This interview could just as well be a part of our Thought Leaders in Artificial Intelligence (TLAI) series. It sits at the cusp of Cyber Security and Artificial Intelligence, an area where much is happening.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s begin by introducing our audience to yourself as well as to SparkCognition.
Amir Husain: I’m the Founder and CEO of SparkCognition. SparkCognition is an Austin-based cyber security company that’s looking to apply artificial intelligence to the security of physical assets as well as cyber assets. There’s this notion of cyber-physical where the world of IoT is now merging with digitally-controlled cyber systems and that creates a lot of new security challenges that our artificial intelligence and cognitive software is looking to address. We’re basically looking at the nexus of the industrial Internet with the use of artificial intelligence to solve security challenges.
Sramana Mitra: Are you running a venture-funded company?
Amir Husain: SparkCognition is funded by a number of venture capital firms. Most recently, Verizon Ventures, Chicago Mercantile Exchange Ventures, and our very first investor was actually Michael Dell’s private investment fund.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s do the ecosystem map. How do you fit into the cyber security ecosystem given that it’s such a crowded place?
Amir Husain: There’s tons of cyber security companies. A function of that is just how important cyber security is now and, frankly, how important security has always been within the computing and software landscape. Traditionally, there have been companies across categories such as anti-virus, firewall companies, and appliance companies that are looking to bundle a security solution.
There are a lot of categories in cyber security now. We’re not trying to be a better anti-virus. What we’re trying to do is to address the one gaping hole in the security landscape, which is the augmentation of the human security expert. If you think about it, there’s tons of security software to do all sorts of different things. You might have the world’s best SIM and you might be collecting tons of data in that SIM, but the question is, “Do you really know what question to ask the SIM?” That requires domain competence and domain intelligence.
Obviously, it requires scale because you can only have so many people ask so many questions at one time. That is the one missing link in cyber security in general – having the cognitive ability to pay attention to everything that’s happening in the infrastructure and take action as the need arises. That’s what we’re looking to do – apply artificial intelligence to analyze structured and unstructured security data and from that, leverage our unique capability which we refer to as automated model building.
From that model, they can not only determine whether the system is in a good or bad state, but whether it’s headed to a bad state. All the cognitive problem solving that you typically do as a security expert is assisted and amplified with our artificial intelligence and cognitive algorithms. We’re not looking to duplicate what’s been done and make it 10% faster or 5% cheaper but take the problem to the next level, which is to augment human capacity and bring that cognitive problem solving via AI algorithms to security teams.