IOT

AI can hunt the hackers using IOT against us

The Internet of things universe and its countless minions can be harnessed to our will to secure networks.

Mark Harris.
Mark Harris.

One thing you'll quickly notice in our world where artificial intelligence (AI) enhances computer systems and the jobs people are already doing is that they are connecting the cyber world to the physical world.

The interface where cyber meets physical consists of millions of devices, the Internet of things (IOT), all connected to networks to perform tasks and feed organisational data stores that are quickly becoming enormous.

There are simpler IOT devices such as cameras, GPS, flow meters, barcode scanners, speakers and mics, heat sensors, accelerometers, thermometers, door locks, sprinklers, office blinds, lights and the like. There are smarter ones too. Phones, watches, SCADA, which is typically used to control manufacturing equipment and infrastructure, fridges and TVs, which are things that may have a user interface and some edge processing capacity.

A huge issue that has emerged with all of these devices in a hyper-connected and remotely controllable world is security. The devices are legion and, while they are individually fairly dumb, united they represent an army of mindless minions that can overwhelm even titans of networked computing.

It can be difficult to protect these minions. They represent a complexity the IT world is just now beginning to acknowledge, let alone understand, with the knowledge and resources to effectively mitigate the security threats.

The hyper-connectivity and massive tracts of data emerging from this IOT world can help us to protect our organisational environments.

But the hyper-connectivity and massive tracts of data emerging from this IOT world can also help us to protect our organisational environments. While the architectures are too complex for humans to absorb in a single pass and the data too voluminous for the human eye to conceivably sift through in a single lifetime, computers themselves are adept at the job and becoming significantly better at it.

Artificial intelligence, neural networks and machine learning represent a quantum leap in computing's abilities to comprehend and make sense of the seismic volumes of data at their disposal.

With a little back-end intelligence in the form of a unifying AI-, machine learning- or neural network-based platform, the IOT universe and its countless minions can be harnessed to our will to secure networks. The way in which they're connected, how they communicate, the usual types of data they transmit, the times they do so, and so on, all contribute to form an identifying signature.

We can even harness additional resources to help us further. Hacker talk in social media channels about what they intend doing, what they're busy doing, and what they've done. The problem is accessing that information when it pertains to our business. It's hard for us to do, as people, but computers with AI and machine learning smarts can get the job done quickly on our behalf. It doesn't end with social media channels. The Dark Web contains tons more related data. Our own business systems contain lots of the data we need to defend against these attacks and let us know they are under way. Unfortunately, the data are usually hidden in confusing log files. Confusing to humans but not computers, which can speed through them to reveal the hidden gems.

But we have to be able to tie all of the data and information together in some meaningful way.

At the moment, these data streams available to us sit in different systems and it's up to IT teams and skilled people to sift through them and ultimately join the dots. Almost nobody does that. But AI, machine learning and neural network platforms that are already commercially available can do that for us.

These are not AI in the sense of the movie Blade Runner's sentient, humanoid robot, nor the nearly unstoppable Terminator bots, determined to destroy humanity. They're not that smart. But they are good at feeding people the information we need, after sifting through the vast tracts of data, so that we can make informed decisions about real world events, and help us to marshal our resources to maintain the integrity of our systems and infrastructure. They're helping us meet the real-world business challenges of today.

Mark Harris
Chief marketing officer, NEC XON

Mark Harris is chief marketing officer of NEC XON and has 30 years of experience in the industry leading and maturing the business development capabilities of ICT operations. He is the fulcrum of the marketing operations of NEC Africa and XON after the two organisations came together in 2018 to provide consulting, technical, support services and fully managed services to help keep customers relevant in the digital economy. Harris was marketing director of XON for three years, national sales manager for three years prior to that, and headed up the solutions architect team, as key account manager, and as sales manager for key accounts, for 11 years at a major South African Internet services organisation. The business enables African organisations to fully explore opportunities for safe city, energy storage and generation, cyber security, telecommunications, retail, managed services, cyber defence services, and cloud (both public and private), among others in Sub-Sahara Africa. The business now has hundreds of employees, with offices across nine provinces of SA and in 16 Sub-Sahara Africa countries.

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