Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Cybersecurity: Let's get tactical

CIO Jury: Artificial intelligence and machine learning an essential part of cybersecurity

Innovative security measures such as AI and ML are playing a greater role in the enterprise.

Security is always a concern for the enterprise, and learning new tactics to make it more effective is key. Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) play a big role for some companies, and our CIO jury agrees.

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Special report: Cybersecurity: Let's get tactical (free PDF)

This ebook, based on the latest ZDNet / TechRepublic special feature, explores how organizations must adapt their security techniques, strengthen end-user training, and embrace new technologies like AI- and ML-powered defenses.

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When asked the question, "Are AI and ML a critical part of your cybersecurity plan this year," the 12-member CIO jury was definitely on the side of opting for innovation, with 67% saying they will be using these technologies to protect their company this year. Each of the remaining 33% of our panelists said that while they aren't using it yet, they are using AI and ML in other ways and learning more about it.

Those weighing in on the 'yes' side include Charles Eagan, CTO of BlackBerry. Eagan said, "AI and its associated technologies are an incredibly important part of BlackBerry's plans for 2020 and beyond. We believe these technologies are essential to empower cybersecurity teams to increase the 'observability' and 'controllability' of complex systems -- not only having the ability to combine many sources of information to detect an attack or compromise, but also having the controllability to respond to such observations."

Cybersecurity as an ideal use case for AI and ML

Kris Seeburn, an independent IT consultant, evangelist and researcher, said "Cybersecurity is emerging as a potential or perhaps an ideal use case for these technologies. Digital business is opening new risks and vulnerabilities that, combined with a security skills gap, is weighing on security teams."

Using artificial intelligence in cybersecurity allows the software to learn and adapt faster than with conventional security tools. 

It protects against phishing attacks and other malicious activity, according to Mark Douglas, president and CEO of SteelHouse.

Chris Weiss, CTO of Dewpoint, said these benefits are why his company is using AI and ML in cybersecurity, and why they're offering it to their customers. "Security products which rely on updates for known threats are reactive rather than proactive, and they no longer meet our needs or those of our customers."

AI and ML increase speed, accuracy and connectivity

World Wide Technology also plans to use AI and ML this year as part of its cybersecurity plans, according to chief technology advisor Rick Pina. "In today's digital age, the security of data, applications, and processes is of the utmost importance; and AI and ML now play an integral part in this cybersecurity process. AI and ML have brought enticing new prospects for speed, accuracy, and connectivity to the public and private sectors, allowing government agencies and corporate organizations to make great strides in governed self-service access, alongside data security and reliability," Pina said.

SEE: Cybersecurity strategy: New tactics, implementation challenges and effectiveness (TechRepublic Premium)  

Cybersecurity plans with AI and ML in the not-too-distant future

Only four panelists said they weren't planning to use AI and ML this year as part of their cybersecurity plans.

Michael Hanken, vice president of IT at Multiquip, said he isn't planning to use AI and ML yet, but he is researching its benefits and limits to see how it might work in conjunction with cybersecurity in the future.

Dan Gallivan, director of IT for Payette, said, "AI and ML are not part of the official plan this year but I do feel they are in the not too distant future as we learn more about artificial intelligence and machine learning development capabilities and then experiment with them in cybersecurity."

Serkan Piantino, CEO and founder at Spell, also voted 'no' and said, "While at Spell we don't use ML/AI generated cybersecurity internally, cybersecurity moves extremely quickly so we work with companies to build machine learning systems that keep up with threats. Machine Learning can be trained to quickly and effectively provide cyber defense by doing things like spotting anomalies, classifying network traffic or detecting incoming malware. But it's important that these systems are monitored and retrained continually because the threats are constantly changing, and that requires the right tools and infrastructure to implement and manage."

Packet CTO Cody Hill rang in with his thoughts, "Our security stance does not embrace AI/ML directly, but is an important feature that we consider when evaluating partners and tools to help us. For instance, we leverage Sift Science to help analyze potentially risky customers, and their machine learning capabilities, it is an important part of the value they provide to us."

Here are this month's CIO Jury participants:

Charles Eagan, CTO, BlackBerry
Michael Hanken, vice president of IT, Multiquip
Dan Gallivan, director of information technology, Payette
Emil Sayegh, CEO, Ntirety
Cody Hill, Field CTO, Packet
Kris Seeburn, independent IT consultant, evangelist, and researcher
Chris Weiss, CTO, Dewpoint
Serkan Piantino, CEO and founder, Spell
Mark Douglas, president and CEO, Steelhouse
Shahid Hanif, founder and CEO, Shufti Pro
Rick Pina, chief technology advisor, World Wide Technology
John Abel, CIO, Veritas Technologies

Want to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say on the top issues for IT decision makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director, or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic's CIO Jury pool, email teena dot maddox at cbsinteractive dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.