How Artificial Intelligence helps companies better focus on cybersecurity

ai in cybersecurity

As we are getting more and more dependent on technology, we also expose ourselves to all kinds of online threats. With the exponential rise of data breaches and ransomware attacks that are affecting millions of home users and organizations alike, cybersecurity starts to be a top of mind problem for everyone. 

Investing in cybersecurity helps companies better address major cybersecurity issues like the impact of a cyberattack, huge financial loss, business disruption, or brand reputation damage.   

In a business world where customers’ privacy and data protection are vital, companies need to sharpen the focus on a strong cybersecurity culture and adopt a risk-based approach to security.  

To boost security and combat cyber threats, companies are adopting new technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence that come with great opportunities for accelerating growth.

There’s no such thing as AI without massive volumes of data. Big data is being processed and analyzed by AI systems, and companies use this groundbreaking technology to find the root causes of problems humans can’t handle by themselves. With the help of AI, businesses worldwide can better scale their responses to the increasing number of threats and “see” them in advance.

There’s been a lot of buzz around Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the past years, and now it’s playing an important role in many sectors such as healthcare, education, retail, automotive, and even cybersecurity. And it will continue to gain popularity.

For example, in education, AI can fill some key gaps in the way teachers learn and do their tasks. From adjusting the learning system based on students’ specific needs to automating administrative tasks, Artificial intelligence is changing and revolutionizing teacher and student experience.

Another useful example is the healthcare sector where AI spans in many areas and shapes medicine today. From robots that assist doctors for surgery to smart devices that better monitor diseases, AI is significantly reshaping medicine the way we know it.   

In fact, the artificial intelligence market is projected to grow and reach $190.61 billion by 2025, according to new market research. Moreover, “the adoption of AI has tripled in 12 months, with AI becoming the fastest parading shift in tech history”, said the State of AI 2019 Divergence report. 

Another research project from Senseon concluded that around 69% of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) will implement AI security solutions in the upcoming five years, while 44% of them are planning to invest in AI defense in the immediate future.

But what’s beyond these numbers? Achim Daub, an executive at one of the world’s biggest makers of fragrances, shares his story (and experience) about implementing AI in the process of making changes in his line of business:

It’s kind of a steep learning curve, Daub says.
We are nowhere near having AI firmly and completely established in our enterprise system.

Richard Zane, the chief innovation officer at UC Health, a network of hospitals and medical clinics in Colorado, recently launched Livi, a virtual assistant which assists patients who use their website and need more information. 

Going through the implementation process of the virtual assistant, Zane argued that:

It took a year and a half to deploy Livi, largely because of the IT headaches involved with linking the software to patient medical records, insurance-billing data, and other hospital systems.

How can AI improve cybersecurity for companies?

The use of AI in cybersecurity proves to be essential for organizations that want to better secure their digital assets and stay ahead of threats.

As cyber threats escalate in frequency and sophistication, data protection is a real challenge for companies around the world. Malicious hackers stay abreast of technology changes and take advantage of the potential of automated cyberattacks. 

Recovering from security breaches can take a lot of time and money, so companies have started to invest in AI to better detect and automatically block cyber attacks.

Better detection of cyberattacks: AI includes two subsets, deep learning, and machine learning algorithms, which use behavioral analysis to better detect anomalies. With the help of these technologies, companies can respond faster to online threats and prevent them from happening in the first place. 

Depending on the AI system used, it can detect suspicious activity and quickly find errors within your system or network infrastructure.
Accurate prediction: AI can also be used to predict security breaches or cyber threats. Based on its algorithms, it can search through the amount of data and make predictions based on how the system is trained. 

A good example is the biometric authentication solution, which uses artificial intelligence to identify and authenticate people based on unique biological characteristics. The integration of AI technology in biometric systems plays a key role in enhancing methods like facial or iris recognition with a higher level of accuracy.

Faster response: AI proves its efficiency in helping organizations to respond faster to the next generation of cyberattacks or combating malware. AI-driven technology can help companies to automate countermeasures to prevent being the victim of a cyberattack and fight against online threats.  

A study from the Capgemini Research Institute finds that 69% of companies surveyed acknowledge they can’t respond to cyber threats without using Artificial Intelligence.

Save time and money: Every year, ransomware attacks and breaches cost companies millions of dollars to recover and get their business on track. 

The average time of identifying a security breach by companies is about 196 days, and a lot of things can happen during that period of time. Using an AI solution can help companies save time and money, and improving data protection. It does that through the automation process and constant learning on how to better safeguard network infrastructures in the modern world. 

AI is changing the game for companies that have already implemented in their technology solutions packed with great benefits. 
This trend is confirmed by a survey from Gartner that questioned more than 3,000 CIOs and IT leaders about the most disruptive technologies of the moment. 

They concluded that “AI is by far the most mentioned technology and takes the spot as the top game-changer technology”. According to the survey, “37 percent responded that they already deployed AI technology or that deployment was in short-term planning”.

Simply put, AI is helping organizations automate the part of their workflow to boost the effectiveness of their cybersecurity programs. 

The data backs up this trend: 53% of surveyed companies are using machine learning for cybersecurity purposes, according to the 2019 Cloud Threat Report from Oracle and KPMG.

Sharing his thoughts on the future of cybersecurity, Joshua Davis, Director of Channels at Circadence states that:

The future of cybersecurity is going to include humans working alongside automated assistants, where AI/ML assist in operations. Imagine a day where there is Alexa/Cortana/Google At Home-type tools providing cyber intelligence support going forward.

The challenges (and dangers) of using AI in cybersecurity

While the role of AI is expanding in cybersecurity and there are many advantages in adopting it, there are also some downsides we should be aware of.

As companies grow smarter with AI by doing data analysis and finding vulnerabilities, so do cybercriminals. They can take advantage of this emerging technology to deploy it for malicious purposes and cause havoc.
Most likely, threat actors will try to keep up with the AI-based technology by leveling up their skills to launch effective attacks.

According to a research whitepaper from DarkTrace, AI-driven malware might become a reality in the near future. The team behind the research presented some possible scenarios in which artificial intelligence (AI) plays a small role in cyber-attacks.

Security researchers believe that “In the future, AI-driven malware will self-propagate via a series of autonomous decisions, intelligently tailored to the parameters of the infected system”.
They also concluded that:

Weaponized AI will be able to adapt to the environment it infects. By learning from contextual information, it will specifically target weak points it discovers, or mimic trusted elements of the system. This will allow AI cyber-attacks to evade detection and maximize the damage they cause. 

More than that, security researchers at IBM have already announced a proof-of-concept AI-powered malware called “DeepLocker”, which was presented at Black Hat USA, in 2018.

According to the research, the malware included hidden code that generated some keys which could unlock malicious payloads, under certain conditions.

We could expect to see more attempts from hackers to explore this technology and facilitate the launch of AI-driven attacks. However, we need to acknowledge the help AI is giving companies to be on the safe path and secure their assets.

Complementing human expertise with AI

When it comes to cybersecurity, the potential for artificial intelligence to have long term impact is real. Especially for businesses that are forward-thinking their data security first and learning how to better protect it.

Artificial intelligence is not 100% bulletproof, but one thing is clear: it will play a key role in companies’ defense strategy, enabling them to be more prepared for upcoming and imminent cyber threats. 

The technology is here and the time to invest in it is right now.
This article was written by Ioana Rijnetu. You can get in touch with her on LinkedIn or say hello on Twitter.

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