Harvard professor’s startup helping businesses to protect their AI systems from hackers

Harvard professor’s startup helping businesses to protect their AI systems from hackers

Along with a former Ph.D. advisee and two former students, Yaron Singer launched “Robust Intelligence” a startup to help companies protect their AI systems from hackers.

A startup that has raised $14 million in seed funding in a bid to make AI smart enough to avoid being fooled by hackers. According to him, the company’s platform has been trained to detect more than 100 types of adversarial attacks.

Singer’s motivation for creating a platform like this goes way back to his years spent at Google as a postdoctoral researcher after having completed his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley. Having seen and experimented with a whole host of machine learning models during his time at Google, Singer realized how convenient it was to make AI go awry with bad data.

He commented, “Once you start seeing these vulnerabilities, it gets really, really scary, especially if we think about how much we want to use artificial intelligence to automate our decisions. Ultimately, it is these vulnerabilities that AI hackers and fraudsters exploit. For instance, a check for $400 can easily be manipulated by tweaking a few pixels here and there to cause an AI model to read it as a check for $700. Large-scale financial fraud is conducted in a similar way, with spoofed voice and facial recognition being used to mess around with the system even more. In fact, a deep fake posing as a company CEO can easily convince the company to transfer a huge sum of money into the hacker’s bank account.

These are the kinds of problems Singer wants to solve. His startup has already launched two products: an AI firewall and a tester for the strength of an AI model. The firewall uses special algorithms to scan for contaminated data, while the tester (known as Rime) performs extensive stress tests of a customer’s AI model by inputting basic mistakes and following them up with adversarial attacks to see how well the system performs.

With 15 employees, Robust Intelligence is currently working with ten customers, including a leading financial institution. For Singer, making AI systems even more secure is yet another challenge in his life that he looks forward to.

Further, he said, “For me, I’ve climbed the mountain of tenure at Harvard, but now I think we’ve found an even higher mountain, and that mountain is securing artificial intelligence”.

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