“The difference between Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is not understood well at all and the terms are being used interchangeably, especially in cyber, but there’s a big difference.”


On November 28th, DePaul University hosted their 4th Annual Conference on Cyber-Risk. This year’s focus was on Emerging Technology: Unknown Risks. The event drew a packed house to DePaul’s Downtown Chicago campus.


First on the agenda, after opening remarks, was keynote speaker, Dr. Christine Izuakor, Manager of Global Security Strategy and Awareness at United Airlines. She greatly emphasized the importance of a proactive approach to cyber security by ways of social engineering (education and targeted training) around cyber-risk, cyber security, and the evolving threat landscape and, “use trends to raise awareness” and create a message that isn’t harsh or aggressive. “Make it fun and expose the threats in a way that’s engaging and not threatening.”


One audience member asked what was on the mind of most of the attendees: “What is United doing to prevent security breaches from your customers?”


“From an awareness standpoint for customers, beginning to raise awareness is a huge goal for us. From a threat actor standpoint, we have an entire team and strategy that addresses those potential threats. They work and partner with several external agencies to build a very robust security strategy.”


After a quick break, the panel on Emerging Technology was up, and right off the bat, there was no shortage of questions about IoT, AI, and Machine Learning.


The initial questions were regarding the security among IoT and connected devices and what Internet Services Providers (ISPs) are responsible for. Ray Hicks had a simple answer. “The internet is a transport mechanism…you can’t secure the entire thing. You can only secure your devices. Carriers are not in the business of inspecting data, they’re in the business of moving it. This is where threat actors see an opportunity.”


This opened up the floor to a discussion about AI: What impact will AI have on specific professions? Will they replace people or create different opportunities?


“AI is used to validate a hypothesis and substantiate theory. Things that are relative to future technology. The promise is that it creates the potential for opportunity. Some people (typically in the older generations) are being replaced by those who have grown up with technology and aren’t afraid of it. The use and adaptation is accelerating because of what it enables at a fraction of what it used to cost.”


Dr. Robin Burke asked the audience a rhetorical question to support Ray’s argument, “Would you rather work for Sears or Amazon?”


What about self-driving cars? What are the potential problems with them? How is the data aggregated? Ray had some interesting points about them as well:


“We’ve had self-flying planes for over 20 years. The gap with cars is the knowledge of the driver comingling with the car itself – that’s where we’re going to see the real problems. Those computer systems can be overridden by a driver or human any time and that’s a problem. Then you have systems that can override the human override. We’ll want to use this data to understand the acceptable range of normal. It’s what’s outside that normal, those anomalies are what we’ll be concerned about.”


On the idea that technology could take over every aspect of human life:


“Take a look at the level of effort required from where we started from to where we are. We’re so far away from the point where machines could take over our lives. But keep in mind, we all enjoy the benefits of expert systems that are deployed everywhere.”


Other takeaways:


  • Blockchain is real, it’s here, it’s happening.
  • Regarding IoT: The risk is that you can essentially take over the entire environment by way of these machine devices.Much of the risk with connected devices that we see today is that most of these devices are being forced to run over these IPs that weren’t designed for them.
  • Quantum computing is extremely difficult for people to understand, but it’s the closest thing that we have to AI.


Ed Page, Managing Director at Protiviti, closed the panel with this: “Each of these technologies we’ve talked about (blockchain, AI, IoT, etc.) are important on their own, but what’s even more important is how they end up working together.


The afternoon continued with panels around cloud vendor management and legal issues surrounding emerging technologies before the closing keynote speaker took the podium.


Thanks to DePaul University for having 5thColumn participate in this great event! See you next year!