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AI protec, but it also attac

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: how new AI-powered attack-prevention products might finally win over skeptical security pros, Microsoft’s contact-center strategy comes into focus and waiting for the Chips Act.

AI = crystal ball?

In cybersecurity, AI/ML has gotten very good at detecting malicious activity that's already happened — so good that it doesn't even really deserve a mention anymore. Where machine intelligence isn't as good is in predicting cyberattacks that could happen next.

But that could be about to change.

  • One of the forerunners of AI-powered cybersecurity, Darktrace, today unveiled its first products for cyberattack prevention. At the core of the technology is the application of AI/ML to what's known as "attack path modeling."
  • The idea is to use AI to map out all of the paths that an attacker might take to find the most valuable data in an organization's IT systems. The technology can then prioritize which paths the organization should focus on blocking.
  • With this approach, "you are using AI to be a bit of a crystal ball," said Nicole Eagan, chief strategy officer and AI officer at Darktrace.

Darktrace isn't alone in thinking that predicting attacker behavior is where AI for cybersecurity is headed next. "It's going to be absolutely huge" in coming years, said Mark Driver, a research vice president at Gartner.

  • With defenders overwhelmed by the volume of attacks, "the only way to deal with this is to start removing those attack vectors proactively," Driver said.
  • Researchers at Accenture Labs have been exploring how virtual replicas known as "digital twins" can be used to reveal potential attack paths; AI/ML can be used to ask the models to reveal the next likely path that an attacker might use.
  • Using AI to achieve a more proactive stance in security is "where we need to see more of an industry shift," said Lisa O'Connor, managing director for Accenture Security.

Still, any new wave of AI for security will have to confront the skepticism that many cybersecurity teams have around artificial intelligence.

  • Many security professionals are sick of hearing about AI/ML, and question “whether it's actually going to be able to add value,” said Allie Mellen, senior analyst at Forrester.
  • But at the same time, with burnout affecting so many security professionals — 30% are planning to change careers, according to a Trellix survey — the arrival of AI-driven preventative tools could make things a "lot less stressful for the security teams who've been living in the trenches," Eagan said.

Read the full story here.


— Kyle Alspach (email | twitter)

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How global ecommerce benefits American workers and the U.S. economy: Alibaba — a leading global ecommerce company — is a particularly powerful engine in helping American businesses of every size sell goods to more than 1 billion consumers on its digital marketplaces in China. In 2020, U.S. companies completed more than $54 billion of sales to consumers in China through Alibaba’s online platforms.

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Microsoft will take your call now

Microsoft has officially entered the contact center fray. This morning the company announced the release of its Digital Contact Center Platform, which combines capabilities across Dynamics 365, Teams, Power Platform and Azure, along with recent acquisition Nuance.

By blending productivity, collaboration and customer-service technologies, along with AI, Microsoft is delivering a more fully fledged product than its existing Dynamics 365 Customer Service product.

The real linchpin, however, is Nuance, the AI communications provider Microsoft acquired in March for $19.7 billion. By infusing its contact center with AI, Microsoft aims to help contact centers handle increased call volumes while simultaneously making support agents more efficient.

Even with all this, Microsoft knows it won’t replace every customer’s contact center. That’s why the company plans to play nice with others like Genesys, Avaya and NICE InContact (for now).

“When we called it the digital contact center platform, we called it that very deliberately — the platform piece — because we think integrations and interoperability and being open is so key,” said Charles Lamanna, corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Applications.

The contact center space is lucrative, but it won’t be easy to win. Microsoft will have to beat out the likes of Zoom, Salesforce and others with a longer history in the market.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

$52 billion in chip subsidies come down to the wire

The chip industry is making a last-ditch push to get Congress to pass a standalone version of the roughly $50 billion in subsidies that aim to revitalize the country’s flagging semiconductor manufacturing capability. The package of subsidies has been shaved off of a much larger legislative package that stalled in reconciliation.

As of publication, the Senate is set to take a preliminary but important vote late Tuesday that will likely signal if the package moves forward (previously there were roadblocks in both chambers for different reasons). Should the Senate bill move forward, several people familiar with the matter told Protocol it is likely to clear the House with a party-line vote.

The current version of the legislation generated something of a brouhaha Monday, when at least a couple of the fabless chipmakers told Reuters that they didn’t support the current version of the subsidies package. Fabless companies only design the chips they make and outsource manufacturing to the likes of Intel and TSMC. The unnamed sources in the Reuters article said that they didn’t support the bill because manufacturers got all the money, even though fabless companies such as AMD compete directly with Intel. AMD quickly clarified that it supported the legislation, and pointed Protocol to the chipmaker’s trade group the Semiconductor Industry Association for further comment.

But the critics aren’t wrong: According to an analysis by Bernstein’s chip analyst Stacy Rasgon, almost 75% of the $52 billion will go towards incentives related to chip manufacturing, assembling, advanced packaging and related research and development. The rest of the cash is spread across defense initiatives, tech investments and a tiny amount toward the workforce and education, the latter two of which are a vital part of the industry’s future. In short, very little money for the fabless chip companies.

As we have pointed out here before, the large-sounding subsidy package isn’t the massive boost its supporters say it will be. Spread over several years, the amount of cash will help the likes of Intel but won’t make or break its — or the industry’s — future.


— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

The heat wave that gripped the U.K. caused problems with the cooling systems at Google and Oracle data centers in London, causing some outages.

Microsoft launched a “sovereign cloud” service for customers that need to show verification that their data and/or their users’ data is stored in a specific country.

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How global ecommerce benefits American workers and the U.S. economy: Using economic multipliers published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, NDP estimates that the ripple effect of this Alibaba-fueled consumption in 2020 supported more than 256,000 U.S. jobs and $21 billion in wages. These American sales to Chinese consumers also added $39 billion to U.S. GDP.

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