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AI Faces Hype, Skepticism At RSA Cybersecurity Show

17 February, 2017

AI Faces Hype, Skepticism At RSA Cybersecurity Show

RSA’s CTO is warning customers to be careful when buying products marketed as machine-learning

Vendors at this week’s RSA cybersecurity show in San Francisco are pushing artificial intelligence and machine learning as the new way to detect the latest threats, but RSA CTO Zulfikar Ramzan is giving visitors a reality check.

“I think it (the technology) moves the needle,” he said on Wednesday. “The real open question to me is how much has that needle actually moved in practice?”

It’s not as much as vendors claim, Ramzan warned, but for customers it won’t be easy cutting through the hype and marketing. The reality is that a lot of the technology now being pushed isn’t necessarily new.

In particular, he was talking about machine learning, a subfield in A.I. that’s become a popular marketing term in cybersecurity. In practice, it essentially involves building algorithms to spot bad computer behavior from good.

However, Ramzan pointed out that machine learning in cybersecurity has been around for well over a decade. For instance, email spam filters, antivirus software and online fraud detection are all based on this technique of detecting the bad from good.

Certainly, machine learning has advanced over the years and it can be particularly useful at spotting certain attacks, like those that don’t use malware, he said. But the spotlight on A.I. technologies also has to deal with marketing and building up hype.

“Now all of a sudden, we’re seeing this resurgence of people using ‘the how’ as a marketing push,” he said, after his speech.

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