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F-Secure’s Blackfin challenges perceptions of how AIs think

New research project aims to develop adaptive, autonomous and collaborative AI agents, and challenges the notion that machine intelligence should merely mimic human intelligence

Finland’s F-Secure is launching Project Blackfin, a research programme dedicated to developing decentralised artificial intelligence (AI) mechanisms for its security products, and is seeking to challenge notions of how AI actually functions.

Matti Aksela, AI vice-president at the Helsinki-based cyber security services provider, said it was a common misconception that advanced AIs should mimic human intelligence – when in fact there is no need for them to.

“People’s expectations that ‘advanced’ machine intelligence simply mimics human intelligence is limiting our understanding of what AI can and should do, instead of building AI to function as though it were human,” said Aksela, who also heads up the supplier’s Artificial Intelligence Centre of Excellence.

“We can and should be exploring ways to unlock the unique potential of machine intelligence, and how that can augment what people do. We created Project Blackfin to help us reach that next level of understanding about what AI can achieve.”

The ultimate objective of Project Blackfin is to develop AI agents that, rather than taking their orders from one centralised model, are clever and powerful enough to communicate and collaborate among themselves as they work towards a common goal.

The cross-disciplinary team of security researchers and analysts, mathematicians, data scientists, engineers and machine learning experts will seek answers from nature, exploring patterns of swarm intelligence and collective behaviour seen in the animal kingdom, such as in ant colonies, flocks of birds or schools of fish.

Using this kind of approach, the AI agents will one day learn to protect IT systems based on what they are observing from their local hosts and networks, augmenting their capabilities by bringing in observations and behaviours learned from other organisations and industries. Local AIs will therefore get the benefit of the collective’s insight, without needing to share full datasets.

“Essentially, you’ll have a colony of fast local AIs adapting to their own environment while working together, instead of one big AI making decisions for everyone,” said Aksela.

Read more about AI in security

  • Ann Johnson, Microsoft corporate vice-president of cyber security, is on a mission to prove that artificial intelligence holds great promise for the security sector, and she has the analogies to back it up.
  • Programs such as Box Shield use machine learning to secure content better, as it monitors existing content continually to learn about new threats over time.
  • Two new FICO products, FICO Identity Proofing and the FICO Authentication Suite, aim to use AI to help keep users’ digital identities and logins secure.

The firm hopes this will increase the performance of the overall IT estate by saving resources, but will also help organisations dial back their exposure to sharing confidential information via public clouds or product telemetry.

But the project will not just focus on enterprise security. F-Secure’s chief research officer, Mikko Hypponen, said he envisaged a future where Blackfin’s developments can be used to challenge how we think about the role AI plays in our lives outside the workplace.

“We can envision these fleets of AI agents monitoring the overall health, efficiency and usefulness of computer networks, or even systems like power grids or self-driving cars,” said Hypponen. “But most of all, I think this research can help us see AI as something more than just a threat to our jobs and livelihoods.”

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