A team of researchers from Canada’s University of Waterloo has developed technology for protecting organizations — businesses, schools and governments, among others — against cyberattacks.

In conjunction with security company Palitronica Inc., the researchers manufactured a small piece of hardware that monitors systems for inconsistent or unusual power consumption. The device reportedly collects data using artificial intelligence (AI) software, which determines if power usage in a system deviates from typical patterns.

Once it detects these deviations, the AI alerts security officials within the affected organization, notifying them that they might be the target of a ransomware, malware or other cyberattack.

“If suddenly, for instance, several machines exhibit a similar pattern of high-power usage in specific patterns, we would raise an alert that there might be spreading crypto-ransomware in the network,” said Sebastian Fischmeister, an engineering and computer science professor at the University of Waterloo.

Although the technology is designed to protect network equipment and computers within an organization, the researchers suggest it could also be used to protect water supplies, transportation vehicles, 5G infrastructure — virtually anything that consumes power. This is possible because the device itself is less vulnerable to tampering due to its position outside of the monitored system, according to the team.

Currently, the University of Waterloo research team is testing the technology, which is not intended as a replacement for existing security systems, but as a supplement to existing security systems.

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