AI is fast becoming a crucial weapon in the Cyber Security arsenal

March 7, 2023

Today, the attack surface in modern entities is vast and is growing every day. This is mostly thanks to increasingly distributed workforces, and the culture of ‘bring-your-own-everything’ which is seeing remote workers use their own devices, apps, and WiFi to connect to corporate networks.

These trends have created this broad attack surface which contains myriad possible entry points where a bad actor could get their hands on sensitive or proprietary company data. 

In the past, Cyber Security was been a field that was governed by resource-intensive efforts. Activities such as monitoring for anomalous behaviours, threat hunting, and analysis were extremely onerous and time-consuming tasks, which meant that remediation and mitigation activities were delayed, increasing the organisation’s risk of attack.  

It became clear that in order to have any sort of control over today’s environments, security practitioners needed tools that went beyond human intervention, and were able to automate the key elements of labour-intensive core functions.

Step in Artificial intelligence (AI), which has the ability to transform cyber workflows into streamlined, autonomous, continuous processes that quicken remediation and enhance protection. AI is able to rapidly analyse millions of data sets, and identify any threats, such as new strains of malware, or suspicious activity that might indicate an employee is in danger of falling victim to a phishing attack. 

AI enables far better predictive intelligence that harnesses the power of natural language processing which carefully sifts through data on its own by scraping through analysis, news, and studies on modern cyber threats. This arms security teams with intelligence on new criminal behaviours, tools of malicious intent, and prevention strategies. It’s important to remember that threat actors also keep an eye on the trends, and change their tactics all the time in an attempt to evade the security nets. 

AI-based Cyber Security systems are also able to furnish the latest information on global as well as industry-specific threats to better formulate critical prioritisation decisions that are based on an understanding of the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) that are most likely to be used to attack the company’s systems.

Moreover, through the use of sophisticated algorithms, AI tools are being trained to detect malicious code, recognise patterns, and detect even the most infinitesimal behaviours that ransomware and other attacks exhibit before they have a chance to infect the network.

What is even better, is that these technologies learn and improve on an ongoing basis, drawing data from past and current experiences and present to pinpoint new types of attacks that can happen at any time.

AI tools are also able to help root out bots, which make up a large chunk of internet traffic today, and can also put businesses at risk. It makes sense that manual responses are an inefficient weapon in the fight against automated threats, and AI can develop a deep understanding of website traffic in order to distinguish between good bots, bad bots, and people.

Another way in which AI systems can boost Cyber Security efforts is by securing the slew of endpoints that are connecting to corporate networks. While anti-malware tools and VPNs help defend against remote malware and ransomware, they mostly operate on a signature-based level. This means that to stay safe from the latest threats, companies must keep up to date with signature definitions. In the event of a zero-day threat, this becomes completely useless, as there is no signature yet, or update for the security solution. 

Endpoint protection based on AI has a different approach, as it establishes a baseline of behaviour by employing a repeated training process. If anything anomalous happens, AI can flag it and take action, which may be sending an alert to one of the security team, or taking a proactive approach by shutting down systems to block the attack from spreading.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many other benefits to including AI as part of the Cyber Security arsenal. However, it’s worth mentioning that there are downsides to using AI in Cyber Security too. 

AI is a double-edged sword, and attackers can also take advantage of AI tools for their malicious acts. stems for malicious purposes. For example, bad actors are also abusing AI to mimic human behaviour, to fool bot detection systems on social media platforms. They can use AI-driven deepfake technologies to enhance their social engineering efforts and can employ AI to better the algorithms they use for guessing users’ passwords. 

Either way, AI is rapidly emerging as a critical tool for improving the performance of IT security teams. People can no longer scale to sufficiently secure the attack surface, and AI can augment the analysis and threat identification process to minimise the risk of a successful attack.

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