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The Power of Generative AI and Lessons Learned from Zenith Live 2023

Written by Brian Ramsey, VP Sales, America, Xalient

It was great to be both a sponsor and a participant at Zenith Live in Las Vegas last week. Attended by security architects, CIOs and CTOs, the caliber of presentations was exceptionally high. We heard from Zscaler CEO, Jay Chaudhry, about many industry-redefining innovations around AI-enabled security, data-driven business intelligence insights, and product enhancements which promise to further strengthen the Zscaler platform.

100 million monthly active users in just two months

Generative AI is a big trending topic right now, which is why it featured prominently at the event. The popularity of these platforms is growing rapidly. For example, Open AI’s ChatGPT set a record for the fastest-growing user base by reaching 100 million monthly active users just two months after launching.

These tools can increase productivity and efficiency by automating repetitive tasks and letting employees focus on higher-value work. They can foster enhanced creativity and innovation by assisting in brainstorming and ideation processes and generating novel solutions to complex problems.

But while generative AI tools bring a world of possibilities, they also open the door to some complex security concerns. For example, generative AI often requires access to vast amounts of sensitive data, which poses significant data privacy and protection challenges. Mishandling of, or unauthorized access to, these datasets can lead to breaches, regulatory penalties, and damaged reputations.

Using generative AI safely

To this point, Zscaler EVP and Chief Innovation Officer Patrick Foxhoven kicked off the Zenith Live innovation deep-dives by introducing many new features and enhancements made possible by AI, but he also talked about the potential risks associated with it.

Patrick pointed out that AI is not new to Zscaler and explained how the company has been leveraging the technology for many years now, but he reinforced how it has the potential to change everything. However, he also noted that both deepfakes and data loss can be enabled by the same generative AI capabilities. This session also covered how Zscaler is enabling customers to use generative AI safely by adding a new URL category and cloud app for tools like Bard, ChatGPT, and others. This allows admins to finely control who can access these tools and enforce browser isolation to protect against sensitive data being uploaded.

Getting smart about cyber risk and investment

Zscaler also now provides risk scores for commonly used apps to determine if their AI integrations pose a threat based on the application’s security posture and data retention policies. Additionally, attendees were walked through a typical attack chain from downloading a malicious file to data exfiltration and, eventually, ransomware delivery. The talk highlighted how AI insights generated by Zscaler’s new Risk 360 platform can help security prioritize, isolate, and implement policies for preventing future process iterations.

Zscaler Risk 360 is a comprehensive tool designed to help security leaders quantify and visualise cyber risk. It looks at an organization’s security posture, based on data and analytics, enabling them to build a risk profile based on their security posture, with a better understanding around the financial implications of cyber risks. What I thought was beneficial about this tool is that it can be used as an aid to help fund projects because it enables security leaders to be smarter about where they put their dollars and invest. It also enables them to have a meaningful dialogue with the board and secure funding based on insight that demonstrates what the impact of a breach might be.

Consolidating vendors and eliminating point solutions

In his keynote, Jay Chaudhry also talked about several new Zscaler innovations, stressing that a guiding principle for the company has always been to help its customers consolidate vendors and eliminate point products (solutions?). In the current economic climate customers are crying out for integrated, comprehensive solutions so they don’t have to deal with multiple point products that don’t work with each other.

Therefore, it was good to hear that these new offerings haven’t been cobbled together from a string of acquisitions to add functionality in areas that were lacking. Likewise, they haven’t simply been built to extend product lines and create additional revenue streams. Nor are they attempts to capitalize on the latest buzz surrounding AI. In fact, they capitalize on Zscaler’s massive cloud security data lake for training sophisticated AI models to provide advanced insights for customers. These insights were always present in the more than 300 billion transactions and 500 trillion daily signals seen by the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange every day. Now AI simply allows Zscaler to process and serve these transactions to users in a scalable, intuitive, and actionable way.

End to end visibility into trouble shooting end user performance

One other notable highlight from the event was the partnership between Microsoft and Zscaler and how the Zscaler Digital Experience (ZDX) solution integrates into Microsoft more closely. ZDX is a digital experience monitoring solution delivered as a service from the Zscaler cloud. ZDX provides end-to-end visibility and troubleshooting of end user performance issues for any user or application. So, if you think about all the killer apps you get with Microsoft 365 and the ability to understand users all the way to the desktop, this application performance insight is huge and will be a big game changer for customers as they continue to roll out ZDX insights and integration.

Overall, it was a great event, and it certainly armed me with the insights I need to tackle both current and future trends, including AI and the opportunities and challenges this presents for individuals, organizations, and governments around the world.


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Portrait of Mark Foulsham, Board Advisor, NED, COO/CIO, Fractional Support, Digital Leadership Coach

Mark Foulsham

Board Advisor, NED, COO/CIO, Fractional Support, Digital Leadership Coach

With a broad background as a COO/CIO/CDO, C-Suite Advisor, NED, Senior Transformation Leader and Coach, Mark tackles multiple fronts from the advantage of diverse experience in business operations, technology, procurement, delivery and risk. With a deep knowledge of business models from multiple sectors and extensive experience in fast-paced digital start-ups.

Mark’s work across extensive business types, functions and countries empowers him with experience to bear across silos. Mark has built a reputation for advocating cross-business collaboration, taking a pragmatic approach and championing transformative change.