Las Vegas taps AI for cybersecurity help

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Hundreds of thousands of people live in the city of Las Vegas. But the city’s information security team is made up of just three employees and one intern, so the chief information officer of Las Vegas relies on artificial intelligence to keep the city’s data and tech secure.

“The things that keep me up most are ransomware and phishing,” Vegas CIO Michael Sherwood tells TechCrunch. “They’re some of the simplest attacks but the hardest to defend against.” In order to rest easy at night, Sherwood relies on AI security solutions from Darktrace to support his small team.

Artificial intelligence is becoming buzzy throughout the tech industry, and cybersecurity is no different. Enterprise security firms are adding AI features to their products to detect anomalies on customers’ networks — no human intervention required.

But Darktrace, which launched in 2013, says it’s been using AI since the beginning. “We have a three-plus year lead on anyone else,” says CEO Nicole Eagan. “A lot of companies are messaging machine learning. I always ask, ‘What is it doing?’ The way we are using it is quite different.”

While some vendors use machine learning to teach their products to recognize malware, Eagan says her team uses machine learning to give enterprise networks a “sense of self” so they can detect intrusions. She likens it to a human immune system, which detects infections and responds automatically.

Detection has been part of Darktrace’s product for a while now, but automated response is new — and it’s a crucial feature for small teams like Sherwood’s. “With Darktrace, a lot of the worry is taken out of certain components,” he says. “As it tells us what it would like to do, we can say those are good responses and implement these controls immediately.”

The goal is for Darktrace to eventually take over, making decisions about its responses without approval from a human. The AI takeover might sound intimidating, but Sherwood is bullish on the idea. He compared his all-in approach to Uber and Lyft, which fought regulators and the taxi industry to deploy on Vegas streets. “Do you go in all the way or do you not?,” he asks. “I wouldn’t live without artificial intelligence. Humans make wrong decisions every day.”