The future of security is AI and people working together: RSAC 2020 recap

  • Posted on March 16, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
RSAC 2020 recap

In my 20 years of attending the RSA Conference, I’ve noticed a trend. The cybersecurity industry is stable, static and relatively non-surprising. Dare I say boring? Until it isn’t.

Every now and then, cybersecurity is hit by an earth-shaking, cataclysmic change. We saw this with the emergence of personal computing, the mainstreaming of public cloud, the explosion of mobile devices in the workplace, and the rapidly expanding universe of Internet of Things devices.

And now we are seeing it again. 

I’m tempted to say the mega-trend this time is with artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation. But I think that actually only scratches the surface. The big idea connecting all the dots is that cybersecurity is no longer something most enterprises can handle on their own. AI just happens to be the most buzz-worthy indicator of this shift – but there is plenty more going on than first meets the eye. 

RSA shows that AI is now crucial for security 
Let’s start with AI before we connect the rest of the dots. There is simply no denying AI has reached hype status at RSAC. If I were to assemble one of those word clouds summarizing all the conversations, keynotes and vendor booths at the event, there’s no doubt the two-letter acronym would be the giant center of that diagram. 

The AI conversations fell into two main categories: How we’ll use it to improve cybersecurity; and how the bad guys will use it to strengthen attacks. Take for example the winners of the 15th annual RSAC Sandbox Innovation contest, a startup called SECURITI.ai using machine learning and automation in privacy operations. I met up with a number of exciting companies in the space, one of which is using AI to improve threat hunting. On the flip side, RSAC featured sessions focused on the “weaponization” of AI and the risks of AI-powered Digital Identity solutions. 

There is a common theme here. We are collecting and using more data than ever before, to drive businesses, to improve services, to interact with the world. We’re also facing more complexity in the threat landscape, as data, devices and individuals expand their footprints. AI and automation are the tools that promise to help us simplify this chaos, sustainably and effectively. 

The need for partnerships and expertise has never been greater
But AI is only a part of that story. Enterprises don’t just need automated, intelligent machines to strengthen security frameworks and governance. They need people, experts and guidance, too.

The starkest example of this I saw at RSAC was actually something that happened at a pre-event awards show, the night before it began. That was when Microsoft held its first-ever gala event to honor the winners of the new Microsoft Security 20/20 awards – a whole new series of awards that Microsoft created with the express purpose of bringing more attention to the essential need for partnerships in cybersecurity. 

I’m proud to say that Avanade picked up an award that night, for our distinguished services and solutions around Security Advisory – a category which explicitly calls out the power of partners and Microsoft working together on customer security solutions.

By the way, Microsoft, arguably the largest security products company, is investing heavily in AI.  Incorporating years of experience enriched through the trillions of signals it analyzes each day, Microsoft’s AI and machine learning algorithms are a core part of many of its security products, including Azure Sentinel, Azure Security Center for IoT, and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP).

Simply put, even the major vendors no longer see cybersecurity as a point-in-time product discussion. It’s a process, sustained by continual collaboration and innovation across businesses, products and experiences, combined with the need for automation. 

So, what’s next?
AI seems to one of those inflection points in cybersecurity, as evidenced at RSAC 2020.

But on closer look, it’s not about AI technology per se, but, rather, what it does for an organization. We are living in chaotic and complicated times. As our dependency on data and modern workplace experiences increases, so too will our need for simplified, sustainable security practices. AI can help us get there. But, so will partnerships with the experts, and strong and thriving security cultures from within.

To learn more about how Avanade helps enterprises get secure and compliant, visit our Security Solution homepage.  

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