nicole-eaganca9addc52aed6fb2b0cbff05006a1c82I had a wonderful and truly illuminating conversation last week with Nicole Eagan, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy & AI Officer of Darktrace, one of the first companies to develop an AI platform for cyber security.

Nicole’s extensive career spans 25 years working for Oracle and early- to late-stage growth companies. Named one of HMG’s “Top 100 Technology Executives to Watch" in 2019, Nicole has introduced machine learning to enterprises of all sizes. Under her leadership, Darktrace has won more than 100 awards, including being named one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies” and a CNBC “Disruptor 50.”

Naturally, we spoke about how the pandemic is transforming the universe of enterprise security and forcing companies to develop new strategies for coping with a continually evolving range of cyber risks.

“Until recently, the security industry has focused on traditional concepts such as network security, cloud security and endpoint security. Today, with so many people working from home, the focus has shifted to workforce security,” Nicole explains.

Here’s why: Cybercrime is an organized business operating on a global scale.  Attackers are often handed lists of target companies. When most of us were still working from corporate offices, the majority of attacks were thwarted by enterprise-grade cyber security systems.

“But all of a sudden, people are working from home on their laptops, using their home Wi-Fi routers, and using a variety of new tools for collaboration and video conferencing,” Nicole says. As a result, the enterprise-grade security systems we had relied on are no longer fully protecting us.

The attackers know this, and are probing for new weaknesses they can exploit. “They’re circling back to those hardened targets in hopes of finding new vulnerabilities and gaining a foothold,” Nicole says. “They’re looking for those weak links.”

The “new normal” is a constantly changing landscape of cyber threats and countermeasures. Security strategies must be continually updated, adjusted and optimized in real time to remain effective.

Cyber security solutions that incorporate machine learning can adjust much more rapidly to continually evolving threats and dynamic workforces than systems that are based on “pre-planned” scenarios. “You really can’t pre-plan for a lot of this,” Nicole explains. “You need the capability to change as the world changes around you.”

Another unexpected consequence of working at home is the tendency for work to continue around the clock with no clear downtime. The “always on” nature of work today creates new opportunities for cyber attackers. 

“Not every company is set up for 24/7 operations. That’s the reality. So one of the things we’ve done is extended free 24/7 Proactive Threat Notification coverage to all of our customers for exactly that reason.  The most important feedback we’ve received from our customers is just knowing that in addition to the ML and the AI, our teams of threat analysts are providing 24/7 eyes-on-glass for them.  That’s really helping them at this time,” says Nicole.

I genuinely appreciate how Nicole and her colleagues at Darktrace have developed such a clear vision of the present moment and its unique challenges. From my perspective, Nicole is a role model for technology leaders and executives everywhere.