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12/28/2016
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How Artificial Intelligence Will Solve The Security Skills Shortage

Unlike industries that fear the intrusion of AI, the infosec world is embracing this revolutionary technology, and the seismic changes it will bring to threat detection and mitigation.

I was reminded of a mathematical hypothesis called the singularity when I read Vinod Khosla’s recent interview in the Wall Street Journal and his prediction of massive job displacement and the growth of new industries due to the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI).

The singularity is a point and phase in the future when bio, nano, energy, robotic, and computer technology will develop at such a rate, become so advanced, and have such a profound impact on humanity, that today’s society has no means to understand or describe what life will be like at that time in the future.

It made me wonder how far and fast we are heading in the same explosion of unfathomable change occurring today in information security. Just as IT revolutionized all forms of business in the last half-century, and the Internet in turn revolutionized IT in the last quarter-century, the trajectory we are on now places AI squarely at the next technology inflection point.

The study of history often provides a strong predictor of human societal change. When history unexpectedly veers off course, it is usually due to a substantial technology advancement and the subsequent seismic changes it brings to business and economic systems.

Our perception and use of AI today, also known as machine intelligence, is still in its infancy. New industries are learning by doing, just as we did when the Internet was in its infancy. Looking back, it’s easy to wince and laugh at interviews of experts in the mid-1990s describing the revolutionary nature of email and the world wide web and their dire predictions about the dreaded Y2K. Their projections were both right and wrong, limited in part by what they understood at the time. The impact of what the Internet would ultimately deliver to business and, in turn, society, could not have been foreseen.

The Promise of AI
As a new swath of information security technologies deploy their first generation of AI – seeking to solve many of the security and confidentiality issues that have plagued businesses over the last 40 years – we’re already starting to feel their positive impact.

The information security world is now starved for human capital. There is a global shortage of experienced security workers across the spectrum of skills and specialties. This is holding back advancement and exposing IT systems and Internet businesses to criminality and ransom.

Unlike industries that fear the intrusion of AI, the information security industry – driven largely by a global shortage of qualified employees – is embracing it. As networks become more sophisticated, generate more data, and are exposed to increasingly advanced threats, AI and the automation it empowers are the cure.

This first generation of AI-driven security solutions are focused primarily on automatically sifting through data, hunting for threats, and facilitating a human-led remediation plan. When the first generation of security AI masters threat detection, it will be entrusted with preemptive threat mitigation and auto-remediation of known threats.

Our perception of today’s 24x7 security operations center will eventually be replaced with the second generation of AI-led security technology – leaving human operators to focus on business continuity and critical support issues.

However, just as AI is a boon to the defender, so too is it to the attacker. Defense contractors and governments around the world are already using AI to sift through great lakes of network data and intelligence, and hunt for exploitable weaknesses. Just as fast as armies introduced tanks to warfare, tank-on-tank warfare became a necessity. AI-on-AI warfare has just begun.

If there’s one thing to be learned from the last century’s technology history, it’s that all the important advances are eventually consumerized. As such, in the next 25 years, I anticipate that AI defense systems will unleash unimaginable ways to combat cyber threats.

Related Content:

Gunter Ollmann is chief security officer at Vectra. He has nearly 30 years of information security experience in an array of cyber security consulting and research roles. Before joining Vectra, Günter was CTO of Domain Services at NCC Group, where he drove strategy ... View Full Bio
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jim_zimmermann
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jim_zimmermann,
User Rank: Author
2/10/2017 | 7:25:51 AM
Great story!
Interesting angle.
JulieE012
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JulieE012,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/29/2016 | 5:23:13 AM
is cloud safe?
If we think everything is on cloud! Is cloud 100% secure & safe?
eyalbd1
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eyalbd1,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/29/2016 | 3:41:42 AM
AI is solving security skills shortage
Great post.

I beleieve we are already seeing AI solution integrated to both endpoint and SOC solutions to increase detection rates, decrease detection times and aid desicion making, reducing response time and manual labor drastically.
Christian Bryant
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Christian Bryant,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2016 | 10:07:30 AM
New Tool, Not a Solution
I have to beg a revision to this analysis of AI as a solution to the InfoSec industry skills shortage.  Point of fact, the skills shortage in cybersecurity is no longer about a lack of bodies performing any of the automated data mining and intrusion detection functions AI is currently able to do, and may advance further in years to come, but actually about human beings with the right skillset to do what AI can never do.  We are looking at human beings who can not only intelligently leverage "tools" like AI, pentesting toolkits like Kali Linux, and the myriad hacking/cracking soft and hardware tools out there, but also to think like and counter Black Hat human threats with similar skillsets.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service published an insightful paper "2018 Security Outlook - Potential Risks and Threats".  In this paper they acknowledge that the skills shortage in cybersecurity will continue to be unsolved.  In fact, they predict such a growth in automated tools with decision-making and other AI attributes and there is an embedded warning in this outlook that we can not blindly trust everything these systems produce.  We need human beings as hackers, as analysts, as overseers of the AI armies predicted for 2017-2018 or we will lose control of the cyberwars we are currently managing.

To sell current and predicted AI tech as a solution to the security skills shortage is to suggest the problem is something other than it is.  And if we suggest that, when AI is improved and proliferated, there will be a mistaken sense of comfort among some in the industry, and especially among those who are not "in the know" that will actually do more to threaten InfoSec as an industry, and the actual safety and security of our systems, in that it will create a vulnerability in the widening of the security skills hole - the human factor.

We love our tools, we love AI and we love technology.  It will never be a solution to the ever-growing shortage in qualified human hackers desperately needed to fill seats in InfoSec roles across the needy customer base.  All new tech needs human monitoring and if the AI as anticipated here comes to pass, you will need yet another large body of human assets to make it successful.

 
ClarenceR927
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ClarenceR927,
User Rank: Strategist
12/28/2016 | 9:47:18 AM
This will work out well
If this works as well as all the previous 'great new tools' I have seen over the last 20-some years of security we are in for interesting times.

Management will fall in love with the glossies & parties thrown by the sales guys.

They will write a fat check for the tool and have it installed without sufficent planning.

There will be a base assumption all is secure because of the tool and management will refuse to fund the work necessary to tune and manage the tool.

IT will refuse to do even the simplest things to improve their risk profile because "We have the tool!"

Everyone (except security) will be stunned when they are breached and the hunt for who to blame in CISO will be on.

see: firewalls, AV, IDS, IPS, WAF . . .
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