Verizon jumps on the AI-security bandwagon

Verizon’s venture capitalist arm has started throwing its weight around the security arena, pumping cash into artificial intelligence start-up SparkCognition.

Alongside the likes of Boeing HorizonX and other investors, Verizon has aided SparkCognition to close its initial $32 million funding round. The company has developed a machine-learning based platform to bolster security capabilities for a number of different industries including aerospace, defence and telecommunications.

“Having industry stalwarts, Verizon and Boeing, support our existing investors in funding this new round of growth serves as tremendous validation of our technology and track record,” said Amir Husain, founder and CEO of SparkCognition. “There is massive demand for our category-leading AI solutions.

“The world is well on its way to an AI-powered revolution — where cognitive systems will truly augment human capabilities, but at machine speed and big data scale. Our real world deployments and on-the-ground successes speak to the broad applicability of SparkCognition’s AI technology, and the tremendous promise of AI in general.”

The potential of AI has been well documented in terms of creating a proactive business model or enhanced customer experience, but there does seem to be growing momentum in the security arena. Security is an aspect of business which is often left to the end, but you would hope these investments indicate lessons have been learnt.

The basic concept of the connected economy is that you are able to access your digital life everywhere and anywhere. This might be in your personal life or your professional one, but the ease of access creates numerous problems also.

For every access point there is to a network, a potential weakness has been created. This could mean a smartphone accessing work emails in the middle of a field, or sensors in an IoT network. The number of gateways is increasing as well as the size of the perimeter which operators and enterprise organizations alike have to protect.

The manpower which will be needed to ensure the security of the network is quite frankly absurd considering the expanding and increasingly complicated perimeter. This essentially makes the business case for artificial intelligence in the security world; it works continuously and simply more efficiently than humans.

At SparkCognition, this is essentially done in three different ways. Firstly, neural networks are used to analyse the contents of files and determine if they are engaged in malevolent behaviour. Humans are able to do this, however it is monotonous and time consuming; there are other things a trained security professional should be concentrating on.

Secondly, the team has created a series of cognitive pipelines which can analyse semi-structured information such as the logs generated by firewall or proxy systems. Essentially, it is a secondary defence, which is looking for new threats that the initial firewall might not have been aware of.

Finally, Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities are incorporated to allow the automation of security research, evaluate threat hypotheses, reduce false positives, and augment the incident-response professional. Once these three capabilities have been taken into account, security professional can concentrate on more high-value, proactive tasks to enhance the security of a network, not simply responding to incidents.

Last week, we saw Softbank weighing into the world of AI-driven security solutions, now it would seem Verizon is recognising the potential of the technology.

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