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Is AI and Machine Learning hype putting businesses at greater risk?

Is AI and Machine Learning hype putting businesses at greater risk?

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By Chris Jordan, CEO, Fluency, a provider of simplified log management and security analytics solutions

The problem of AI/ML hype is that CISOs who have bad or missing policies, processes and products will think an AI/ML solution will resolve it. AI/ML is not going to be a replacement for good structure and know-how.

Years ago, when I was at McAfee there was a project that demonstrated better protection than signature-based systems. The problem was that in an AV test it would finish last, for it detected known viruses poorly compared to the signature-based.

McAfee had to complement its AV engine, using the statistical approach after performing signature detection in order to get the best results. Using AI/ML is the same thing. The best efficiency is using mature security and then fill in with AI/ML.

Is the ‘hype’ from AI and ML putting business at risk?  The answer is ‘yes’.  Hype always puts businesses at risk, for hype is greater than the immediate value. The winners of a hype game are those that cash in on the hype, not the value of what is being hyped.

But, if you are buying AI/ML products, does that add risk to your business? Again, the answer is ‘yes’. AI and ML are probability algorithms. That means there is a guarantee that they will be wrong, the meaning of risk. As security professionals, we understand that accepting risk is our job. Which brings us to the most meaningful question, ‘When is AI/ML an acceptable risk?’

  • AI/ML requires pre-existing structured processes
  • Requires an expert to determine reason and correctness

While AI and ML have vastly different performance characteristics and implementations, it’s safe to bunch them together. That’s because what we care about is that we are given an answer provided a defined data. This is the characteristic that makes AI/ML valuable, for when the amount of data becomes large, computer analysis can scale where human analysis is limited.

At Fluency we focus on data retention and compliance – and this has led us to have vast data sets. We have been applying AI/ML algorithms to the data we capture. It is our experience that while AI and ML detect anomalies well, they do not provide an answer for the anomaly occurring. The result was that the need for an expert was still required, but that expert could scale to cover larger data by allowing the system to point out the anomalies.

Why do we talk about anomalies and not intrusion detection? AI and ML approach the problem by expecting a ‘next’ state. When the next element fails to statistically be likely, they trigger. Over time, a repeat behaviour of a trigger will be expected and no longer trigger. But an anomaly is an event that should not have occurred. If the activity pattern that is learned is normal, malicious activity will appear as abnormal, an anomaly.

So, when is AI/ML an acceptable risk? AI/ML should be used when you are replacing a mature and measurable process. The enhancement of AI/ML can then be measured against an existing solution to demonstrates that it is, indeed, reducing risk.

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