BT ramps up AI use to counter hacking threats to business customers | BT


Firm has data from ‘when criminals try to attack’ and its Eagle-i technology suggests what action is needed

Mon 13 May 2024 05.00 BST

BT has said it is increasingly using artificial intelligence to help it detect and neutralise threats from hackers targeting business customers amid repeated attacks on companies.

The £10.5bn group is aiming to build up its business protecting customers from online criminals and has patented technology that uses AI to analyse attack data to allow companies to protect their tech infrastructure.

British businesses are routinely facing hacking attempts, and some recent high-profile victims have included including the outsourcer Capita, Royal Mail and British Airways.

BT has 725 AI-related patents and patent applications in Europe, the US and China.

Bas Burger, the chief executive of BT Business, the division of BT dealing with business customers, said: “We have all this data around when criminals try to attack, such as time of day, what type of attack, and we have suppliers to help us with the information … all data we enrich and then we have a piece of AI running across it.”

He said the technology, called Eagle-i, which was launched in 2021, could suggest what kind of policies needed to be implemented in a firewall to make sure they were protected against a specific type of attack in the future.

BT is also using AI to help detect and establish the cause of faults across its network. This is helping to improve fix times by finding faults that might have taken much longer to identify in the past.

Burger said the pace of technological change had prompted concerns among some companies about whether they were choosing the right technology as well as anxiety about the potential disruption that implementing new technology would cause to their business.

BT recently conducted a study of 2,000 business leaders and found that 86% of company directors and executives report technology as a source of stress as they seek to modernise their businesses. The study showed that 88% of businesses were investing in new technology this year in an attempt to improve productivity and gain a competitive advantage, and overall tech investment was up 31% year on year.

“Every business today is a digital business,” Burger said. “They all want to use technology and they are increasing investment … The flip side is everyone is getting anxious about this. The tempo of innovation is increasing, which in itself gives a lot of business leaders anxiety about ‘what should I do?’. It’s like changing an aeroplane engine while the aeroplane is flying – you’re anxious because the aeroplane is in the air.”

BT is increasingly pushing into AI and last year announced that about 10,000 jobs would be replaced by the technology as part of a wider push to cut its workforce by as much as 55,000 by 2030.

The company will report its annual results on Thursday, with underlying profits expected to come in just below £8bn, according to analysts.

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