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Amazon's Latest AI Push: Cybersecurity

By Danny Vena - Updated Mar 9, 2017 at 1:22PM

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With the addition of AI-based cyber-security to its cloud computing offerings, is Amazon the best way for investors to buy into the growth trend?

Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN 3.15%) has been making quite a push into the field of artificial intelligence (AI). You are no doubt familiar with the most public example of this effort -- Alexa, its voice-activated digital assistant, which controls the Echo smart speaker and Echo Dot, which were top sellers on Amazon's website over the holidays.

Those familiar with Amazon Web Services (AWS), an industry leader in cloud computing, may also be aware of the AI-based tools the company has recently made available to AWS customers: Rekognition for building image recognition apps; Polly for translating text to speech; and Lex, to build conversational bots.

Cloud computing image connecting to various devices.

Image source: Pixabay.

AI-based cloud security

What you may not know is that Amazon is adding cyber-security to its AI resume. TechCrunch is reporting that Amazon has acquired AI-based cyber-security company Harvest.ai. According to its website, Harvest.ai uses AI-based algorithms to identify the most important documents and intellectual property of a business, then combines user behavior analytics with data loss prevention techniques to protect them from cyber attacks. Harvest.ai already had ties to Amazon, as a customer who was featured in an AWS Startup Spotlight article, which focuses on innovative and disruptive young companies. Harvest.ai boasts former members of the National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Defense (DoD), as well as former employees of Websense and FireEye, Inc

(I always feel like) somebody's watching me...

Harvest.ai's flagship product, MACIE, monitors a company's network in near real-time to identify when a suspicious user accesses unauthorized documents. Its target market was "Fortune 1000 organizations that were migrating to cloud-based platforms." Amazon has a Who's Who of big name companies as customers, so it seems like a natural fit for the company. If it decides to deploy MACIE to its cloud, it adds to the suite of hosting products available for its customers. Amazon already offers its Amazon Inspector, which it defines as an "automated security assessment service to help improve the security and compliance of applications deployed on AWS." Harvest.ai would take that to the next level.

Word collage with Cyber Security as the centerpiece.

AI is perfectly suited for the task of cyber-security. Image source: Pixabay.

Watching the detectives

The use of AI in cybersecurity isn't new. MIT has been experimenting with a novel approach to application. By pairing a system with a human counterpart and applying supervised learning, the system was able to detect 85% of threats. Over time, that success rate is sure to improve. Last year, IBM (IBM -0.05%) announced an initiative to train its AI-based Watson in security protocols, in what was to be a year-long research project. By the end of the year, the company expanded the beta program with the inclusion of 40 clients across a variety of industries. Earlier this month, IBM announced that Watson for Cyber Security would be available to customers.

The task of cyber security seems ideally suited to AI applications. The ability to digest a magnitude of data in a short time and match real-time situations against a set of specified criteria seems tailor made for the platform. Add to this AI's ability to learn over time and it seems inevitable that there would be a merging of these technologies.

Final thoughts

These acquisitions combined with Amazon's own research makes it one of several companies on the cutting edge of AI. Amazon has been applying the knowledge it gains across a wide swath of its business from consumer facing products to its business-centric applications. Amazon's investors are sure to benefit from this multi-pronged approach.

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