Google's move into cybersecurity would be a win for advisers

Chronicle, Google's latest "moon shot," wants to level the playing field between large and small security teams

Aug 24, 2018 @ 1:45 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

Amazon may have its sights set on financial services (or maybe not), but Google is more interested in tackling cybersecurity.

X, the division of Google parent company Alphabet that is dedicated to "moon shot" technology ideas, is sharing details of its latest venture — a cybersecurity company called Chronicle. In an interview with CNBC, CEO Stephen Gillett said Chronicle will provide "planet-scale" security analytics using Google's artificial intelligence, machine learning, infrastructure and "near limitless compute" capabilities.

"For us, and I personally, there is probably no bigger threat to humanity than not getting the cybersecurity threat right," said Mr. Gillett.

Financial advisers are inclined to agree. According to a recent survey of 454 registered investment advisory firms conducted by the Investment Advisers Association and ACA compliance group, 81% named cybersecurity their chief concern. It was the fifth year in a row that cybersecurity earned the top spot.

Though two-thirds of respondents said their firms had increased compliance testing, Mr. Gillett said most large organizations have "only three or four people on security, and theymight not have the right tools."Independent advisory firms are even more strapped for resources.

Mr. Gillett hopes Chronicle can level out the playing field by using analytics to support a firm that is light on personnel.

Joseph Kucic, chief security officer of enterprise cybersecurity and compliance firm Cavirin, said this is long overdue.

"Enterprises are struggling in this area and will jump on the first complete offering that they believe in," Mr. Kucic said in an email. He believes Google has the scale and experience necessary to improve cybersecurity on a global scale, and said such a product would accelerate adoption of Cavirin's technology.

Mr. Gillett insisted Chronicle is not looking to replace cybersecurity vendors, but improve them. Instead of "endpoint monitoring" — the software on your computer or phone that scans for breaches and malware and alerts security professionals — Chronicle will instead focus on making sense of all the data flowing in and out of organizations to make it easier and cost-effective to detect problems

So what exactly does this mean? Chronicle is guarding specific details before its public launch in January.

Aaron Spradlin, founder and CEO of cleverDome (a security firm working with custodians, broker-dealers, RIAs and the tech vendors that serve them), explained that Google's AI technology, powered by data from the company's immense scale,can search the open internet for new threats and anomalies faster than anyone else.

Once a threat is detected, Google can share the information with cybersecurity vendors and drastically reduce the time to developing a fix. Instead of waiting getting a virus update every three weeks, advisers could get updates immediately.

CleverDome offers firms a private, cloud-based network where they can access data to minimize the threats they are exposed to, but Mr. Spradlin said the end devices advisers use are still vulnerable.

"The game is fought and won at the device level," he said. If Google can enhance security on devices that access the open internet, which Mr. Spradlin refers to as the "thunderdome," it can definitely help advisers. "Google is trying to protect the thunderdome before they come in to the cleverDome. That's in our best interest."

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