How AI, Automation, and Zero Trust Can Improve Enterprise Networks

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The cyberthreat landscape weighs heavily on the minds of business and IT leaders — and for good reason. Statista reports that in this year’s third quarter alone, nearly 15 million data records were exposed worldwide.

The risk of data breaches places intense pressure on IT and security teams to ensure corporate networks are not only protected, but also kept up to date. That’s a tall order given the increasingly complex network architectures that mix on-premises and cloud infrastructure. In addition, hybrid workforces have created multiple paths for data and apps traffic that must be secured.

What can be done to alleviate some of this strain? The CIO Experts Network of IT professionals and industry analysts identified multiple ways that technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and zero trust security can help IT teams improve their networks.

Zero trust is becoming a modern security standard

Adoption of zero trust solutions is slowly rising, with 49% of organizations saying these technologies are currently in use, up from 46% in 2021, according to the Foundry 2022 Security Priorities Study. These principles, policies, and related technologies have gained interest for several reasons, according to the experts.

“Modern cybersecurity threats combined with the risks inherent in hybrid and remote workforces that include a mixture of in-house and outsourced talent have led to the evolution of the zero trust security model,” said Emily Gray-Fow (@Emily_Gray_Fow), B2B tech and engineering content writer.

Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), President/CEO at Berkeley Varitronics Systems Inc., added: “The network is continually changing and evolving as the threat landscape changes, which is why zero trust models can be so crucial to an organization’s security.”

More specifically, a zero trust architecture (ZTA) is beneficial because it “provides perimeter-less security, policy enforcement, and improves network efficiency by ensuring least-privileged access to explicitly authorized resources,” said George Gerchow (@georgegerchow), CSO and SVP of IT at Sumo Logic.

“IT departments also benefit from ZTA by automated device validation prior to gaining access to networks,” Gerchow said. “This allows for a higher level of verified security access and IT agility regardless of where the systems are deployed — on premises, hybrid or in the cloud.”

Ramprakash Ramamoorthy, Director of AI Research at Zoho Corporation, agrees. “Zero trust security is an invaluable resource that protects applications and IT networks from insider threats and ensures that hackers cannot easily move laterally through a network without being detected. This will reduce downtime and improve data security across a given organization.”

Zero trust foundations can then be strengthened by AI and automation solutions, according to several experts:

“Once zero trust is established, AI and automation can be implemented to ensure speedy investigations and remediation routines are established and working. This can then provide organizations with 24/7 protection at speed and scale.” — Kieran Gilmurray (@KieranGilmurray), CEO at Digital Automation and Robotics Limited

“Zero trust is a difficult and complex solution; there is no silver bullet, but the job is made easier by AI technologies, which help in automating threat detention and accelerating threat response.” — Nicki Doble, Chief Transformation Officer at AIA Philippines.

“AI and automation will assist with the creation of zero trust policies and structures that will prevent infiltration from becoming exfiltration.” — Enrique Carrillo (@ecarrillo), Senior Vice President, Strategic Growth – Diverse Manufacturing, Consumer Products, Retails, and Telecom at WNS

“With every resource and user connecting to a network presumed to be unauthorized until proven otherwise, plus a deep stack of access tiers specific to each organization, managing such a system without automation and AI would be nigh-on impossible.” — Gray-Fow

AI technologies provide merit well beyond security

The network benefits of AI technologies don’t stop with security. The Experts cited other ways that these solutions can improve network management and business outcomes.  

“Today’s networks are highly dynamic and require scaling up when data scientists train models, IoT-enabled factory floors increase production, or when more employees work remotely,” said Isaac Sacolick (@nyike), President of StarCIO and author of Digital Trailblazer. “Networks built with predictive machine-learning models and automation capabilities protect the organization and enable scaling resources to areas of greatest demand.”

In addition, IT and business teams “still adjusting to the new norm of a remote workforce can count on AI to help unite workers and managers around common goals to improve overall operational efficiencies,” said Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), President/CEO at Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc. “AI can do what would take an army of humans to do in a fraction of the time and cost by analyzing tremendous amounts of data and to provide specific actionable insights.”

More specifically, Frank Cutitta (@fcutitta), CEO and Founder HealthTech Decisions Lab said: “Human factors are perhaps the greatest threat to network trust and efficacy, and they are the hardest to control, despite the required security training courses employees take. Considering the distributed workforce, we live with, advanced technologies like AI and robotic process automation are critical in identifying both technological threats but also human error that could lead to a breach.”

Automation delivers network efficiencies

Picking up that thread of efficiencies for IT and network teams, Schober also called out automation as both a time saver and an enabler.

“When IT teams are given unrealistic deadlines with no reasonable means to accomplish their task, organizations suffer,” he said. “When automation is properly engrained into the network operations, IT teams can better configure, scale and properly protect and secure network infrastructure.”

Several Experts expanded on the benefits of automation for the network:

“Today’s security landscape is incomplete without a discussion on security orchestration and automation. Security automation enables faster incident response times, leading directly to cost and time savings for organizations. For example, by establishing an intrusion detection system (IDS), you can passively detect threats, generate alerts, and shut down vulnerable activity against target applications before damage occurs.” — Peter Nichol (@PeterBNichol), Chief Technology Officer at OROCA Innovations

“Automation and AI can contribute to far more robust and time-effective customer services. Chatbots, while not perfect, can answer basic customer queries on a round-the-clock basis, and AI can be deployed to better understand a customer’s query through natural language processing and natural language understanding, and connect them with the right team or individual to support them.” — Ramamoorthy

Ready to dive in? Here’s what to do next

As with any implementation or project, IT leaders need to start with a clear-cut business case to fund deployment of zero trust models, AI, and automation.

“Begin by demonstrating the business value,” Nichol said. “Measure how much faster threats will be identified and mitigated. Next, calculate the financial cost of a breach. Finally, forecast the increased gain in efficiency from security robotics. Innovative leaders must articulate the business case to ensure their investment requests are funded.”

Discover more network-based use cases for zero trust, AI, and automation. Visit.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.





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