AI Meets Security: ConnectWise Hosts IT Nation Secure

ConnectWise is more than cybersecurity. It’s a software company, a platform, a leading partner for managed services and technology solutions providers. But in the IT world, to be all of those things is to be involved with and invested in cybersecurity. And that’s why one of ConnectWise’s biggest events of the year is IT Nation Secure. Held this year at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, June 3-5, the exhibitors, education and networking have made it a can’t-miss event in the cybersecurity world.

ConnectWise CEO Jason Magee says the old ways of dealing with cybersecurity threats are no longer sufficient. With the continuous surge of cybersecurity attacks, he emphasized the critical need for SMBs to partner with experts who can provide expertise and streamline processes. ConnectWise has been a staunch supporter of the SMB, producing an annual “State of SMB Cybersecurity” report. The latest report showed that more than three-quarters of SMBs reported having been impacted by at least one attack in 2021, a huge jump over 55% the previous year. And yet most respondents feel ill-equipped to deal with threats, whether due to lack of in-house expertise or lack of confidence in their existing partners. Enter ConnectWise. Over the past half-decade, the company has invested significantly in fortifying its partners, safeguarding its clientele, and aiding IT solution providers in bolstering their cybersecurity practices.

One thing that has changed a lot over the past year is the introduction of AI. It can aid cybersecurity efforts in many ways, of course, but it is also a powerful weapon in the hands of bad actors.

“It’s an arms race,” said Patrick Beggs, ConnectWise’s chief information security officer. He noted that while we’ve already seen how bad actors are using AI to their advantage in phishing attacks, for example, it is still possible to combat that with end-user education. No matter how much AI is in the picture, human behavior hasn’t changed — so he recommends focusing on that as much as possible.

ConnectWise is invested in AI, but is committed to approaching it safely — in fact, they have released an AI responsible use statement saying as much, outlining their commitment to the key principles of data protection, transparency, reliability and safety, collaboration, and compliance. “By adhering to this AI responsible use statement, ConnectWise seeks to promote trust, foster innovation, and ensure the responsible and beneficial use of AI technologies for the betterment of our partners, clients, and our industry as a whole,” the statement ends.

Ameer Karim, EVP & GM, Unified Monitoring and Management, is another key ConnectWise leader heavily involved in AI-related projects. He notes that while ConnectWise has been working with machine learning and AI technologies for quite a while, things really took off following the official release of Open AI’s ChatGPT-3 to the general public last November.

“That’s where we made the decision to say, OK, we can either continue to evolve our own in-house technologies, or … this looks pretty far advanced and maybe we can leverage it.” They began having conversations with Microsoft that led to them licensing the Azure OpenAI stack, which is now embedded into Automate, Command, and RMM.

An initial use case is AI-generated PowerShell scripting, which greatly streamlines the process and allows partners to quickly create, review and test scripts, opening the door to even non-experts. Critically, ConnectWise’s AI runs on a private platform, eliminating security concerns that go along with users inputting potentially sensitive company information to the public cloud.

Are there concerns from partners? Response to the initial implementation, Karim says, was overwhelmingly positive. “It shouldn’t be used in a way that threatens the employee base,” he said, stressing that AI can simply be used to streamline and allow knowledge workers to focus on high-value projects.

Of course, there was a lot more going on at IT Nation Secure than talk of AI. There was a great deal of action, in the form of educational sessions organized around three learning tracks: Build and Operationalize, Protect, Detect, and Respond, and Market and Sell. There was also a bustling show floor with more than 60 exhibitors and, of course, networking and socialization events, including a party at the House of Blues.

ConnectWise will be back in November with its main event, IT Nation. However, at the rate things are going, there is more and more crossover between the two events — as Karim noted, ConnectWise has a security-first mindset. “Security,” he said, “cannot be treated as an afterthought.

amy weiss

is editorial director of BPO Media’s publications Workflow and The Imaging Channel, and senior analyst for BPO Research. As a professional writer and editor, she has specialized in the office technology industry for the last 20 years. Prior to that she worked in public relations and has a master's degree in communication arts.