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Growth in AI deployments adding to security concerns at most organizations

Despite growing interest in the various technologies that make up artificial intelligence, many organizations are concerned they might be increasing security vulnerability with their AI investments.

That is among the findings of the ISACA’s second annual Digital Transformation Barometer. According to the report, only 40 percent of respondents express confidence that their organizations can accurately assess the security of systems based on AI and machine learning.

“This becomes especially striking given the potential for serious consequences from maliciously trained AI. Survey respondents identify social engineering, manipulated media content and data poisoning as the types of malicious AI attacks that pose the greatest threat to society within the next five years,” explained Rob Clyde, NACD board leadership fellow and ISACA board chair.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning also continued to rise toward the top of technologies considered to have the highest potential to deliver transformative value to organizations, Clyde noted.

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While placing second in these rankings in the 2017 and 2018 Digital Transformation Barometers, AI/machine learning went from 18 points behind big data in 2017, to just 3 points behind big data in 2018. As the perceived value of AI continues to increase, the proportion of organizations planning to deploy AI continues to increase as well, with a 35 percent increase over the 2017 report.

“Enterprises must make the needed investments in well-trained staffs capable of putting AI safeguards in place,” Clyde said. “As AI evolves—consider the likely proliferation of self-driving vehicles, or AI systems designed to reduce urban traffic—it will become imperative that enterprises can provide assurance that the AI will not take action that puts people in harm’s way.”

In addition to many common uses for AI currently, such as virtual personal assistants and fraud detection, Clyde noted that AI and machine learning have the potential to set major breakthroughs in motion across various industries. Examples include helping to accelerate medical research, improving farmers’ crop yields and assisting law enforcement with solving difficult cases.

“These advancements, though, are unfolding so quickly that it often is challenging for organizations to develop the expertise needed to put the corresponding safeguards in place to account for potential security vulnerabilities and ethical implications,” Clyde said.

But artificial intelligence and machine learning—along with big data and the public cloud—are also among the top five facing organizational resistance, Clyde said. Scoring the highest level of resistance is public cloud deployment (52 percent).

The study also revealed that nine in 10 enterprises (91 percent) are attempting digital transformation as they look to spark innovation and explore efficiencies, but a majority of them (64 percent) are encountering challenges in trying to integrate emerging and immature technologies.

“The research findings suggest that organizations still are evaluating the worth of digital transformations and often are guided by leaders lacking digital literacy—an understanding of technology and its related risks and benefits,” Clyde said. “However, organizations that have embraced emerging technologies have been rewarded.”

Finally, the study asked the more than 5,000 respondents to identify which emerging technologies appear to be more hype than reality. Big data, AI/machine learning and public cloud were the top three technologies that respondents said will be deployed at their enterprises in the next year, while only 12 percent indicate their organizations will deploy blockchain, and the percentage drops to 6 percent for augmented reality or virtual reality.

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