ESD Team

The Disruptive Advantage of AI

August 30, 2023
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The Disruptive Advantage of AI

On the 5th episode of Enterprise Software Defenders, hosts Evan Reiser and Mike Britton, both executives at Abnormal Security, talk with Paul Reyes, CISO and VP of cybersecurity at Vistra Corp. Vistra is a Fortune 500 company with over 5000 employees and 13.7 billion dollars in annual revenue, they are one of the largest power generators in the United States. In this conversation, Paul shares his perspective on tangible ways organizations can leverage AI, the disruptive advantage of adopting AI, and the evolving cyber threat landscape fueled by automated attacks.

The complex and diverse nature of Vistra's operations translates into unique challenges for its cybersecurity program. Operating across various business groups, each with distinct needs, Vistra's cybersecurity strategy must adapt and cater to different requirements to stay stable and safe. Paul unveils the power of AI in augmenting cybersecurity efforts, shedding light on its ability to detect anomalies and behaviors that might elude human perception. "In our organization, we leverage AI that drives efficiencies within our workforce and reduces risk in areas. We see it in email protection, and you see it in endpoint protection, where they'll start to track behaviorals. That's not a human doing that. That's AI looking at the patterns and the behaviors of actors on top of your system and being able to do predictive controls and protections." However, he warns against overhyping AI's potential in certain areas, citing the complexity of vulnerability management as a domain where human understanding and context remain essential. "I started to see some AI trying to describe how to do vulnerability management faster and more efficiently. I think that's over-hyped because there are so many impacts that can occur if you want to start vulnerability remediation in an efficient way, and you don't understand the impact of those changes to business processes. That always has to have checks and balances."

While AI introduces new challenges, it also presents new opportunities for teams looking for the cutting edge of available technology. Paul envisions AI as a crucial asset in endpoint protection, threat detection, and predictive analysis. It can revolutionize vulnerability management by tracking and analyzing vast data sets, adapting defenses in real time, and even predicting maintenance needs for critical equipment. Paul underscores the need for a balanced approach integrating AI within a broader cybersecurity framework. Amidst discussions of AI's influence, Paul shares that AI's rise won't supplant human expertise but enhance it. He envisions a future where skilled cybersecurity professionals leverage AI tools to amplify their capabilities. "Resources aren't going to be replaced by robots or AI. They're gonna be replaced by other people that know how to use AI well. They are not necessarily impacted or disrupted by specifically AI itself, but folks that know how to leverage it appropriately and are useful to their capabilities internally." By embracing AI's insights, cybersecurity professionals can respond to threats more effectively and creatively, contributing to a resilient defense against evolving cyber risks.

Paul underlines AI's dual role – a force for positive innovation and potential harm, urging cautious and ethical deployment to avoid unintended consequences. As automation can help build a safer tomorrow, the technology can also help create new cyber attacks and malicious capabilities. Paul shares his concern with the new challenges of emerging threats. "You see some very interesting items where you have AI throwing out a botnet and then doing an investigation on reconnaissance of their threat actors that showed some impacts on that botnet attack from that generated reconnaissance, that enabled them to be very pinpoint on what and how they would attack. Being able to be developed within hours or minutes, all by an AI is just crazy." The evolution of threats in the cybersecurity space grows with the capabilities of new technologies, and AI will be no exception. That is why the continued development of tools that remain several steps ahead of trending attack modes is vital.

While challenges and ethical considerations loom, a measured approach, coupled with continuous learning and collaboration, will pave the way for an agile and resilient cybersecurity landscape in the face of AI-driven threats. "We have got to be careful on what keys to the kingdom will we give and how much leeway we allow, but you have got to be on that edge because it's going to be available to gain your business capabilities that allow you to move your company to the next level." As AI continues to shape the future of cybersecurity, Paul's insights remind us that technology, when wielded thoughtfully and ethically, is an invaluable ally in the unending battle against cyber threats. Paul's experiences and forward-looking perspective leave us with a powerful message: In cybersecurity, staying vigilant, adaptive, and human-driven will remain paramount, even as AI ushers in a new era of protection and innovation.

Listen to Paul's episode here and read the transcript here.