Amazon used a small acquisition to catch up with Microsoft Azure on security

Key Points
  • Amazon Macie is a new security tool for AWS that alerts customers to security threats on sensitive data like passwords.
  • It's based on technology from acquired startup Harvest.ai, which had a tool called Macie.
  • The introduction of the service gives AWS an answer to Microsoft's Azure database security feature.
Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services and Infrastructure.
Source: Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services announced a new security service called Amazon Macie at an event in New York on Monday.

The tool draws partly on technology from Harvest.ai, a San Diego start-up that Amazon acquired.

"Amazon Macie is an entirely new service that combines the concepts established by Harvest.AI with AWS's machine learning technology and expertise," an AWS spokesman told CNBC in an email. TechCrunch reported on the acquisition in January.

Amazon Macie looks for sensitive data such as passwords that you store in AWS, applies risk ratings to your different collections of data and then alerts you to unusual access patterns that could indicate a security threat.

The introduction of Macie gives Amazon, the market leader in the public cloud business, an answer to one thing Microsoft has been doing on its Azure cloud, which is AWS' closest competitor. When customers store data in the Microsoft's Azure SQL Database, they can enable Threat Detection, which picks up on attacks and other suspicious database activity and then sends alerts to admins.

Meanwhile, Alphabet's Google public cloud recently introduced a tool developers can use to spot and then redact sensitive data.

But as a whole, Amazon Macie does more than the Google and Microsoft tools.

AWS is playing up the use of artificial intelligence in Amazon Macie. It automates the process of spotting sensitive data, AWS said, with "highly accurate, machine learning based detection of over 70 data types related to Personally Identifiable Information (PII), Personal Health Information (PHI), regulatory documents, API keys and secret key material."

Macie arrives a few months after AWS introduced an initial suite of AI services. Microsoft Azure and Alphabet's Google cloud also have AI services. AWS also been working on an AI-enabled text translation service that could compete with Google's tool for that.