Black Hat USA day 1: AI—and what to do about it—rules the day

· 2 MIN READ · BROOKE MCCLARY · AUG 10, 2023 · TAGS: Company news

“I don’t know if we can be trusted with such a weapon. But we have no choice.” – “Oppenheimer”

In a rare melding of cybersecurity and pop culture, Fredrik Heiding, a research fellow at Harvard University, aptly closed out his Black Hat USA session with the above quote from “Oppenheimer”—putting a finger squarely on the unofficial theme of this year’s show: the risks and opportunities of artificial intelligence (AI).

It’s no surprise that AI took center stage on day one, and while the Mandalay Bay Convention Center teemed with divergent opinions and predictions, one sentiment rang true for everyone: love it or hate it, AI’s not going anywhere—it’s time to figure out how to handle it securely, responsibly, and quickly.

Black Hat founder Jeff Moss kicked off the conference keynote with the sobering observation that “internet problems” are global problems, and now that encompasses AI. But with it comes a rare opportunity for security practitioners to not only have a front row seat for the technological revolution, but to participate in the rule-making as it develops. This set the stage for this year’s keynote speaker, Maria Markstedter, founder of Azeria Labs, to remind us how far we’ve come with AI, and where we could go in the future.

AI has been generally accessible since the ‘90s, when we began using it for search engines. But with the release of generative AI tools like ChatGPT, the use case for AI by the general public shifted radically (and seemingly overnight) from search to answers. Now we find ourselves in a corporate arms race for the superior AI technology, Markstedter notes, with security practitioners left playing catch-up—as usual.

Historically, technological innovation hasn’t been driven by safety and security (you know that saying about moving fast and breaking…stuff). But more and more, Markstedter says, security is seen as a business enabler—allowing tech to evolve boldly with fewer risks. (FYI, this is a mindset shift we’ve seen echoed in recent research from the Cloud Security Alliance.)

But as major corporations like Google and Microsoft battle for AI superiority, the risks have the potential to outweigh the rewards. So what does this mean for security pros? Markstedter believes your jobs are safe—as long as you’re willing to evolve with the technology. In her view, AI won’t replace security professionals—in fact, Markstedter believes it will increase our market capital, as new tech means new problems that need solving—but the skills required will change.

This field already attracts creative minds and natural problem solvers. The best way to prepare for a changing future, Markstedter says, is to take the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and our defenses. After all, Black Hat—now in its 26th year—was designed as a venue to share creative research and explore ideas around the next generation of security challenges. What better opportunity to come together as a defender community to help safeguard the future of AI for a more efficient, and secure, future for us all.

With day one down, we can’t wait to continue the learning and discussions. If you’re in Vegas, come see us at booth #1681 to keep the conversation going.