Can AI become BFSI’s most preferred tool for information security?

BFSI sector in India (and globally too) has always been the front-runner in adoption of newer technology in providing their customers a secured environment and at the same time comply with the stringent data privacy and security regulations. With Artificial Intelligence (AI) coming into the picture, there’s a profound change in terms of how information security is being looked upon by this sector. From fraud detection, optimizing operational hiccups to preventative maintenance and threat intelligence, AI has a lot to offer to this key sector. That’s not all, the latest SEBI guidelines on Cyber Security is another added responsibility in the CISO’s workbook. In conversation with Mr. Shivkumar Pandey, CISO, BSE India Pvt Ltd., we looked upon the practical side of what AI can do and how much of it can translate core business outcomes along with adhering to the new SEBI guidelines.

Here are the excerpts:

Robin Chatterjee (RC): What kind of threats are prompting companies especially in BFSI to go for machine learning or AI-based security solutions?

Shivkumar Pandey (SP): BFSI organisations, with an array of applications and technology infrastructure, produce so much data that the speed of detection and containment of cyber threats are of utmost importance, prompting the sector to adopt newer technologies before others could. Primary threats that drive such adoption are insider threat scenarios, data security, application vulnerability analysis, and cloud usage analytics. We also see the usage of AI to be particularly useful to analyse DNS traffic abnormal user behaviour.

AI usage in security would continue to grow significantly – primarily at this point to augment human skills and capability to act in a smart manner, e.g., based on a recent Ponemon Study, it was estimated that investigating and detecting application vulnerabilities took, on an average, 195.88 labour hours per week. After facilitating the same with AI, organizations saved 125.40 labour hours per week. The same study estimated that almost 45 percent of all alerts could be handled by AI without human supervision. Around 41 percent of previously “undetectable” zero-day exploits can be detected because of AI. Another deployment of AI for threat research provided 60x faster through put over manual investigation and provided 10x more actionable intelligence to uncover new threats.

RC: What kind of change have you noticed in the treat landscape? Do you believe the recent SEBI guidelines on cyber security will help enterprises in being more agile?

SP: While next-generation technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are transforming many enterprises for good, they’ve also given rise to a new breed of ‘smart’ attacks. The ability to scale and carry out attacks is extremely enticing to cybercriminals, including the use of intelligent malware. The rise in next-gen threats means security professionals have to be extra vigilant with detection and training against these threats, while also adopting new methods of automated prevention.

To safeguard the complete market ecosystem for the member-broker community, we needed such comprehensive guidelines, which will help all players to come at the same security maturity level. The SEBI guidelines are derived from the best practices in the sector and are very comprehensive in nature, something that was required. These guidelines will also ensure that the defences are in place for members to exchange in equally secure level. In today’s connected world, it’s imperative to ensure there is no weak link in the business value chain. We are planning to build member broker community security operations centre (SOC) as per the regulatory requirement.

RC: How are you dealing with such a scenario where an organisation is in constant state of alert?

SP: We have been witnessing so many attacks over the years that now, soon after responding to one breach, we are getting prepared for the next one. This is like living in endless state of breaches, but we have developed the ability to respond in the right manner to these situations – dynamic playbook, incident respond orchestration, cyber range exercises have taught us how to respond appropriately and plan smartly to build a more security enterprise.

RC: Is 2020 all about AI-based solutions? Do you see it as the new normal? 

SP: Yes, by 2020 AI technologies will be new normal and it will be implemented in the majority of new software products and services which will inevitably change the way we live, work, and do business. The machine learning technology is still in its infancy, but it has already proven its efficiency in performing routine tasks in a broad array of industries including cybersecurity. While AI can be a huge help in detecting and fighting the latest cyber threats, it could also bring more risks and even fuel cybercrime. As AI capabilities become more powerful and widespread, we expect the growing use of AI systems to lead to the expansion of existing threats, the introduction of new threats and a change to the typical character of threats. Sophisticated machine learning-based attacks aren’t that frequent yet, but cyber-criminals are getting there. Therefore, security teams should pair their human intelligence together with the advanced AI solutions to prevent the crime faster than hackers start to attack. After all, AI is just a tool, a very powerful one, and it can be used for both – improving security or boosting the crime. It all depends who learns to use it better.


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