevitably be used to wield highly sophisticated and persistent cyber-attacks.  

We are reaching a point where smartphone cameras and software can recognise written text in milliseconds. Imagine malicious software that can ‘see’ all the documents, whiteboards, computer screens as you walk around with your smartphone normally; and further, it is trained to recognise the types of information that the criminal wants to receive e.g. passwords, sensitive commercial information, designs etc. The same will become true of audio. So we will be in a position where, not only can our devices be ‘seeing’ and ‘recording’, but they can intelligently process this information to find what is interesting and then quietly smuggle out the important parts, in a way that reduces the chances of getting caught.

As we begin to see more and more machine-led attacks, organisations will be forced to respond with greater speed and intelligence. Machine learning and AI will therefore be at the heart of cyber security in the years to come, enabling organisations to not only identify subtle, abnormal activity in real time, but neutralise genuine threats before they cause impact.

What’s the most valuable advice you’ve been given?

Nicole: To put ego aside. It's not always about you being right—it's about asking better questions, ensuring customers get value, and helping employees get things done.

Lastly, do you use an iPhone, Android or… other?

Nicole: iPhone.

If you would love to know more about how AI is transforming the cybersecurity landscape, then make sure you sign up to CeBIT Australia’s cybersecurity conference. Secure your spot now!

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