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Stuart McClure

CEO and Founder, Cylance

FOUNDER OF A CYBERSECURITY COMPANY called Cylance, Stuart McClure has received his share of death threats.

“Fallout usually comes when we release a report,” McClure explains. “Like Operation Cleaver, which we published last year to expose a cyberattack wherein Iran was targeting airlines, airports and other pieces of critical infrastructure, like construction.”

Cylance not only identified the assault, but also informed Western powers that Iran was likely using cyber tactics to sway nuclear talks in their favor. (How could the United States negotiate if Iran had remote control of our airports?)

“But what’s disruptive about Cylance isn’t that we detect hackers,” he continues. “It’s how we detect them. We use artificial intelligence to track their behavior the same way Google’s algorithm learns what you like. It happens instantaneously — in the blink of an eye — consistently learning and improving with every piece of data ingested.”

Artificial intelligence for cybersecurity

IT’S WORTH NOTING that prior to founding Cylance, McClure served as CTO of McAfee (arguably the most ubiquitous security software on the planet).

“But the problem with a solution like McAfee is that it’s reactive as opposed to predictive,” McClure explains. “A Patient Zero has to be infected before the software even realizes something’s wrong.”

An IRL human must then diagnose the issue, write it into the software and push it back out to consumers (hence those annoying update requests). Systems are exposed for days, weeks or even months at a time.

“That kind of approach may have worked 20, 30 years ago, when new viruses appeared maybe once a month,” he remembers. “But today, an attack can be created in seconds — hackers only have to change a few bytes. So, our defenses need to be just as fast.”

In reality, no human can compete against modern threats. Not even McClure, who wrote the book on cybersecurity. (Literally, he did. It’s called Hacking Exposed.) Only a machine could handle the job.

Predictive, Not Reactive, Defense

The problem with a solution like McAfee is that it’s reactive as opposed to predictive.”
“New viruses can be created in seconds. Our defenses needs to be just as fast.”

WITH CYLANCE, MCCLURE simply repurposes tactics that have existed for decades.

“There’s nothing groundbreaking about our technology,” he demures. “This kind of machine learning has been used for decades in every industry from insurance to advertising. In essence, we learn just like Google learns… it’s the same algorithm, just applied to a different space.”

So, every time there’s an attack — whether in the form of a virus, worm or trojan — Cylance’s algorithm learns what looks good and what looks bad, then stops it before the infection. ‘See that attachment,’ it says. ‘It’s labeled as a PDF but is actually an executable file. Tell everyone not to open.’

“On average, we collect more than one million data points per day,” McClure explains. “We extract anything that looks fishy — tiny indicators that aren’t even perceptible to humans — and build it into our model. We can literally predict the future.”

And while this might not sound like the sexiest topic, Cylance is probably already protecting everything from your bank account to… your president. (Cylance works with many government agencies in the United States and around the world.)

Artificial Intelligence For Cybersecurity

We learn just like Google learns… it’s the same algorithm, just applied to a different space.”
Stuart McClure - CEO and Founder, Cylance

SO, WHAT IF you’re thinking: Why do I care? Cybersecurity ain’t my thing.

“People need to understand that cyber attacks are an increasingly common form of warfare,” McClure explains. “Like when [Russia] shut down Georgia’s banks prior to invasion… or China hacked Japan’s critical infrastructure. Cybersecurity needs to be part of our first line of defense.”

For more info on Cylance, check our video interview with McClure


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