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Microsoft’s ‘Copilot for Security’ brings generative AI to the frontlines of cybersecurity

PoliticsMicrosoft's 'Copilot for Security' brings generative AI to the frontlines of cybersecurity

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Microsoft announced today that Copilot for Security, a generative AI-powered platform designed to assist security professionals in combating the ever-evolving cyberthreat landscape, will be generally available worldwide starting April 1st. The launch comes as organizations grapple with an unprecedented surge in cyberattacks and a critical shortage of skilled security personnel.

Vasu Jakkal, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for security, emphasized the significance of this release in a recent interview with VentureBeat. “GenAI is a superpower that security needs right now,” she said. “If you step back and look at the threat landscape and what we’re up against, in just the last year, the speed, the scale, and the sophistication of attacks has increased pretty dramatically.”

“I believe the next 18 months of AI innovation are going to determine the next 18 years of cybersecurity,” she added. “If we can work together, then maybe we have a chance to do something better.”

Microsoft’s Copilot for Security dashboard offers a centralized view of AI-powered cybersecurity insights, including incident investigations, vulnerability assessments, suspicious script analysis, and threat actor profiles. (Credit: Microsoft)

Addressing the asymmetry in the cyber landscape

Copilot for Security, built on OpenAI’s GPT-4 model, is the first and only generative AI product for cybersecurity on the market. The platform has been in private preview with dozens of customers and early access with hundreds more, allowing Microsoft to refine the tool based on real-world feedback.

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“We went into private preview with tens of customers really in the scope creation mode, then in the fall we opened it up for early access; we made it available to hundreds of customers, so that we could learn from them and from our partners,” Jakkal told VentureBeat. “And now, we’re thrilled to announce the general availability of Copilot for Security.”

The launch comes at a critical juncture for the cybersecurity industry. Jakkal highlighted the alarming pace and scale of cyberattacks, with Microsoft tracking 300 unique nation-state and financial crime actors, up from 200 the previous year. Ransomware has also become a thriving gig economy, according to Jakkal, with cybercrime projected to cost the global economy $8.5 trillion this year alone.

Compounding the problem is a severe talent shortage in the cybersecurity field, with an estimated 4 million unfilled positions worldwide. “We truly have this asymmetry in the cyber landscape,” Jakkal said. “The attackers are getting smarter, faster, better, we just don’t have enough defenders. And it takes a long time to hire these defenders and train them.”

Empowering defenders with generative AI

Copilot for Security aims to level the playing field by augmenting human capabilities with generative AI. The platform integrates with Microsoft’s extensive security portfolio, including Microsoft Defender XDR, Microsoft Sentinel, Microsoft Purview, Microsoft Entra, and Microsoft Intune, as well as third-party tools. This centralized approach simplifies the often fragmented and complex security landscape.

“Today, we process 70 trillion signals per day,” Jakkal told VentureBeat. “AI cannot work without signals.” By leveraging this vast trove of data and the power of generative AI, Copilot for Security can help identify threats that might otherwise go unnoticed, provide guided remediation steps, and automate time-consuming tasks like report writing.

The platform’s natural language interface and support for multiple languages (including English, French, Spanish, and Japanese) make it accessible to a broader range of users, from novice security professionals to seasoned experts. “We want early career professionals to have it, experienced professionals to have it; we want diverse populations to have it, and underserved communities to participate,” Jakkal said. “Everyone should be able to be a defender, not just a select few.”

The future of cybersecurity defense

Microsoft’s introduction of a consumption-based pricing model for Copilot for Security underscores its commitment to making the tool widely accessible. Customers can start with one “Security Compute Unit” and scale up as needed, paying only for what they use.

Jakkal believes that generative AI will be a game-changer for the cybersecurity industry, enabling organizations to defend against threats at machine speed and scale. “Humans become skilled at that machine speed,” she explained. “So it really helps to defend at machine speed. And so it’s helping you find that endpoint connection that you could have missed.”

As more organizations adopt AI-powered security tools like Copilot for Security, the playing field may begin to tilt in favor of defenders. However, as with any powerful technology, there are concerns about potential misuse by malicious actors. Microsoft has emphasized its commitment to responsible AI development and deployment, working closely with customers and partners to ensure the platform is used ethically and effectively.

The launch of Copilot for Security marks a significant milestone in the application of generative AI to cybersecurity. As the threat landscape continues to evolve, tools like Copilot for Security may become essential for organizations looking to stay one step ahead of attackers. With the potential to save trillions of dollars in cybercrime costs and redirect those resources toward more productive ends, the impact of this technology could extend far beyond the realm of cybersecurity.

“Even if we take a portion of that [$8.5 trillion in cybercrime costs] and put that in, like sustainability, or solving poverty, or helping each other, would that be a better way?” Jakkal mused. “So that is what I think we should strive for.”

As Microsoft and other technology giants continue to invest in generative AI for cybersecurity, the industry stands at a critical inflection point. The next 18 months will be crucial in determining whether these tools can truly reshape the cybersecurity landscape and provide a more secure future for organizations and individuals alike.

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