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Interview – Andy Bates – Global Cyber Alliance

Interview – Andy Bates – Global Cyber Alliance

DAN ASSOR [00:00:01] Thanks, James and good morning and welcome to everybody who’s tuned into this fantastic LinkedIn live Cyber Security Session. My name is Dan Assor, and I’ll be interviewing 12 fantastic speakers this morning. Concluding at 12 with a Panel Debate on Remote Systems hosted by Chris Smith. Each interview will last approximately 10 minutes and to all those watching live. Please do comment and like during the sessions. So without much further a do, we’re gonna get straight into it. Please welcome my first guest, Andy Bates who’s the Executive Director of the Global Cyber Alliance. Good morning and welcome Andy.

ANDY BATES [00:00:38] Hello. Thanks for the opportunity. And hello everyone.

DAN ASSOR [00:00:41] Thank you. Hello from sunny Hampshire, understand. Okay, so Andy, it will be great if you can just tell the audience, the viewers a little bit about the Global Cyber Alliance to start off with and its mission and purpose.

ANDY BATES[00:00:57] Yeah, thanks. We’re a tiny NGO, so we’re a global charity in essence, and in many ways we democratise cybersecurity. So in other words, rather than cybersecurity being something for governments, rich people, large businesses, we make solutions which are free, easy to use, drive it globally applicable and multilingual. So in that way, everyone from my mother to the coffee grower in Kigali to the small business around the corner can have decent cybersecurity. I think it’s important to say we don’t compete with nation state cybersecurity. We don’t compete with the commercial industry. We try and do those things that the planet needs that a normal commercial or state-based response wouldn’t normally produce.

DAN ASSOR [00:01:38] Okay. Thank you for that. And he did mention during that description that the tools and services free of charge, is that correct?

ANDY BATES [00:01:44] Yeah, absolutely. And this is one of the advantages of a charity model. I think people get the concept of a charity that everything we do is absolutely free, ranging from you may be familiar with the platform that we produce called Quad9, along with IBM. So putting your DNS to and that’s probably the biggest platform we’ve done. But yes, everything we do is absolutely free for the end-user.

DAN ASSOR [00:02:07] Okay. And can you expand a bit more about Quad9 and what that would mean to the end-user?

ANDY BATES [00:02:12] Yeah, absolutely. It’s a DNS filtering platform. As we all probably know, DNS is the phone book of the Internet. So by pointing your DNS setting to it takes probably about a minute to configure on the average computer. Probably about 5 or 10 minutes on your home broadband router. And what we do is we collect 21 threats intelligence feeds and is given a list of around 3 to 4 million criminal sites and we stop you getting to those sites. So it’s as if we’ve taken the phone book off the Internet and we’ve cross out as many criminal destinations as we can. Obviously nothing’s 100%, but the concept is that if my mother were to click on the phishing link and she’s got Quad9 configures on her computer, which he has by the way, naturally. There’s a high chance of being saved. And today we are blocking 100 million criminal attempts daily. So arguably, we’re protecting over around to 200 million users out there.

DAN ASSOR [00:03:06] Okay, that’s fascinating. In terms of the recent lockdown, would I be correct in assuming those criminal sites have been increasing as well in terms of sophistication?

ANDY BATES [00:03:17] Yeah, absolutely. In January, we were blocking, on average, 15 million cybercrime attempts daily. That went up to 60 in February. That was largely bringing on some more threat feeds. And then it went up to 100 million in March. And that was largely because there were more COVID domains. I think we’ve, across the industry, we found around 2.5 million COVID domains. But also, as you know, everybody’s granny is doing online yoga. People who never would have done online banking, suddenly having to do online banking. So the online population has increased. People’s use has increased. And the criminals are going to a whole new toy to play with that they didn’t have previously. So, absolutely.

DAN ASSOR [00:03:54] Yeah, sure. And, Andy, could you just give us a sense of what data you tend to collect and share?

ANDY BATES [00:04:01] From platforms like Quad9, absolutely none. So privacy is essential for us. And as I said earlier, the 5 major objections to people having decent cybersecurity are cost, complexity and the fear that somebody is spying on you. So no we don’t collect any data because, you know, some platforms out there which will monetise your data. You get pop-up adverts even though a solution is free. We absolutely don’t do that because that’s created a bad reputation for, if you like, the freemium market. We are working with some Internet providers around helping to clean up the Internet and sharing threat intelligence data. So a platform that we’ll be announcing later on this year is all about helping the registries, registrars and Internet providers to help to clean up the Internet backbone, but that sharing data on criminals with permissions of the organisations. But as far as personal data goes, that your data and yourself, we simply don’t touch that. And if any data comes near, we destroy it almost the second it arrives.

DAN ASSOR [00:04:58] Sure. It’s good to know. Thank you. And in terms of obviously, you’re a membership organisation, in terms of your members. Can you give our audience a view of the types of members so maybe the industry sectors both job roles?

ANDY BATES [00:05:13] Yeah. No, it’s a good question. It’s quite a broad church, I guess, at the top tier organisations like Verizon, BT, Microsoft, IBM, as we’ve mentioned, so those kind of big tech leviathans who genuinely want to help to clean up the Internet. Lloyd’s Bank, one of our most recent customers, sorry partners to come and join us within the U.K.. We’ve actually got some entrepreneurial organisations, so Lorca, which is a government-backed operation to help to boost cyber entrepreneurs to the next stage of their journey. So they’re a great partner. And then actually our smallest partners actually got two people in it. So, again, a small cyber start-up who want to help to protect the planet and need a little bit of help on the road. So it’s quite a broad organisation. And typically, people who we get to speak to range from CISO’s Chief Information Security Officers or in some cases to CEOs or actually in this case the banks, it’s really the people who want to look after their customers. We typically find if we engage with the big bank, we are more interesting to help to protect their customers as opposed to the bank themselves, because clearly they spend tens, if not hundreds of millions on cyber defence.

DAN ASSOR [00:06:20] Sure, that makes sense. So as you say it’s really a broad church, it’s for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Have you seen your membership base evolve and change recently? Or over the last, say, 12 or 18 months?

ANDY BATES [00:06:33] Yeah, I would say so. So examples like the International Telecoms Union, the World Economic Forum and the Press, 2 or three 3 ago, we announced an MIU with ICAM and ICAM clearly are, if you like that at the top of the DNS registry. So these can large quasi U.N. organisations have started joining this particularly. But yeah, the typical stock in trade for us would be either the tech community, which is where we probably started. We also work with organisations around email security so people who are into the thing called DMARC, which I won’t bore you with. But if you turn the DMARC on, it makes sure that people who receive an email from, you know, it’s genuinely you. So those were those are really our starting point device. I think more recently, the financial institutions and some of the membership organisations of those big industries are starting to join. And then to close out that conversation more recently, we picked up partners across the Middle East and we started to have great conversations in India, Singapore, Australia. So of course spreading the global reaches, super important.

DAN ASSOR [00:07:33] Yeah. I was going to come on to that in terms of your reach and where in the world you’re sort of focussing your attention at the moment. Is there a specific objective in one particular territory or focus?

ANDY BATES [00:07:43] We’re truly global. There are obviously some countries where we dare not go. And I guess you can guess where those countries are. Although we don’t restrict the use of our services, there’s no export restrictions on something that’s free that you can use and download. We’re headquartered in New York, London and Brussels. Clearly, those would be our first kind of target markets, Africa, India and the Middle East there are kind of growth areas but we have seen some recent interest from Brazil and even Argentina. So I guess one of our challenges is for a 40 person organisation, we like to think we punch above our weight in terms of the thousands,  thousands of businesses and millions of people we protect. One of the key things is about being focussed about the areas we go to, which is why partners are so important for us.

DAN ASSOR [00:08:27] Sure. Okay, and in terms of the IoT. world, what sort of activities are you doing within that space at the moment?

ANDY BATES [00:08:37] Yes, we built a 1200 global honeypot and a honeypot for those who maybe aren’t familiar with the term, a honeypot think honey trap. It’s a thing that encourages botnets to attack us rather than attack real IoT devices or real people. So we call that our aid platform, so IoT, sorry automated IoT defence ecosystem. That’s been running for it’s giving up for its first anniversary in August now. And we partnered with a bunch of universities and other partners. In essence, if you have an IoT device, we’d love to load it into our honeypot, therefore your device gets attacked by the bad guys and by the botnets. And then we create research data which we share with the universities and hopefully want to get to the ability to share our high fidelity threat feeds about those attacks.

DAN ASSOR [00:09:22] Okay, so Andy, unfortunately, that’s all we have time for, for your good self at the moment. So I just want to say thanks to Andy and check out the Global Cyber Alliance. Join us in a few moments for our next guest. Nigel Thorpe at SecureAge Technology.