The Challenges of AI Sprawl and the Rise of Zero Trust

Learn how a zero trust architecture solves yesterday’s network security challenges while protecting your business’s future.

Dr. Jaushin Lee, Founder and CEO

June 17, 2024

3 Min Read
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Five years ago, a seasoned IT professional couldn’t have predicted how much artificial intelligence (AI) would weave its way across the global economy and into the average enterprise. Whether it's assisting with word processing, customer service, threat intelligence, or manufacturing, AI has quickly become an indispensable tool.

However, from the perspective of a cybersecurity professional, this rapid adoption of AI technologies comes at a cost. The pace at which these AI technologies permeate operational structures and workflows increases the security risks many teams already have barely enough resources to mitigate. And business leaders are more concerned about falling behind in the AI race than addressing security concerns.

Furthermore, AI sprawl, which sees AI use cases steadily pushing past the bounds of their initial scope, requires security teams to rethink the tools and approaches they use to secure their growth. An infrastructure-centric security mindset will no longer be sufficient to protect a dynamically expanding attack surface.

Fortunately, there’s another way. Here’s how your organization can prepare for AI sprawl and the security challenges it brings.

AI Sprawl Creates a Headache for Security Professionals

As AI models become increasingly embedded in workflows, they will require access to a broader spectrum of data and resources to increase their business impact, including data centers, cloud applications, and storage. These models will also grow beyond the confines of a single site, fueling a need for hybrid and even federated deployments that integrate third-party servers.

This extensive growth in connectivity will force security teams to rethink the security controls deployed to protect their organizations. Traditional network security paradigms were built for a time when workloads were more static. In particular, network security for AI will need to be holistic, robust, and dynamic, ensuring that access to systems and data—by models, services, and users alike—is meticulously managed and monitored to thwart unauthorized access and mitigate security vulnerabilities. Of course, this all needs to be done without slowing down innovation.

Many security teams are discovering firsthand that their once go-to network security measures—such as firewalls, VLANs, VPNs, and tools like data loss prevention—aren’t enough for the complexities of AI sprawl.

Relieving the Pain: Overlay Zero Trust Architectures

Tackling the security implications that come with the growing use of AI effectively will require organizations to embrace a more advanced strategy: identity-based segmentation of assets and applications. This approach, facilitated by a zero trust (ZT) solution, enables the secure isolation and connection of assets, safeguarding security and data privacy without hindering AI potential. An overlay and software-defined zero trust architecture can offer a flexible and scalable security framework that adapts to business and security requirements and supports AI business cases to evolve and grow in scope.

The overlay approach avoids falling into operational traps set by decades-old network security paradigms based on VLANs and firewalls. By decoupling from physical network topology, overlay allows assets to be grouped into secure zones based on identity. ZT then authenticates each user and device, continuously applying the principle of least privilege, for a robust defense that will protect the AI assets from increasingly persistent and sophisticated cyberthreats.

This approach bolsters security without compromising the user experience. Without them even noticing, authorized users’ requests and connections are inspected in real time, permitting activity based on context. This results in a more secure and efficient environment that supports seamless access to necessary resources while maintaining robust defenses against cyber threats at every level.

Looking Ahead

The power of AI brings with it both immense opportunities and significant challenges, particularly in the realm of networking and security. Although inevitable due to the business-driven need for AI, AI sprawl requires a proactive and innovative approach to security.

Fortunately, organizations can turn toward the proven agility of zone-based segmentation enabled by today’s leading-edge zero trust platforms. Once in place, this combination of technology brings a forward-thinking solution to the security challenges posed by AI, paving the way for organizations to have a safer, more secure digital future free from the weaknesses of traditional security tools.

About the Author(s)

Dr. Jaushin Lee

Founder and CEO, Zentera Systems

Dr. Jaushin Lee is the founder and CEO of Zentera Systems. He is a serial entrepreneur with many patents. He is also the visionary architect behind the CoIP® Platform, Zentera's award-winning Zero Trust security overlay. Jaushin has more than 20 years of management and executive experience in networking and computer engineering through his experience with Cisco Systems, SGI, and Imera Systems.

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