Charles Barratt, Principal Business Solutions Architect, EMEA EUC Strategic Accounts, VMware

Despite the hype that exists around it, we have to remember that in its current format, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is actually quite limited with what it can offer. Why? Because AI and Machine Learning (ML) are based on data – it doesn’t have opinions of its own.

When I talk to Alexa, I can ask it what the weather will be tomorrow, the bookies’ favourite for the next Bond actor or how long to roast a chicken for, and it will give a fairly accurate answer. Yet when, after the 1 000th time that week of hearing it, I ask why the song Baby Shark went viral, I’m faced with silence.

While you can have a lot of fun testing the ability of your Alexa or other AI technology, there are some practical applications of AI that can transform the workplace.

As a society, we are starting to interchange the terms AI and ML without fully understanding the nuances between them. AI can be described as intelligent machines that mirror a human’s approach to solving challenges. An extension of this is machine learning, which is the act of leveraging vast amounts of data to automate a response.

These concepts are not new, but have been made possible through:

  • Huge amounts of data being generated by systems
  • Internet scale and reach
  • Better computing resources

We know that automated processes can help with productivity and empower the workforce to express their creativity. However, companies are struggling to find a balance between employee experience and maintaining the sufficient levels of security required within the enterprise. Two crucial attributes that can help with this are insights and intelligence. So how can businesses harness the power of AI to help build these qualities?

What security challenges do we face?

As we advance as a society, so do the tools we use. AI should be seen as simply another weapon businesses can use to help them succeed, rather than something that should be feared. And this applies to security.

CEOs who are now responsible for digital security, are heavily reliant on the IT function to deliver this. If a business doesn’t know where a device is being logged into, by which employee and which applications they’re accessing – how can they ensure that their enterprise is secure? Visibility is a core part of a security approach, because the traditional perimeter methods are obsolete and more sophisticated attacks are inevitable.

It doesn’t come as any surprise that two areas of significant interest are User Entity Behaviour Analytics (UEBA) to deliver a context-based access to users and SOAR Security Orchestration and Automation Response (SOAR) to ensure that attacks are remediated swiftly with minimal manual process.

Mobile devices have become a great source of cyber security breaches and there’s a lot of technology available to help mitigate these threats. Whilst this might seem like a positive, the result is an extremely complex environment, with multiple security systems that aren’t integrated, and information remains insecure.

These clouds of information have become siloed; split into the different business functions including HR, IT, marketing, sales etc. IT will historically focus on devices and the data associated with them, and the other business units will focus on their relevant applications and data.

Businesses need a way to view the entire digital workspace across all endpoints, apps, networks and user experience, to enable them to pin point what is and isn’t working in the environment and adopt a zero trust approach to security.

Why do we need AI?

For years now, we have understood the importance of data in the workplace. But we have to seek it out in order for the data to work for us. We need to find patterns in data to determine the next course of action. Only recently, have systems evolved to analyse this data at scale, correlate it against the employee and apply it to a business context – in this case security.

So how can AI help companies stay one step ahead of the cyber threats we face today?

We know that our workforce demands access anywhere and everywhere. With more devices comes multiple complexities, making enterprises even more vulnerable to threats. The amount of data generated through employee interactions – the time of login, where a device is being logged into, which department is accessing which application – surmounts to billions of individual events and terabytes of data.

Humans cannot manually stitch this information together in a cohesive manner. Businesses need to leverage AI to derive these insights and answer the most critical security problems. Automation means the appropriate action can then be executed automatically – whether that might be an app denying access to an individual, or a patch update to a particular group of devices.

Organisations are starting to realise that to offer true end user value at a similar or reduced budget, they need to look to AI. Specific use cases include:

  • Efficiency and removal of manual processes
  • Improvement of the bottom line of the IT P&L
  • Automation of SOAR
  • Automation of user experience based upon context

How will businesses benefit?

Retailers, for example, will be able to identify if a credit card machine isn’t working and have pre-prepared back-up plans based on different predictions. Healthcare will be able to provide the most secure environment to their clinicians and enable them to deliver improved patient care through mobile working, safe in the knowledge that patient data won’t be compromised.

It’s not just enterprises either – the management of sensors in smart cities, or the improvement of data security in school districts are other use cases for a comprehensive intelligence-driven cloud-based service that can provide intelligence and visibility.

As Brian Troudy, Director, Networking and Infrastructure of Corona-Norco Unified School District, explains: VMware’s Workspace ONE intelligence will provide the organisation with a way to automate security practices and give access to metrics that will help to improve user experience for teachers, administrators and students. “It’s a clear win-win for our staff and students,” he says.

It is time modern working environments used modern management tools, and automated threat detection. Security responses need to be part of this shift towards a more AI-driven workforce. It is no longer acceptable to use security as an excuse for poor employee experience.

Employees demand the latest tools and devices, with one-click access to corporate resources, while maintaining high levels of security. The only way this can be achieved is through AI. But remember that AI on its own will only become another isolated service, true value will be gleaned when it is integrated as part of an overall API integrated ecosystem.

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