The new age of innovation is providing a level of convenience and technological advancements that were once unfathomable. But with every breakthrough comes challenges, and more precisely these days, security challenges. We, in the security industry, are constantly faced with new threats emerging from vectors that didn’t even exist yesterday.

Enterprise Security vs. Consumer Convenience

The consumerization of IT has made it impossible to ignore the demand for convenience in the products consumers use. The lines between work and play are blurring, which is changing not only business risk profiles but also the way employees want to work.

In a recent study, for example, Cisco Cloudlock saw close to 50 percent of customers/professionals who had the popular Pokémon GO gaming app, connect the app to their professional identity, automatically giving it access to all their corporate data.

While businesses are constantly thinking of security (“are my assets protected? Am I doing what’s needed to ensure the integrity of my data and our corporate resiliency?”), consumers don’t fully grasp the impact that the lack of security could have on them. This lack of consumer cyber awareness is a result of the security complexity we face today.  This complexity is a struggle even for businesses and entire security and IT departments. For an average user, the challenge is magnified tenfold.

As employees gravitate toward consumer-oriented and architected apps, businesses will need advanced technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), to help build smarter security systems that can differentiate between business and personal context, as well to help pinpoint malicious activities.

The future is all at once exciting and scary. Cisco is seeking ways to help our customers deal with the challenges in a manner that allows them to capitalize on new opportunities without risking everything they have already built. Key to this will be new technologies, like Machine Learning and AI that not only promise to make protection faster, but smarter – a necessary and critical security trait, given the  industry’s widening talent shortage, which continually exacerbates enterprise challenges.

Marching to the AI Drum Beat

This week I joined my peers across the security industry at Nasdaq MarketSite in New York to attend the National Cyber Security Alliance’s flagship Cybersecurity Summit. There, we discussed how breakthrough technologies will enable the new day of secure innovation and change the way consumers interact and businesses operate. As an industry, it’s our shared responsibility to prepare for tomorrow’s threats and identify how technologies such as AI and Machine Learning can better our online security, safety and privacy strategies.

There are many things that AI and Machine Learning can help us do, such as become more efficient and simplify cybersecurity by automating it through intelligence to speed resolution when minutes or seconds count. But jumping straight into AI will be getting ahead of ourselves. The first step is to simplify our approach to security. At Cisco, we’ve been building a simple, open and automated security architecture for our customers that can adapt and rapidly respond to the demands of digital transformation, consumerization of IT and the evolving business landscape.

We see the cloud as a central component to simplifying security, which is precisely what Cisco Umbrella’s objective is. Cloud can help close the security effectiveness gap by breaking down silos and offering smarter automation. Cloud is a critical component to the AI and Machine Learning arenas – providing a data repository and the compute power to make security intelligent and self-sufficient, so that in the future solutions can detect and respond to risks without requiring users’ decision-making.

Enabling a Better User Experience

A seamless, integrated, and automated security platform that is supported by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can have a huge impact on the way we protect consumers — by enabling their “cyber conscience.” It doesn’t require a user to manually activate security layers, and it breaks down and transcends silos. It also leverages and contextualizes the user’s current activity, to activate all the necessary security components that will ensure the user has a smooth ride online. These technologies can help us consolidate and learn from users’ activities. They also can increase productivity by promoting certain applications that foster a more engaging and productive user experience, with security embedded throughout the entire cycle.

As our industry faces a talent crisis, automation, Machine Learning and AI will be critical in ensuring protection, but it also cannot be the only focus. Besides, these technologies still require the human element to ensure they are operating appropriately, enacting operations that make sense and improving processes and communication. AI and Machine Learning are only as good as how we set them up to work. That’s why Cisco provides ongoing learning opportunities for employees to keep up with the demands of the industry and launched the Cisco $10M Global Cybersecurity Scholarship Program.  Already in its second year, Cisco’s scholarship program offers free training, mentoring, and testing designed to help individuals earn CCNA Cyber Ops certification and hone the skills needed for the job role of security operations center analyst.

The bottom line is that there is no silver bullet. We are facing a new frontier of innovation and can only seize the opportunity if security capabilities are built to support new ventures. We need more trained professionals, as well as smarter tools that make cybersecurity more effective – for both businesses and their consumers. AI and Machine Learning currently promise our best chance of outpacing adversaries, but only if these solutions are backed by integrated architectures that leverage the new compute capabilities of the cloud. It will be fascinating to see where they take us. We’ve only just scratched the surface.

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and Cisco is a Champion Sponsor of this annual campaign to help people recognize the importance of cybersecurity. For the latest resources and events, visit cisco.com/go/cybersecuritymonth.


Ron Zalkind

CTO, Cloud Security

Security Business Group