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Feature Articles: Encryption and Security Technologies for Creating a Safe and Secure Society

Establishment and Development of Cybersecurity Technologies to Solve Problem of Increasing Operation Costs and to Minimize Damage

Yuzo Koga, Yoshiaki Nakajima, Naoko Chiba,
Jun Miyoshi, Takaaki Koyama, Hidehiro Shito,
and Asami Miyajima


While responding to new cybersecurity threats such as cyber attacks, we will radically improve the efficiency of security operations by developing technologies for autonomous and automated security measures. Such technologies will enable operators to concentrate on countermeasures against advanced threats that cannot be handled mechanically and enhance overall security-response capabilities.

Keywords: cybersecurity, security operation, security measures


1. Background

Cyber attacks are increasing yearly and becoming more complicated and sophisticated. In particular, there has been a significant increase in cyber attacks that directly target humans, which has dramatically increased the cost of cybersecurity measures for enterprises.

When users have diverse requirements and enterprises need to cope with long tail customers, a variety of applications should be provided through a combination of servers and software on ultrahigh-speed optical communication networks connecting various communication equipment, terminals, and devices. In such a situation, the efficiency of security measures to handle each cyber attack is too low, which can be a factor hindering the digital transformation and business-value creation of enterprises.

2. Goal of our research and development

We are conducting research and development (R&D) on technologies for automatically and proactively implementing security measures against cyber attacks and various vulnerabilities that are targets of them.

Through such technologies, we will provide an information and communication technology (ICT) environment capable of preventing damage caused by cyber attacks and resolving the shortage of human resources in security operations that restrict enterprise management, enabling users to use services with peace of mind. This environment eliminates the need for enterprises to respond to security vulnerabilities each time (whack-a-mole game), after an incident (cat-and-mouse game), or respond to business loss due to damage (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Total cost reduction of security operations.

By reducing the total cost of security operations, we will enable enterprises to focus on development and operations and support them in creating business values in short cycles in a Smart World of smart factories, buildings, mobility, etc. (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Purpose of our R&D.

3. Platform as a result of our R&D

In security operations, many security measures, such as monitoring, analysis, and response, are implemented manually, so the ability to carry them out depends heavily on human skills.

By implmenting a platform with our technologies, we will constantly monitor the status of devices and applications that make up infrastructure and services and automatically execute security measures on systems in advance as soon as a vulnerable situation is found. The platform provides an environment to conduct stable, effective, and efficient security measures (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Platform as a result of our R&D.

4. Challenges in implementing the platform

To automatically and proactively implement security measures, we will conduct R&D on the following three technologies (Fig. 4) and create intelligence, as shown in Fig. 5.

Fig. 4. Three technical issues.

Fig. 5. Intelligence created from our R&D.

(1) Technologies for actively visualizing and minimizing vulnerabilities, and implementing automatic correction cycles

To provide robust security, we will conduct R&D on visualizing and minimizing vulnerabilities, and also on implementing automatic correction cycles to enable shift-left security measures that can nip vulnerabilities in the bud and drastically improve efficiency of security operations.

(2) Technologies for generating and using intelligence that follows environmental changes

Security measures are continuously and autonomously implemented in a wide variety of ICT environments through technologies for automatically generating intelligence unique to telecommunication carriers and automatically using intelligence that does not require awareness.

(3) Technologies for countering human-induced risks

We will conduct R&D on security technologies that can respond to risks arising from humans and drastically reduce risks related to human errors, fraudulent attacks targeting humans, internal fraud by employees, etc., which can lead to security damage.

In the following section, we introduce our major R&D efforts.

5. Current activities

(1) Configuration and status analysis technology (Fig. 6)

Fig. 6. Configuration and status analysis technology.

We are currently conducting R&D on software agents and communication-analysis engines that analyze the configuration and status of Internet of Things devices for people and things as a security technology to protect complex cyber-physical systems composed of various elements such as smart cities. We will conduct R&D on crossing-analysis technology for multiple domains to detect signs of security anomalies and estimate probable causes and measures, which have been difficult in the past, by analyzing the correlation between elements across systems and services in addition to configuration and status.

(2) Initial-forensic-investigation technology (Fig. 7)

Fig. 7. Initial forensic investigation technology.

In cyber forensic investigation, a terminal that is suspected of being attacked is preserved, and a security analyst extracts evidence of an attack. While detailed analysis is possible from investigation by humans, it depends on the analyst’s experience and can take several days. In the initial investigation phase, therefore, its accuracy and speed remain issues for early clarification of the entire damage. Therefore, we are developing a technology for preserving only important logs and automatically extracting traces of attacks. The goal with this technology is to create an intelligence database of attack procedures that are often used by attackers and processing them automatically. Initial investigations can be conducted in a few hours, regardless of the skill levels of analysts.

(3) Technology for detecting web-based social-engineering attacks that exploit human psychological vulnerabilities (Fig. 8)

Fig. 8. Technology for detecting web-based social-engineering attacks that exploit human psychological vulnerabilities.

Attackers use opportunities such as international sporting events and the spread of COVID-19 infection to attract people’s interests and carry out cyber attacks that deceive users. Attackers can trick users into visiting a malicious site with interesting content or fake warning messages, causing malware infections and theft of money and personal information. We are conducting R&D on technology that can emulate the browser operations of deceived people, automatically crawl and collect webpages, and detect malicious sites with high accuracy and speed based on the image, language, and feature amount of the arrival path with the aim of reducing fraud damage targeting such people.

6. For the future

Cybersecurity risks can now threaten countries and are one of the most serious social problems. As the situation continues to be dominated by attackers, we will continue to contribute to the betterment of society by creating new security technologies that can overcome the current severe cybersecurity situation.

Yuzo Koga
Director, Head of Cyber Security Project, NTT Secure Platform Laboratories.
He received a B.E., M.E., and Ph.D. in instrumentation engineering from Keio University in 1996, 1998, and 2001. He joined NTT in 2001, and has had several years of experience in designing, building, and operating various communication services including identity management, cloud computing, the Internet exchange point, and the Internet access network. He is a member of the Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers (IEICE).
Yoshiaki Nakajima
Director, Head of Security Operation Project, NTT Secure Platform Laboratories.
He received a B.S. in information science and an M.S. in mathematical and computing science from Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1995 and 1997. He joined NTT Information and Communication Systems Laboratories in 1997, where he worked on R&D of information security. From 2009 to 2013, he was with the Security Strategy Section of the Technology Planning Department. He has been involved in R&D of information and communication platforms, security platforms, and other areas. He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and Registered Information Security Specialist (RISS).
Naoko Chiba
Director, Cyber Security Project, NTT Secure Platform Laboratories.
She received a B.S. and M.S. from Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1998 and 2000. She joined NTT R&D in 2000 and has been working for more than 20 years in the information security field. Her research interest lies in high-quality and usable cybersecurity intelligence. She is a CISSP and a member of Information Processing Society of Japan (IPSJ).
Jun Miyoshi
Director, Cyber Security Project, NTT Secure Platform Laboratories.
He received a B.E. and M.E. in system science from Kyoto University in 1993 and 1995. Since joining NTT in 1995, he has been researching and developing network security technologies. Prior to his current position, he was engaged in R&D strategy management of the Labs. from 2011 to 2015. He is a member of IEICE.
Takaaki Koyama
Director, Security Operation Project, NTT Secure Platform Laboratories.
He received an M.M.G. in media and governance from Keio University in 1996. He joined NTT in 1996 and has been studying several types of virtual private networks and software-defined networking as well as security operation systems for these network technologies. His research interests have recently extended to security analysis and operation technologies for smart cities. He is a member of IPSJ.
Hidehiro Shito
Director, Security Operation Project, NTT Secure Platform Laboratories.
He received a B.E. and M.E. in mechanical and system engineering from Yamanashi University in 1994 and 1996. He joined NTT in 1997. After several years of experience in R&D, operation, and construction of communications infrastructure, he started his career as a member of computer security incident response teams (CSIRTs) of organizations such as NTT EAST and NTT DATA. He joined NTT R&D in 2018, and his current position is a director of NTT-CERT (Computer Security Incident Response and Readiness Coordination Team), the representative CSIRT of the NTT Group.
Asami Miyajima
Director, Security Operation Project, NTT Secure Platform Laboratories.
She received a B.S. and M.S. in science and technology from Keio University in 1998 and 2000. She joined NTT R&D in 2000, and her research interests include cyber-physical systems security.