Alphabet Chronicle: Why Is Google’s Latest Moonshot a Cybersecurity Firm?

google moonshot alphabet chronicle cybersecurity
Google's previous moonshots have included modular smartphones, balloon-based internet and self-driving cars. NORBERTO DUARTE/AFP/Getty Images

Google’s parent company Alphabet has been known to invest billions of dollars in so-called moonshots, ranging from jetpacks to immortality, so its latest venture into cybersecurity might seem somewhat terrestrial.

The head of Alphabet’s X division, Astro Teller, introduced Chronicle in a blogpost on Wednesday, saying the focus on cybersecurity comes because he believes the industry risks becoming complacent about cybercrime.

“I think of it as the ‘yeah, yeah' problem,” Teller said. “Cybercrime is the latest problem that’s slipping into the ‘yeah, yeah’ zone…Solving this problem isn’t simply a question of time and trusting that we’ll catch up eventually. We have to start fresh and look at the problem from new angles."

Cybersecurity has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, but security breaches continue to dominate headlines. What makes Chronicle stand out from the thousands of other cybersecurity firms out there is its connection to Alphabet and the vast array of technology and talent at its disposal.

alphabet chronicle cybersecurity AI google Astro Teller, captain of Moonshots X, arrives to speak at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California, on October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

One of the key technologies that Chronicle is touting is artificial intelligence, an area where Alphabet is arguably a world leader. If Chronicle is able to tap into the resources available at DeepMind, it could potentially live up to Project X’s stated mission of unlocking solutions "10-times better" than current methods.

Chronicle can also benefit from the the powerful, highly scalable infrastructure that Alphabet has built, allowing the company to theoretically run security analysis in a fraction of the time it currently takes.

“We believe there’s a better way,” said Chronicle CEO Stephen Gillett in his own blogpost on Wednesday. “We want to 10x the speed and impact of security teams’ work by making it much easier, faster and more cost-effective for them to capture and analyze security signals that have previously been too difficult and expensive to find.”

Like other cybersecurity firms, Chronicle has stated its ambition of developing proactive solutions, rather than just reactive solutions, but it won’t be clear until it starts implementing its technology that it’s significantly better than the competition—if at all.

Read More: Universal internet, jetpacks and immortality—Google’s $4 billion moonshots

Not all of the moonshots coming out of Alphabet’s secretive X division have proved to be successful, with several of the most high-profile ventures being scrapped or drastically altered from their original mission. Failed projects have included a jetpack, a space elevator and a teleportation device.

The “other bets” that are still in existence include Alphabet’s anti-aging project Calico and Project Loon, which aims to deliver universal internet access using weather balloons.  

“Over the years X has found new ways to tackle these challenges,” Teller said. “Because, for the world’s most intractable problems, improvements to existing solutions aren’t usually going to be enough.”

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