Rapid7 CTO: Machine learning can ‘fill in security and IT skills’

27 Jan 2023

Image: Rapid7/Fotomay/Stock.adobe.com

The cybersecurity company’s CTO and co-founder spoke about the benefits of machine learning and why small companies are not immune from cyberattacks.

Tas Giakouminakis is the CTO and co-founder of cybersecurity company Rapid7.

In an interview with SiliconRepublic.com, Giakouminakis said his current role covers a number of areas, including research, public policy and Rapid7’s own security programme.

“In the research area, I look at evolving trends in the cybersecurity industry and how we at Rapid7 can support our customers and the community as a whole to stay ahead of a rapidly changing threat landscape. Within public policy, Rapid7 looks into how legislation and regulation will impact the digital world,” he said.

“Finally, I oversee the security team for Rapid7, responsible for securing and protecting our customers and data.”

‘It’s crucial that we start building cultures where cybersecurity matters’

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in the current IT landscape?

One of the biggest challenges for all organisations is managing data. It’s now a question of: “How do we make the most out of data and turn it into something that is actionable and insightful for us and our customers?”

Being able to break down silos across data, access all of it, and apply the learnings from that data can be really important in driving the business and providing effective solutions. Most organisations struggle with people power – there are never going to be enough resources, so using data to enable automation and intuitive learning can only result in better outcomes.

Additionally, cybercriminals are very good at breaching networks and accessing sensitive data. For example, they know which users to target and what type of attacks to use on them, therefore data can be useful in aiding security teams against these smart attacks.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

At Rapid7, we’ve been on our digital transformation journey for quite some time. When we look at digital transformation, we see three core areas for a successful transition.

The first is adopting a cloud strategy, including software-as-a-service (SaaS). Moving to the cloud isn’t always easy for organisations, and simply shifting legacy workloads to the cloud can bring significant technical and security debt with it.

Some of the biggest vulnerabilities, such as Log4Shell, are now being found when businesses are in the middle of their digital transformation projects. We are always looking at how our solutions – such as detection response and vulnerability management – are supporting cloud migration and allowing our customers to gain complete visibility across their entire network.

The second area of focus is on data, and specifically data fabrics. Organisations need to be able to tie all their data together to gain the insights needed to support business growth and operations. They can also enable incredible experiences for their customers when harnessing AI and machine learning to make recommendations, spot anomalies and highlight trends.

Finally, automation is essential within digital transformation. It reduces workload and speeds up processes for IT and security teams that have been stretched due to digital transformation projects.

How can sustainability be addressed from an IT perspective?

One of the major benefits of cloud migration is efficiency and under that, we can include sustainability. Data centres are large consumers of energy, so organisations reducing their dependency on them helps to lower our carbon footprint.

It’s crucial that technology/cybersecurity companies themselves are encouraging sustainability practices. Organisations should be measuring major greenhouse gas emissions so they can identify which areas of the business have the greatest impact on sustainability and find ways to reduce emissions.

Office spaces are also a great way to encourage sustainability. At Rapid7 we only use third-party vendors that allow us to recycle our outdated electronics and compost food waste to minimise landfill waste. We also go one step further by conducting waste audits at our headquarters and larger offices in order to measure our waste reduction and find areas for further improvement.

When Rapid7 design and plan new offices, we are constantly thinking about sustainability. We locate our offices near or within walking distance of transportation hubs and invest in video conferencing technology to reduce carbon emissions. Finally, we use sustainable materials and systems when building new office buildings, as well as retrofitting if applicable.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world?

The most exciting thing for me is AI and machine learning – it brings about a number of capabilities to help both our customers and us as a business. In terms of security, machine learning can help improve efficiency, reduce alerts and guide how we make decisions.

From automation workflow recommendations to false positive reduction, and from content development to anomaly detection, we are always aiming to use the best technologies available to make improvements.

Machine learning and automation are also helping organisations fill in security and IT skills, which are hard to find. Many breaches come back to human error, and machine learning can automate processes in a way that makes them repeatable and scalable, ultimately reducing the risk of a serious breach. While I’m still waiting for my driverless car, we are moving in the right direction with it.

I touched on it before, but also cloud services. There are cloud providers who are continuously improving their platforms, which means we are seeing more and more cloud services available to us each day. These types of services are so important in pushing businesses forward and making them more efficient.

How can we address the security challenges currently facing your industry?

It’s crucial that we start building cultures where cybersecurity matters and senior decision makers know where they are within the supply chain. I often talk to CISOs of small companies who assume they won’t be targeted due to their size. However, usually because of the size of their customers, they then become a target for cybercriminals.

You need everyone within the business thinking about their role within security and how even the lowest employee within the chain could be the victim of a phishing attack that opens the door to a much larger attack. This is one of the reasons that data sharing within cybersecurity is so important. When we inform others about how an incident occurred, we are empowering other would-be victims to proactively look for indicators that something nefarious is happening.

Organisations are also having to defend against every kind of attack – from basic, automated cyberattacks by low-level cybercriminals to sophisticated nation-state attacks. The variety of attacks enterprises now face has been one of the reasons we see more regulations around data privacy and incident reporting, and these differ between regions.

It’s really important that globally we align on cyber policies and regulations so that security teams can clearly see what security practices they need in place and the goal posts aren’t continuously shifting.

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