VB: There are some reports of the NSA developing technology to aggressively go after their targets in the name of national security. Do you worry about that kind of use of cybersecurity technology, that could then be somehow appropriated by bad actors?
Grobman: As with any technology, there are always risks, but it’s important to recognize that cyber-offensive capabilities, used responsibly, can be the most precise weapon a nation has available. Being able to program an attack to only take out a target without having any collateral damage to civilians or non-targeted infrastructure is something that is much easier to do with a cyber-capability than traditional offensive weaponry. Although any nation that’s engaged in offensive cyber-capabilities needs to use the utmost caution and care and understand the implications of their technology, I do think that a responsible nation-state using offensive cyber-capabilities can have an effective, precision weapon in their arsenal. I don’t think AI is different from anything else that would fall into that category.
VB: Looking at your alarm bells right now, what are you worried about, and what are you less worried about?
Grobman: As far as AI goes, it introduces a new technical landscape to both the attacker and the defender. It’s a highly complex landscape, and one where it’s difficult to understand all the nuance. As we look at technologies developed by defenders, we need to recognize what it’s doing, but also recognize what the limitations are. Part of what I worry about is having organizations or key individuals not comprehend some of the nuanced elements of AI-based solutions and believing they do something that they don’t, or not understanding the opportunity that they have by embracing it.
There’s a need for lots of education. I do worry that it will greatly amplify the effectiveness of bad actors. It will enable bad actors to create attacks and attack scenarios that will be much more effective than when they had to tune everything manually.
VB: As an aside, I’m curious what you think about all the optimism around Ethereum and blockchain and coming up with secure cryptocurrency.
Grobman: I think it’s interesting. I don’t know that I’d call it a panacea. Blockchain is an interesting technology. It solves some unique problems. Specifically, it allows an immutable ledger when none of the parties trust each other. That’s important in certain problems. But it’s definitely not going to be the end-all be-all for everything in our industry. We have many different problems that require many kinds of solutions.
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