Sally Kenyon Grant, vice president of Darktrace Federal, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about establishing the company’s new federal business division and new markets to drive its growth throughout 2022 and beyond.
In addition, Kenyon Grant also discussed the real benefits of self-learning artificial intelligence as well as the challenges that federal agencies are working through to implement the latest trends in technology and stay ahead of the curve during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
“There is no way to understate the criticality of Darktrace Federal’s mission. We desperately need AI to prevent the next SolarWinds…We need the most advanced technologies that the market offers to safeguard our society. This is why I joined Darktrace. I believe in our AI.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with Sally Kenyon Grant below:
ExecutiveBiz: What are your strategic goals for the coming year? What do you hope to accomplish and any new markets that you’re keeping an eye on in the federal sector?
Sally Kenyon Grant: “Darktrace Federal is a new division of Darktrace that started in March of this year. Though our AI has proven its value in over 6,500 organizations, including some of the world’s most sensitive and mission-critical environments. We are just beginning to bring the same innovative technology and success to the U.S. federal government.
And so, this year, we aim to sit down with U.S. national security leaders, who most likely know us by name and reputation, and introduce them to capabilities we are deploying to serve the U.S. in tackling some of our biggest cyber-challenges across all government sectors.
Within the coming year, we are focused on serving the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the intelligence community, federal civilian agencies, and critical national infrastructure to strengthen their defenses with self-learning AI.
A significant part of this effort includes going through all the necessary steps to verify and validate our current compliance and auditing requirements. It may also involve some additional internal work in DevSecOps.
We have begun looking to connect with more Federal contract vehicles to deliver our technology to the DoD and intelligence community. The bigger picture is that our goal is to strengthen the U.S. National Security with Self-Learning AI to neutralize emerging threats at their earliest stages with machine speeds and precision.
What this looks like practically involves coordinating many moving parts across our organization, including technical, operational, and commercial teams. Though this is a highly complex task, I am entirely confident in the outstanding talent of our team and their ability to carry us to where we need to go.”
ExecutiveBiz: With the influence of emerging technologies impacting every aspect of business, how has your company been able to drive digital transformation efforts to stay ahead of innovation in the federal landscape for yourself and your customers?
Sally Kenyon Grant: “The advantage of self-learning AI, Darktrace’s core technology, is that it is adaptive and agnostic. It makes no prior assumptions about how technologies should behave or how an organization should look.
Instead, it learns the ins and outs of an organization’s operations from scratch across its entire cyber-ecosystem. The AI also adapts its understanding as the organization’s digital environments evolve. In this way, Darktrace drives digital transformation by defending the technologies that enable enterprise-wide innovation in an adaptive and evolving fashion.
Common use cases for digital transformation that we see at Darktrace involve critical infrastructure organizations embracing modernization of their industrial systems as part of the fourth industrial revolution (I4). Many of these organizations have decades-old infrastructure that requires updates to increase efficiencies.
Here, it doesn’t matter if a critical infrastructure organization has a decades-old programmable logic controller (PLC) or a cutting edge Industrial IoT device in its technology architecture—Darktrace’s self-learning AI will learn the ‘pattern of life’ for these devices with the same agnostic approach.
This approach provides immense value for critical infrastructure organizations embracing IT/OT convergence, IIoT devices, cloud and SaaS platforms, and remote access. Historically, these organizations have been hesitant to adopt these technological innovations due to the associated security concerns.
However, with the help of Darktrace’s self-learning AI, they can modernize their industrial environments with peace of mind that our AI will identify and neutralize threats before they escalate to crisis.
The U.S. government also needs to embrace digital transformation to maintain a strategic advantage. Nowhere is this truer than with the Department of Defense and intelligence community, which play a crucial role in our nation’s security.
And we see major strategic initiatives, such as Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), also place digital transformation of the DoD at the heart of their mission.
Darktrace Federal is dedicated to empowering these federal organizations to accelerate their digital transformation securely by defending their technologies, no matter how novel they may be, and evolving alongside rapid evolutions in their cyber-ecosystems.”
ExecutiveBiz: Congrats on recently joining Darktrace! Why did you want to join the company, and what were the attributes of its mission that attracted you to the role? What do you hope to accomplish with the company?
Sally Kenyon Grant: “I was drawn to work at Darktrace due to the incredible sophistication of the technology and the talent of our team. Cybersecurity is one of the most pressing issues of our time, posing significant threats to the economy, society, and security.
Considering this, having the opportunity to serve on one of the world’s leading cybersecurity AI companies means the chance to apply one of the most advanced technologies on today’s market to many of our biggest challenges.
One of the biggest things that brought me to Darktrace was their mission. Darktrace Federal is driven by our mission to strengthen U.S. national security by empowering the men and women who serve our government.
Darktrace Federal also will provide exceptional customer service and cyber training with an honor code and conduct that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. Here at Darktrace, we believe in ‘AI for All,’ which drives our approach to data governance and explainable AI.
There is no way to understate the criticality of Darktrace Federal’s mission. We desperately need AI to prevent the next SolarWinds. Geopolitical tensions also put our nation’s critical infrastructure and government agencies in the crosshairs of cyber-actors from nation-states and state-sponsored criminal gangs.
We need the most advanced technologies that the market offers to safeguard our society. This is why I joined Darktrace. I believe in our AI.”
ExecutiveBiz: With federal agencies working to implement the latest trends in technology such as AI, 5G, cloud, and many others, what are your thoughts on the success and challenges that government agencies are dealing with to stay ahead of innovation to establish the U.S. as THE global leader?
Sally Kenyon Grant: “With the rise of autonomous weapons systems and big data companies across the globe, we are clearly in an AI arms race against major world powers. Nowhere is this more on display than in the world of cyberwarfare, where attacks are increasing in sophistication, stealth, and speed.
While federal agencies have performed admirably to establish organizations dedicated to exploring and adopting cutting-edge AI solutions, the reality is that we need to constantly push ahead to maintain a strategic advantage as a global leader. Today, military dominance across land, air, sea, space, decision dominance, and intelligence dominance all mean AI dominance.
And at the end of the day, not all AI is created equal. We cannot simply use AI to automate basic tasks. We need AI to see the things that humans cannot see, to understand nuanced patterns amid massive amounts of data with a high degree of complexity.
Moreover, we need AI that constantly learns, evolving alongside changes in our digital environments. This is a big reason I am committed to delivering self-learning AI to Federal agencies.”
ExecutiveBiz: With artificial intelligence and machine learning impacting most industries and the U.S. military dramatically as we move forward, what has impressed you the most about the technology’s capabilities to improve decision-making across the federal sector and all areas?
Sally Kenyon Grant: “What has impressed me most about AI and machine learning is a technology that can self-learn, forming their own understanding without the need for massive amounts of training data and human input.
These technologies are rare, but they provide enormous value for fast-paced fields such as cybersecurity, where we need to defend an ever-changing digital environment against a constantly evolving threat landscape.
Self-learning AI technologies are thus required to keep pace with attackers continually outpacing human teams. You can’t bring a human to a machine fight.
I am also very impressed with AI that augments human performance by serving as a force multiplier, supercharging the efficiency of human teams. This AI does not simply automate simple tasks, but it actively works alongside humans, delivering them the most mission-critical information in a crisis to make vital decisions in the heat of the moment as an attack emerges.
Darktrace’s Autonomous Response feature, in particular, is so valuable. It can act on behalf of humans to quarantine devices that are behaving outside of the norm, giving human teams time to properly respond. This Darktrace capability is available in ‘human confirmation’ mode, meaning that before the AI acts, a member of the security team can approve and verify that action.”
ExecutiveBiz: In recent years, what are some of the biggest improvements you’ve seen in the way we talk and think about innovation across the federal sector since the rise of cybersecurity, AI/ML, 5G, and other emerging technologies?
Sally Kenyon Grant: “One of the most considerable improvements I’ve seen is the fact that we are putting our money where our mouth is, per se. We have seen a massive increase in federal spending for cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and machine learning across the U.S. Department of Defense National budget.
Specifically, within the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), we saw “improving access to innovative technology” to authorize the Secretary of Defense to expand efforts to the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). In addition, the NDAA authorized $1 billion in additional cybersecurity investments, including modernizing the DoD’s efforts with the NSA.
Notably, the NDAA provides support for the Joint Force Headquarters to centralize the management of cyber-threat information. And this is just one of the myriad of funding initiatives we have seen to help us establish cyber dominance and AI dominance across the federal sector.”