Okta CEO McKinnon lays out vision of how Generative AI will drive Okta in new tech world

The highlight was Okta AI - AI for Identity, which is not a product per se, but a comprehensive set of AI features and capabilities that enable many of the other new offerings on Okta’ clouds they announced at the event.

An enthusiastic Todd McKinnon, Okta’s CEO, onstage at Oktane

SAN FRANCISCO — Yesterday’s industry mantra that every company is now a technology company is no more cutting edge today than mainframes or server client computing. Today, the future belongs to AI, and the leaders in this space will succeed while the laggards will fall by the wayside. That was the key theme Okta co-founder and CEO Todd McKinnon stressed in his opening keynote Wednesday kicking off the Oktane 23 customer event here.

“When we founded Okta in 2009 in the early days of the cloud transition, we could see cloud becoming a much bigger part of the technology landscape,” McKinnon told his keynote audience. “We approached the problem from a different perspective from anyone else. Identity could be a powerful tool to connect and protect, without compromising on security. We benefited from the transition to the cloud, but we also helped to catalyze it. Now we are entering a new era – the AI era.”

McKinnon emphasized that AI will have a massive impact on the technology space overall, and on identity in particular.

“Now, every company is an AI company,” he said.

He also stressed something that all companies in the Generative AI space generally prioritize, that their Generative AI is not autonomous, but is firmly under the control of humans.

“Okta has always been about connecting people with technology, but with AI, the  people are still in charge,” McKinnon stated. “AI may raise the stakes. but identity belongs to you.”

What will this growth of AI mean for identity specifically?

“It means proactive security that will learn and evolve,” he said. “Identity experiences will become frictionless risks. On the other hand, bad actors will have access to it too, so the threat landscape will be increased.”

The overarching announcement, not a product in itself, but technology that empowers the new offerings, was Okta AI – AI for Identity. Okta AI is a comprehensive set of AI features and capabilities that blend the latest AI models with Okta’s crowdsourced threat intelligence and identity data across both their clouds, Workforce Identity Cloud and Customer Identity Cloud.

“We have a huge advantage in our data and our actions and we are bringing it altogether in Okta AI,” McKinnon said. “It is already in place across several of our products, like Identity and Threat Protection with Okta AI. Companies today must look beyond login to truly delight their customers.

McKinnon then gave brief summaries of some of the new announcements, which would be fleshed out in later product keynotes.

Okta AI provides a Universal Logout capability which can lock users out of all of their apps if required.

“For the first time in our industry, you can lock all users out from all platforms if there is a security issue,” McKinnon said.

Identity Flow Optimizer with Okta AI  is a new developer-centric tool for the Customer Identity Cloud.

“It gives developers recommendations to improve security and build apps faster,” McKinnon stated.

Okta Expert Assist is another new offering.

“It ensures that your configuration matches your security risks and threat posture,” McKinnon noted. Initially it begins as a managed service offering.

“We will review your security posture with a security expert,” he said. “Over the next months, we will be adding product offerings to this.”

Okta Fine Grained Authorization is another new product for Customer Identity Cloud, in limited early access now, and General Availability next year.

“We know authorization is hard, so we also created Guide with Okta AI, to help developers define their authorization model,” McKinnon said.

An important addition to the Customer Identity Cloud is Passkeys, which McKinnon said will eventually end passwords once and for all. It is available now as an early access feature.

“Passkeys lets you log in without a password, and is phishing-resistant,” McKinnon indicated. “It doesn’t use legacy credentials, and it also works across multiple devices in the same ecosystem.”

Sagnik Nandy, President and CDO, of Workforce Identity Cloud at Okta, then followed with additional highlights.

“Okta Identity Threat Protection with Okta AI remediates threats across the entire stack,” he said. “It enables these capabilities across the ecosystem, and leverages AI to continually evaluate risk score for assessing real time response to threats. If the threat level jumps for a user, then universal logout can be used across all devices immediately. The industry has been requesting this for a very long time and we are the first ones to bring this to our customers.”

Nandy also briefly highlighted Policy Recommender with Okta AI, a solution based on security best practices and best practices from AI for every application, that provides policy recommendations and templates. Another new feature is Log Investigator with Okta AI, which lets admins ask questions about Okta data in plain English.

“The initial focus will be on threat hunting use cases, but we plan to do much more,” he said.

Nandy stressed that all these things, most of which were likely viewed as ‘nice to have’ less than a year ago, had become of paramount importance to customers.

“Powered by AI, identity has to become the backbone of your entire technology story,” he told the audience.