Centre stage with Galina Alperovich, Senior Researcher at Avast

Centre stage with Galina Alperovich, Senior Researcher at Avast

Who do you work for, and what does your role entail?

I work in the AI and Network Security Lab at Avast as a Senior Researcher. My role cuts across machine learning, security, network traffic analysis and engineering.

What’s been your biggest work achievement of the last 12 months?

I’ve been working for a year on a device type identification project with one of my colleagues as part of our IoT Security architecture. By 2020, there will be 38.5 billion devices connected to the internet, according to Juniper Research, and the breadth of these devices is huge, from TVs to coffee makers, door locks, light bulbs and home robots. This is a huge challenge for the cyber-security industry.

Previously, we only had to deal with PCs and mobile devices, and their different OS versions. Today, we need to understand the behavior of many different device types, and the first step to achieving this is to identify them. At Avast, we have made significant improvements in our machine learning production backend to identify devices, and recently published a research paper in collaboration with Stanford University about home IoT security on a global scale which we presented at USENIX 2019, one of the best security conferences.

What is the biggest challenge facing the industry?

The biggest challenge in the cybersecurity industry is educating people about the risks and consequences of being irresponsible with online security, privacy and personal data.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

If you don't fail, you've never tried.

What are your predictions for the IT industry for 2019/20 or beyond?

I think that AI technologies will spread into all organisational levels across all industries, including more conservative ones. 5G will be rolled out soon and we will see early adoption in the IT industry. There will also be new discoveries in domains such as robotics and autonomous vehicles, and the adoption of new interfaces for communicating with computer systems will bring exciting changes to the industry. For example, a time will come when neuro-interfaces are used alongside common and widely-adopted technologies such as voice and text.

How do you perceive the hype around AI, a big concern ethically or a huge opportunity?

AI is a general-purpose technology and has already proved its worth. But like any general tool, AI can be used for good or for bad - it just depends who’s using it and how it’s being used. However, the opportunity that AI presents is huge as long as emerging ethical issues can be recognised and adequately addressed.

What do you think is going to be the next big technology development? Quantum Computing? Smart Robots?

I strongly believe we will see huge leaps forward in the development and rollout of neurological brain-machine interfaces.

Why should people attend your session?

People should attend our panel, as we will discuss ethics in AI, which is a very important aspect for us as people, and everyone involved in AI should keep ethics in mind. While we can use AI to build ever greater and more efficient technologies, these can only improve our world if we keep the people they will impact in mind. When feeding machines with historical data, we need to think about the bias this data may be based on, and we may need to clean up data to remove bias that’s based on outdated beliefs in our society, such as sexism and racism. Unfortunately, AI inherits all the existing biases people have. When talking about ethics and AI, we need to keep these challenges in mind, and moreover, we need to build systems that honor people’s privacy, and have security built in.

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