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At Cisco Live 2023, the company’s June 4-8 event, Cisco announced a series of generative AI innovations across its collaboration and security portfolios aimed at enhancing clients’ productivity and simplifying tasks through the power of large language models (LLMs).
Building on its recent investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning, Cisco unveiled its generative AI Policy Assistant, which enables security and IT administrators to define and implement detailed security policies across their security infrastructure.
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Cisco also introduced a Security Operations Center (SOC) Assistant, driven by generative AI, which helps security analysts by providing comprehensive situation analysis, correlating intelligence across the Cisco Security Cloud platform solutions, and offering actionable recommendations. By significantly reducing response times, the Assistant enables SOC teams to address potential threats swiftly.
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“The key difference between vendors delivering generative AI features will come down to the value of specific sets of data that will be unique to an organization and the ability to do that while protecting an organization’s privacy and security,” Jeetu Patel, EVP and GM, security and collaboration at Cisco, told VentureBeat.
“The experience,” Patel added, “will be just as important because if it’s immersive, it’ll have much more use. Security interfaces that leverage natural language interfaces fundamentally simplify the interaction paradigm.” Patel highlighted that Cisco’s new offerings will enable IT and security practitioners to converse easily with systems and receive recommendations without professional training, enabling security analysts to work faster and more effectively.
In addition to these advancements, Cisco introduced “Catch Me Up” for Webex. This feature enables users to quickly catch up on missed interactions such as including meetings, calls and chats. Using conversational prompts, it generates responses based on the datasets the user is authorized to access.
According to Cisco’s 2023 State of Global Innovation study, IT professionals consider generative AI to be the technology most likely to have a significant impact on their businesses. Eighty-five percent of these professionals expressed their readiness for the upcoming AI revolution.
Recognizing the pivotal role that generative AI will play in shaping the future of work, Cisco stated that its new offerings will empower hybrid workers with a secure, efficient and highly productive work experience.
Features such as Webex summarization, policy management, and SOC Assistant Summaries will be available to users by the end of 2023. The company has scheduled the release of additional SOC Assistant features in the first half of 2024.
Enhancing security through AI-based conversational experiences
According to Cisco, creating and managing security policies is a crucial, and complex, cybersecurity hygiene function. Even minor errors or oversights when making edits can lead to time-consuming and technically challenging situations, potentially leaving systems vulnerable to attacks. Cisco’s generative AI policy assistant is meant to help.
“Setting firewall policies can be very complex, especially when organizations manage thousands of policies created over many years. As the number of policies grows, there is an increasing risk that people get and retain too much access to systems,” Cisco’s Patel told VentureBeat. “Our AI Policy Assistant will address this by helping administrators set the right policies up front, but also understand where there are conflicts or outdated policies so that administrators can reduce complexity and risk.”
Threat detection and response present another intricate and high-stakes security responsibility. Analysts must rapidly grasp complex systems on a large scale. To address this challenge, Cisco’s Security Operations Center (SOC) Assistant provides comprehensive situation analysis, correlates intelligent insights, evaluates options and offers actionable recommendations.
“It can summarize an incident based on data across multiple domains and communicate what happened in a way that is easy to understand and communicate more broadly across an organization,” Patel said.
Summing up, Patel said, “The State of Global Innovation study showed us that the attention around generative AI is sparking the imagination of IT professionals worldwide. In security, this means eliminating complex interfaces into simpler conversations with AI assistants able to distill context to make more informed decisions faster. The use of artificial intelligence to simplify disparate tools and talent can assist in closing security gaps or blind spots.”
A responsible approach to ensuring privacy and security with generative AI
The company stated that it is committed to responsible design and development of AI technology, with a focus on upholding human rights, fostering inclusion and incorporating privacy and security as fundamental principles.
Cisco asserts that its products are created in accordance with the company’s Principles for Responsible Artificial Intelligence and Cisco Responsible AI Framework, which prioritizes individual and organizational security concerns.
“We don’t train our models using customer data, and the Webex platform has a built-in privacy framework that includes a robust set of policy and governance controls,” Patel explained. “IT administrators can also set granular security and compliance policies that prevent certain files and information from being shared with people outside or between groups within the organization.”
He also emphasized the integration of governance controls and policies across various offerings, including generative AI, within the Webex platform. Cisco’s Webex exclusively employs rigorously tested and operated generative AI models to ensure conversations, meetings, documents and other content ard protected.
Patel summed up Cisco’s approach to AI and LLMs this way:
“Using our extensive experience with natural language understanding, Cisco can continuously adapt to the rapid evolution of large language models. This means we will continue to deliver the best quality with the lowest cost and environmental impact while providing maximum security and privacy.”