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By Alison Donnellan 30 March 2022 3 min read

Dr Kristen Moore, Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO's Data61 and Women in AI 2022 award nominee. ©  Paul Dodd

Meet Dr Kristen Moore - Senior Research Scientist within our Distributed Systems Security group, artificial intelligence (AI) expert, and Women in AI 2022 award nominee.

Recognised for her scientific excellence in the application of AI to cyber security, we chat to Dr Moore about her nomination, cyber deception, what she's working on now, and the advice she would give to women starting out in the tech industry.

Congratulations on being nominated for a Women in AI Australia-New Zealand 2022 award in the cyber security category! What projects contributed to your nomination?

The focus of my nomination was the development of a novel, AI-powered tool for cyber deception.  

Specifically, I used AI to automate the construction of a highly realistic email server honeypot, that generates both communication traffic and the message artefacts.

The model studies a real database of email communications and learns to mimic the temporal behaviour (i.e, the periodicity of communications) and turn taking dynamics between participants, as well as the roles of the people within the organisation, and the topics of their communications.

In addition to being a powerful breach discovery tool, sophisticated and high interaction honeypots like ours can also fool an adversary into deploying their tools, and demonstrating their tactics and procedures on your honeypot, so that you can examine their entire interaction forensically. This work was part of a research collaboration between CSIRO’s Data61, Penten, UNSW, and the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre.

What led you to choose a career in tech? Tell us about your career journey so far.

I chose to study mathematics and physics at university because that’s what I enjoyed most in school. After finishing undergrad, I moved to Germany to do a PhD in spacetime geometry. Upon graduating, I settled in California to continue my spacetime geometry research with postdoc positions in the Bay Area.

Around about the time I graduated from my PhD in 2012, a friend told me about Coursera, a new online course provider that was offering Andrew Ng’s machine learning (ML) class for free. I took the class in my free time just for fun and continued to make use of the platform’s other ML and artificial intelligence (AI) learning resources.

I was still fascinated by spacetime geometry, but I was immersed in a culture of AI innovation whilst living Silicon Valley. At the heart of this was the proliferation of advanced ML.

After watching ML solutions solve numerous real-life problems, I decided to pivot my career.

I joined an early-stage start-up in New York in 2014, where I helped to develop their data and predictive analytics platform for agriculture trends. I then returned to Australia, working for Telstra before joining CSIRO’s Data61.

What inspired you to join CSIRO’s Data61?

I was helping to build an intrusion detection system to protect an organisation’s network and the number of cyber security attacks was eye-opening.  It emphasised to me how vitally important network security is to prevent abuse and dangerous criminal activity. I also learned firsthand that effectively securing digital systems is an extremely challenging problem.

I saw the potential impact AI-driven cyber security solutions could have when applied to cybersecurity, and it motivated me to join the Distributed Systems Security program at CSIRO’s Data61. I now get to work on solving pressing cyber security challenges at the intersection of industry and research.

What are some of the projects you’re working on at CSIRO’s Data61?

In addition to my work in cyber deception, I’m working on several cyber security applications that benefit from applying AI.

This includes using a human-centric approach to improve phishing detection models and digital watermarking machine learning models.

How can colleagues, organisations and industries within tech better support and enable women?

The availability and normalisation of part-time employment for everyone, not just women, is needed. A four-day working week would make it easier for women to return to the workforce after starting a family and help even the playing field.

What advice would you give to women and girls wanting to pursue a career in STEM?

 Follow your interests and put yourself out there. Connect with and learn from people you aspire to be and take advantage of any opportunity to gain practical experience.  

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