Published: 17 August 2016

Research project aims to enable data loss prevention systems with minimal human intervention

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership between the University of Surrey and Clearswift Ltd will explore how hybrid human-machine computing could bring wider safeguarding of sensitive data and documents.

The project between Surrey and Clearswift Ltd, one of the market leaders of data loss prevention (DLP) products, has been awarded funding for a three-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) by Innovate UK (the government’s innovation agency). A response to the 2015 KTP signpost ‘Innovation in the Cyber Security Sector’, the project is co-funded by DMCS (Department for Culture, Media & Sport).

DLP systems are designed to ensure that sensitive data and documents are only accessed by authorised users, and that safeguards are in place against data leaks. However these systems often remain ‘shelf-ware’ due to the high initial human effort and cost needed to define and configure rules around data and document classification – a problem which is hindering wider deployment of DLP systems in the real world.

The KTP project aims to solve this problem by leveraging observable human behaviours in handling sensitive data and documents, allowing semi-automated bootstrapping and continuous adaptation of DLP systems in real-world environments. The project will draw on Surrey’s knowledge of machine learning (within the Department of Computer Science) and behavioural science (within the School of Psychology) to produce a hybrid human-machine computing system which will minimise the need for human intervention in the deployment and fine-tuning processes of DLP systems. Highly innovative, this hybrid human-machine approach has not yet been used effectively for DLP or broader cyber security problems.

Dr Shujun Li, Deputy Director of the Surrey Centre for Cyber Security (SCCS) and Senior Lecturer of the Department of Computer Science, said, “This joint project will give us a great opportunity to work with real-world data about a real-world problem facing a growing industry sector and a large community of end users.”

“Working with my colleague Dr Ben Shenoy, Director of the Business Insights Lab at the Centre for the Digital Economy (CoDE) in Surrey Business School, and our industrial collaborators from Clearswift, we aim to convert our exciting research ideas on hybrid human-machine computing into usable commercial products. We expect the project will produce research results valuable not only for DLP but also for broader applications in cyber security and machine learning.”

Maksym Schipka, Clearswift’s Senior VP of Engineering, said, “Clearswift is driven by innovation. Working with the University of Surrey and the KTP is a great way to carry our research projects which we would be unable to do on our own. By combining academic excellence with business knowhow, together we can drive towards a world leading solution in the DLP arena.”

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