Questions to ask your vendor of AI and cybersecurity products


Artificial intelligence, more commonly known under AI acronym, has become a very hot topic these days. Forrester Research forecasts a 300 percent growth of AI investment this year. Toyota invests $100 million in a fund for AI, UBS is trying to bring AI to its investment bank’s operations, while VCs frivolously dream of replacing all of us with AI to cut costs. Some people even feel embarrassed because they have never used or implemented AI in their office or home. Obviously, many cybersecurity vendors leverage the term in an attempt to increase sales and impress their customers. In this article, we will explore how to survive in cybersecurity AI jungles.

I could not agree more with recent Gartner’s research, “How Enterprise Software Providers Should (and Should Not) Exploit the AI Disruption.” Jim Hare, Research VP at Gartner, says “nearly every technology provider is now claiming to be an AI company,” adding that “ultra-hype of the AI label has led to a hysteria of ‘rebranding’ from companies desperate to keep up. Similar to the go-go days of the late 1990s, when every enterprise was an ‘e-business’ company, many vendors are entering the AI market by simply adding ‘AI’ to their sales and marketing materials.” Earlier this year, I met cybersecurity vendors at Black Hat Singapore and Infosecurity Europe that aggressively promoted AI in their products and services. Unfortunately, quite a few of them weren’t able to explain which particular technologies they use, and how beneficial it actually is for their end customers. The best explanation was that “our mathematical algorithms are so complicated that even our engineers do not understand them.”

Below are five topics to discuss with an infosec vendor flying under the AI flag:

Ask whether the vendor uses machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI)

This simple but tricky question can help keep marketing hype out of your mailbox. Quite often, speaking about AI, people tend to think of some fancy ‘human-like’ brain inside a machine as smart as we are. This kind of strong artificial intelligence would be the ultimate technology, capable of acting like a mature human brain: solving any types of generic tasks, and any complicated tasks after additional training. Practically speaking, the strong AI does not yet exist, and will highly unlikely be created within the next fifteenth years. We can probably speak about prototypes, components or sub-elements of AI, such as machine learning (ML), but that’s it. If a particular build of “AI” is restricted to cybersecurity, or especially to a specific range of tasks in cybersecurity—it has nothing to do with the strong AI.

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