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November 28, 2023
Artificial intelligence (AI) has undeniably made its mark on 2023, exemplified by the influence and skyrocketing popularity of technologies such as ChatGPT. This has, in turn, sparked extensive discussions on the role that technology should play across industries.
For example, conversational AI is significantly impacting various business sectors, with predictions suggesting that AI chatbots and virtual assistants will handle 30% of interactions previously managed by human agents by 2031. Notably, managed service providers (MSPs) have been quick to embrace AI for internal operations, taking advantage of its capabilities to offer extensive solutions that enhance both productivity and efficiency.
Together with these advancements, AI-powered cybersecurity tools have become increasingly sophisticated and are now able to swiftly identify anomalies, fortifying network security, anti-malware solutions, and fraud detection. However, these positive strides in AI-powered cybersecurity are accompanied by emerging risks. Threats driven by AI, including brute force attacks, denial of service (DoS) attacks, and sophisticated social engineering tactics pose a significant challenge to the security landscape as a whole.
The need to adapt to AI-powered threats is more pressing than ever and will require channel partners to develop new skill sets to effectively navigate and outpace these evolving challenges, as well as an increased awareness of AI's potential dangers. They should think of AI as a hyper-capable assistant to the stage production that is their business, rather than allowing it to ever take the full spotlight.
AI is rapidly reshaping the channel landscape, with many MSPs already harnessing AI to help streamline operations, marketing and communication efforts. Using sophisticated algorithms, AI analyzes data trends and user preferences to craft compelling content, streamline creativity, and spark engagement for customers. It doesn't stop there — it can create tailored collateral, enhancing customer support, too; virtual assistants and chatbots can now deliver instant responses, with 24/7 availability and personalized interactions. This not only elevates the customer experience, but optimizes support operations to handle larger enquiry volumes, boosting satisfaction and retention.
AI also drives operational efficiency by automating tasks, leveraging predictive analytics, and contributing to smarter decision-making. This reduces manual workloads and empowers channel partners to strategically allocate resources, enhance supply chain management, and respond swiftly to market challenges. The AI era across the channel is here, redefining how we create, engage and operate. In fact, given that customers themselves will increasingly be adopting the technology, channel organizations that aren't embracing its potential today risk falling behind and losing business as a result.
Although these benefits are substantial, they come hand in hand with an array of security challenges.
AI's reliance on the extensive data it's fed means it can be exploited by malicious actors, complicating and, in some cases, entirely preventing the detection of cyber threats. In instances such as phishing, fake news and ad-based attacks, it can also generate flawless language, making it harder to spot whether your organization is under attack and posing a significant risk to security. This prompts the question: how can channel partners safely leverage AI to enhance productivity securely?
In the next year, significant changes to regulations are anticipated, with a global trend toward implementing new regulatory measures around insurance and compliance related to endpoint security. This impending shift poses a challenge for MSPs, who, by their nature, manage businesses spanning diverse verticals, each subject to numerous compliance and regulatory mandates. In 2024, the industry needs a set of guidelines for reference to ensure compliance. In the meantime, it's critical that channel partners carefully evaluate and select the right solutions for bolstering their cybersecurity defenses.
Although AI is rightly viewed as a double-edged sword, the best way to ensure it remains an ally to your business and to counterbalance AI-engineered threats is to adopt cybersecurity solutions that leverage AI and machine learning (ML) techniques themselves. Crucially, these tools must work without any specific detection rules — vital for protecting against malware that hasn't yet been researched and classified (known as zero-day attacks). This means adopting technology that can automatically design a defense strategy for identifying new risks, making decisions in real time.
In any case, machines are superior and more cost-efficient than humans when it comes to handling large amounts of data and performing repetitive, routine tasks. With threats emerging at an alarming rate every day, this is exactly what resellers, MSPs and channel partners need to be aware of when adopting a cybersecurity solution.
When harnessed correctly, AI should be seen as a formidable companion to channel partners. To ensure its positive impact remains as effective as possible, stakeholders will need to strengthen their defenses by up-skilling staff and spreading awareness of AI's potential risks both internally and externally.
Heading into 2024, many MSPs will continue to explore and learn more about how to unlock AI's full potential. The post-implementation phase demands they establish robust practices and protocols if they haven't already done so. This includes educating internal stakeholders and customers about both the advantages and disadvantages of leveraging generative AI, and how best to mitigate risks.
Crucially, the channel must maintain a strategic stance, positioning AI as a supporting tool that assists, hand in hand, with human intervention as it relates to cybersecurity. This comprehensive approach will ensure that AI contributes not only to operational efficiency, but also to heightened cybersecurity awareness and end-to-end resilience. If there's one thing we can say for sure, it's this: as the industry evolves more rapidly than ever before, AI is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping a positive and transformative future if we continue to make smart, carefully considered decisions.
Read more about:MSPs
Director of Global MSP Programs, Malwarebytes
Brian Kane, director of global MSP programs at Malwarebytes, has been slaying cyber threats and scaling MSP practices for more than 20 years. He's passionate about educating clients, keeping networks secure, and making IT magic happen. With a penchant for staying ahead of the game, Brian's always on the lookout for the latest tech tools to take organizations to new heights. Rumor has it he even sleeps with his laptop!
When he's not tinkering with tech, you can find him on the golf course, crushing his opponents in pickleball, or chugging Red Bull to fuel his endless energy.
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