back to article US taxman wants AI to do the security checks it seemingly can't do itself

The US tax authority – the Internal Revenue Service – is looking at how AI can secure and protect taxpayers’ data held on its servers. It recently filed a request for information aimed at experts that can help guide the IRS into possibly developing a platform that uses machine learning to sniff out and react to threats. The …

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WTF?

AI and the IRS

Given each's histories, what could possibly go wrong?

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Re: AI and the IRS

You mean what could go right.

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“The Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Cybersecurity Division has a business need for an Artificial Intelligent (AI) machined-based analytical platform to proactively detect and respond to cyber- and insider-related threats,” it said in the request.

No, no, a million times no! The Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Cybersecurity Division has a business need to proactively detect and respond to cyber- and insider-related threats. Whether that's done with an AI-based thingummyjig*, by some other sort of program or by good old-fashioned sysadmin monitoring should be irrelevant.

Business needs are characterised by desired outcome, not by technology to be used. The confusion between the two is probably the single biggest driver of wasted spend in IT (and probably other areas too) projects.

*highly unlikely to succeed, I think, but that's besides the point I'm making here

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WTF?

@jmch, I tend to agree. There is no point in deciding on the technology, 'the how' when it it is passably likely that you do not know any of the rest of the deal. Certainly looking into the present 'systems' (I use the term 'systems' in its loosest sense) to see how much falls out when you so much as look, should be a first point. Adding quality, security or any other 'nice to have' as a bolt on extra is like adding a go faster stripe on an vehicle inspection failure. It is a waste of money. Sadly it takes time, money and a few bruised egos before you get anything worth having and it is doubtful that it is what the 'innocents with the cheque book' thought they wanted.

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Go

@jmch

But...but...but...some IRS PHB saw Mr. Robot on TV last night, and it looked so cool that we just had to jam that into an otherwise-unrelated RFP!!!

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Terminator

Any chance they could set the AI on corpate tax dodgers and get them to pay up?

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@ James 51

The problem is the lack of them. Instead they follow the laws and pay all that is due.

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WTF?

Re: @ James 51

The lack of them ? The lack ??

Because you think that Apple, Google, Microsoft and Uber are paying their fair share of tax ?

Get those four to pay proper taxes and you could practically double the salary of every teacher in the States. And give them proper equipement. And probably refurbish their schools.

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Re: @ James 51

@ Pascal Monett

"Because you think that Apple, Google, Microsoft and Uber are paying their fair share of tax ?"

Actually no, the law says they are. They are paying what they owe as they should be. That doesnt stop people from trying to rob them or make them pay more as if that would reduce the tax burden on everyone else.

"Get those four to pay proper taxes and you could practically double the salary of every teacher in the States. And give them proper equipement. And probably refurbish their schools."

I recognise this dream. The idea that someone is rich so if we rob them we could have milk and honey and even some left over. The communists tried that, it went well. The bad news is if you are in the west you probably are that rich person. You talk of doubling salaries and yet around the world are places without a teacher never mind a school. The idea of equipment or a school building being beyond their dreams. Sorry to tell you but you probably are the rich. And that delusion that just squeezing you would pay for all that for the poor is still nothing more than a dream.

Instead of starting with green eyes start with a real position. What is proper taxes? They already pay what they owe by the law. So what is this proper they should be paying for you to demand spending elsewhere?

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Childcatcher

Re: @ James 51

"Because you think that Apple, Google, Microsoft and Uber are paying their fair share of tax ?"

Actually no, the law says they are.

Seems to me you two are talking past each other. There is a consistent difference between legal and fair and this is just one example among many. But don't be deluded for one moment into thinking that if corporations that currently employ these very well known legal loopholes to dodge taxes were suddenly forced or enticed to pay their "fair share" that the money would go anywhere near school systems. It would go straight to the interests of the politicians who are currently protecting their corporate buddies.

Look how the tobacco settlement played out in the US. It was sold to the public as restitution for past wrongs to be applied to victims past, present and future but most of the money went to the general fund. The on-shoring taxes is not even being played as anything other than a way to bring money into the US as a whole, but it really means it will go to those better connected than others. I lay odds that a significant portion would be returned in one way or another to those being "taxed" in such a fashion.

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Are Current SCADA Systems being Mercilessly Battered

... into a Subservient AIRole to Virtual Machines ... aka The Algorithm?

What Apple, Google, Microsoft and Uber have squirrelled away would easily build countless Brave New Virtualised Worlds with the Advanced IntelAIgent Technologies that Use and Build them.

Is that AI and Virtual Machinery Creating and Presenting Novel Futures for Humankind or its Reverse, Obverse and Converse ...... Humans Sharing Future Novel Creations for AI and Universal Virtual Machine Population ....... and would that be comfortably or uncomfortably too much like an Alien Colonisation to be anything else for Greater IntelAIgent Games Plays.

Would you put your Trust in Global Operating Devices to Remotely Provide All Future Needs with Feeds and Seeds Supplied to, and Handsomely Paid for from Immaculate Source Ponds/Really Deep Dark Pools, Grand AIMaster Pilots Commanding Control for Improving Proven Energy with Increasingly Almighty Power.

The secret in such exotic and erotic sectors/insidious, invidious jerk circles is not to let everything go rushing too quickly to the head, for then can it too easily explode prematurely and entertain disappointment rather than party to further and deeper heavenly fields in ecstasy.:-)

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Re: @ James 51

Uh, politician pork money would go to schools, also.

Because schools are a fabulous business, plenty, plenty profit to be made, just ask Apple, Dell, Pearson...

School administrators are generally ignorant of the Real World, and wouldn't survive were they to do something productive, they will buy any nonsense with ease. Most teachers chose that profession as it gives them essentially unlimited power to control and mess with people weaker than they. Between one thing and another, plenty room for profit, reminds me of some BOFH stories. Universities are even worse. Maybe not as much as Google, but being in the educational provisioning field has great margins, and is big, big business.

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"The US tax authority – the Internal Revenue Service – is looking at how AI can secure and protect taxpayers’ data held on its servers."

And they are most certainely looking at how they can "protect" the corporates and drug barons that finance things on the darker side whilst ensuring that Joe Schmoe on his pitance has the book thrown at him...

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Anonymous Coward

I think it interesting that there was no mention of a requirement for the system to detect misuse of IRS resources by bureaucrats determined to weaponize them for political purposes.

Maybe I am being naive but that seems to be one of the IRS's most significant problems, practically since its inception.

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I disagree: this is becoming routine and the IRS should be doing it as well.

Google for "AI fraud detection" and you get a lot of hits. Its becoming standard. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_analysis_techniques_for_fraud_detection for more details.

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Re: I disagree: this is becoming routine and the IRS should be doing it as well.

This seems to be about hacking rather than fraud, but I agree with you anyway. Security is an area that AI techniques should adapt well to. The environment is finite and comprehensible - more so to software than to humans. The "normal" usage patterns are well known, and deviations are easy to spot. (Whether a particular deviation constitutes an attack, that's another matter. But that's where the "AI" comes in.) And a large part of the job is simply "being awake 24/7", and computers are good at that.

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Coat

I can see it now IBM will get the contract. It will be behind schedule and over budget. Midway IBM will say we need to switch the data base to our proprietary data base. After a decade of being late and years of congressional hearings the contract will go to MS and housed on azure. At this point in time they few have way sane devs at MS will say we won't touch this kick it over to the windows 10 team. Sure it will be over budget and not do what the specs call for. But it will be a win as it will tie the IRS data base into the windows 10 spy server so the IRS can monitor your computer.

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The Military Model.

Air gap the important stuff from the outward unclassified networks.

Separate network for sensitive stuff.

And another for REALLY sensitive stuff.

Vet the need to know and allow only the information needed for each job.

But none of that has the "AI" Buzzword.

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Root Cause?

Not that the incompetents with the IRS will ever do it, how about a root cause analysis? One of the issues that makes them a target is the income tax as it requires all sorts of PID to process correctly. If there is no income tax, admittedly a different tax scheme will be needed, then there is no need to collect this treasure trove of information nicely centralized.

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FAIL

It would be nice...

if I would not get any more "the IRS has filed a lawsuit against you" phone calls.

They're getting so cheeky, they even leave that as a recorded message, with a return phone number. (yes, I know that caller ID is easy to tamper with, no, to make sure of "catching" you, they leave a call back number as part of the voice message). It would be all too easy to track back this kind of calls to the perpetrators, etc. if you wanted to. Ergo, the pooh-bahs don't... Shame.

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Needs more work

Here I was hoping it was some new AI killbot that rampaged after SharePoint administrators.

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