GenAI: biggest security challenges and opportunities for British small businesses

The ALSO UK Cloud Summit 2024 hosted a panel of security industry experts this month to explore the latest trends, developments, and challenges in artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber security for cloud resellers and British SMEs.

The expert panel looked at the importance of generative AI (GenAI) in the modern cloud landscape, revealing that 87% of organisations believe AI offers a competitive edge.

2024 has been a big year for generative AI (GenAI), specifically with the launch of Microsoft Copilot for the SMB market. And with continual advancements in technology innovation, it is important that MSPs and cloud resellers not only keep up but stay ahead of the curve. Keynote speakers at this year’s event included David Bowen, Global Business Development Director for Microsoft, and Robert Pritchard, Founder of The Cyber Security Expert. 

“The ALSO UK Cloud Summit 2024 is a celebration of our key security vendor partners and an opportunity for cybersecurity industry leaders to continue the conversation on best practices in 2024 and beyond,” commented Mark Appleton, Chief Customer Officer for ALSO Cloud UK. “Through bringing together industry experts from our top security vendor partners, ALSO is leading the conversation in presenting a unified security strategy for MSP cyberteams.

“One message was clear: generative AI presents the biggest security challenges to British MSPs and SMEs. New cyber threats are rapidly developing as GenAI has become more accessible for cyber actors to exploit. The bar of entry for cyberattacks has been lowered, with ransomware attempts becoming easier to create – as they are no longer limited to those with advanced cyber skills to enact them.”

87% of organisations believe AI offers a competitive edge

In addition to the security challenges posed by GenAI, it is also a key source of business growth for the future of SME operations. In his opening keynote, Microsoft’s David Bowen discussed the benefits of Microsoft’s long-term partnership with ALSO, and how MSPs can support their customers in implementing AI and Copilot tools successfully to accelerate growth. 

“ALSO and Microsoft have been successful partners for over 25 years, and we are unified in our missions to empower people and organisations to achieve more through technology,” said Bowen. “With Copilot we expect to continue the value add of AI to organisations and we are working with ALSO and their partners to develop the best customer use cases for AI. It’s important that AI and Copilot projects are more successful when partners support projects to securely implement, support and deliver AI ROI for customers.

“In the latest Work Trends Index published in May, we found that 79% of organisations believe AI is a business imperative, however, 60% of companies lack a plan and vision to implement the technology, this is where the ALSO partner ecosystem can support customers develop a strategy that quantifies the productivity gains of AI. 

“The study also found that 75% of workers are already using AI, and of these 78% are bringing their own AI tools for tasks. These lack the needed levels of security, data protection and compliance, leaving organisations' data exposed. MS Copilot is already enabling much greater productivity levels, allowing teams to spend less time on repetitive tasks and spend more time working on more creative and impactful work.

“Employees are also advised to look at developing AI Skills, the study highlighted that 66% of leaders would not hire staff unless they have AI skills. The ALSO AI Academy is a fantastic resource for partners to ensure AI training is accessible for employees to develop capability and support the Era of AI.”

The importance of GenAI in the modern cloud landscape

Robert Pritchard, Founder of The Cyber Security Expert highlighted the importance of AI in the modern cloud landscape: “The world has changed completely in recent years, with cloud-first dominating as the best solution, even though securing it is not without challenges. The old model (‘on-prem’ and trusted network) is outdated, and legislation for service providers is coming as the risk to critical infrastructure now dependent on modern technology services needs protection more than ever.” 

Other highlights from the ALSO UK Cloud Summit ‘24 included:

  • Cybersecurity expert Acronis showcasing the dangers of AI-boosted ransomware attempts, as well as the latest AI tools being developed to counter malicious actors.
  • Password manager LastPass outlined the ongoing compromised credential crisis and the urgent need to address poor cyber-hygiene practices. 
  • Security awareness solutions expert Vade explained how easy and accessible hacking has become with GenAI with their “10 mins to make you a hacker” talk.
  • CrowdStrike demonstrated the potential of GenAI tools when used for good in boosting cybersecurity efforts.
  • AvePoint outlined the business expansion benefits of tools such as Copilot for MS365. 

ALSO’s Mark Appleton summarised: “Since ALSO launched in the UK last year, we have cemented ties with our trusted security vendor partnerships. These alliances are not just a benefit but a necessity, and this year’s ALSO UK Cloud Summit has been a great way to celebrate our partners and our unique offering whilst paving the way for the future of enterprise security.

“Our security vendor partners provide the very best cybersecurity for their clients. By working closely with all of our partners, we not only share insights and collaborate on the best security methods but also provide the very best tailored options for our client base. ALSO is committed to offering solutions that aid in protecting modern businesses across the channel and beyond.”