How AI is Changing Cybersecurity

AI is changing the battleground of modern cybersecurity, and with these changes come disruption, new threats, and valuable opportunities. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) stands out as perhaps the most powerful force reshaping the cybersecurity landscape. AI has undergone an unprecedented evolution in terms of capability and availability. As AI algorithms and computing power have advanced, they have unlocked remarkable potential for both defenders and attackers within the information technology space. Simply put, AI is changing the battleground of modern AI security, and with these changes come disruption, new threats, and valuable opportunities. 

Although AI as a tool has existed for decades in various forms and capacities, it wasn’t until the advent of deep-learning techniques and the emergence of large-scale neural networks that artificially intelligent problem-solving became a real possibility. Today, publicly available AIs—such as the extremely popular Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) series by OpenAI—are opening new doors of research and development, creating a domino effect of AI breakthroughs and implementations.

AI demands special consideration regarding information security. AI's ability to analyze vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and make intelligent decisions in real time has positioned it as a game changer. From threat detection and response to vulnerability analysis and risk assessment, AI has reached a point where it can perform tasks with human-level (or better) competence, only more quickly and consistently.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that companies are handing the keys for digital security over to AI. For now, AI security sits in a support role, employed as part of fraud-detection, anti-malware, access management, intrusion prevention, and risk and compliance management processes. As innovation breeds further innovation, we may soon see even more proficient AI that can take on greater roles where digital security is concerned.

From threat detection and response to vulnerability analysis and risk assessment, AI has reached a point where it can perform tasks with human-level (or better) competence, only more quickly and consistently.

Threats to digital security are on the rise, and it’s anticipated that by 2025 annual global cybercrime costs could reach $10.5 trillion. As these dangers continue to mount, organizations in every industry are looking for opportunities to shore up potential security weaknesses, improve threat detection within their devices and networks, and respond quickly and effectively to mitigate in-process attacks.

More specifically, the augmentation made possible by AI has the potential to improve business AI security in the following areas:

  • Advanced threat detection 
    AI algorithms excel at analyzing vast amounts of data, identifying patterns, and detecting anomalies that may indicate potential threats. This enables defenders to proactively detect and respond to cyberattacks in real time, minimizing the impact of a data breach while also mitigating potential damages.

Threats to digital security are on the rise, and it’s anticipated that by 2025 annual global cybercrime costs could reach $10.5 trillion.

  • Enhanced automation 
    Defenders can employ AI to automate many of the most routine and time-consuming tasks, such as log analysis, network monitoring, and incident response. Offloading these responsibilities to AI-powered systems makes it possible for security teams to focus on more complex and strategic activities, improving overall productivity in the process. 

  • Rapid response and adaptation 
    AI enables defenders to respond swiftly to evolving threats. Intelligent systems can adapt nearly instantaneously to new attack techniques and patterns by continuously learning and updating their algorithms. And, in a world where new threats and attack vectors are evolving every day, having a security response that can pivot just as quickly may make all the difference. 

  • Scalability and efficiency 
    AI cybersecurity technologies allow defenders to cost-effectively scale their digital security efforts. These technologies can handle large volumes of data, monitor multiple systems simultaneously, and provide real-time insights—all with smaller, more cost-efficient teams. 

  • Tireless vulnerability protection 
    When active and alert, human threat response teams are a foundational element in digital security. But there is no reason to assume that attackers will choose to make their move during regular hours, and human teams cannot remain fully focused and vigilant around the clock. AI cybersecurity, on the other hand, doesn’t sleep. It doesn’t become fatigued or inattentive. It remains fully functional and ready to respond at all hours, responding appropriately to any threat as it occurs. 

While defenders leverage AI for protection, cybercriminals are also capitalizing on AI's capabilities to further their malicious intentions. Here are some ways in which cybercriminals may be utilizing AI:

  • Automated attacks 
    Cybercriminals can harness AI to automate various stages of their attacks, such as reconnaissance, phishing, and malware propagation. By leveraging AI algorithms, they can execute attacks on a large scale—casting an increasingly wide net and reaching more targets in a reduced time frame while more easily evading detection. 

  • Defense evasion 
    AI’s capacity for data analysis often far surpasses human capabilities, or even the functionality offered by non-AI analysis tools. By training AI models to analyze and exploit existing vulnerabilities, attackers can evade traditional detection systems and infiltrate target networks more consistently.  

  • Social engineering and impersonation 
    One area where AI has seen some of its most impressive growth is in mimicking human conversational patterns. AI-powered chatbots and natural language processing algorithms can simulate humanlike interactions, enabling cybercriminals to conduct convincing social engineering attacks and impersonate legitimate entities. This allows attackers to actively target a wider selection of victims at once, deceiving unsuspecting users and facilitating the extraction of sensitive information without dedicating a significant amount of time to any single target. 

  • Adversarial attacks 
    Although AI represents a possible solution to many security vulnerabilities, the AI models themselves may become vulnerable to adversarial attacks. It is possible that malicious actors will manipulate the AI input data to deceive or compromise AI systems. By exploiting weaknesses in AI algorithms, cybercriminals can render AI-powered defenses ineffective.

As organizations embrace the potential of AI in cybersecurity, it becomes imperative to adopt the appropriate precautions. Effectively leveraging this technology while safeguarding sensitive data demands a comprehensive and deliberate approach. Correctly addressing this need will allow security AIs to function at their fullest without introducing new vulnerabilities for AI-backed cybercriminals to exploit.  

With all this in mind, here are several key precautions for organizations to consider:

  • Perform comprehensive risk assessment 
    Many AI solutions aren’t plug-and-play. Before integrating AI into existing cybersecurity practices (or building new practices with AI in mind), organizations must conduct a comprehensive risk assessment. This includes evaluating potential vulnerabilities, analyzing the impact of AI on existing measures, and understanding the potential risks. A thorough assessment provides a solid foundation for developing robust AI-driven security strategies. 

  • Test rigorously 
    Organizations that are interested in developing their own AI models need to do everything in their power to ensure that the final product is a match for the threats it’s designed to face. Meticulous testing and validation procedures must be employed to identify any weaknesses that could be exploited. Otherwise, the new AI solution could easily become just another threat vector.  

  • Do not neglect staff training 
    The rapid evolution of AI can quickly outpace the background education and experience of even the most highly trained in-house staff. As such, keeping cybersecurity professionals up to date with the latest AI advancements and potential threats means creating a culture of continuous education. This enables response teams and related roles to constantly develop and refine the necessary skills to anticipate AI-driven attacks, implement proactive defenses, and navigate the changing cyber landscape. 

  • Continuously monitor and audit 
    AI can effectively monitor sensitive corporate networks, but who will monitor the monitor? Organizations should implement continuous monitoring and auditing processes to detect any anomalous behavior or potential AI system compromises that could negate their digital defenses. Regularly evaluating AI algorithms, models, and data sources can go a long way toward identifying potential vulnerabilities, ensuring that AI systems remain secure and trustworthy. 

  • Collaborate openly 
    In the often-cutthroat world of business, it can be easy to look at competitors as enemies. The reality is that even the most bitter business rivals can become allies when faced with the mutual threat of a cyberattack. The cybersecurity community must foster collaboration and information sharing to collectively combat AI-enhanced cyber threats. Comparing insights, attack patterns, and best practices among organizations, industry sectors, and governments can help identify emerging AI-driven attack techniques and create more effective defense strategies for everyone involved. 

  • Prioritize human/AI cooperation 
    While AI enhances cybersecurity capabilities, human expertise remains an essential shield against unanticipated problems. Organizations should foster a cooperative approach where human analysts work in tandem with AI systems, combining the contextual knowledge and critical-thinking abilities of human professionals with the speed and data processing capabilities of AI.

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, the integration of AI in threat detection, response, and mitigation is crucial for protecting sensitive data and countering emergent threats. Unfortunately, while AI brings a host of new advantages to the AI security table, it also presents new dangers. To navigate this landscape effectively and derive the most benefit from AI in digital security, companies need to take a collaborative approach that combines AI-driven solutions with human oversight and intervention.

AI systems provide unparalleled computational power and data analysis capabilities, while human professionals take care of the contextual understanding, critical thinking, and ethical decision-making abilities that AI lacks. This synergy between human intervention and AI technologies will foster a dynamic and adaptive cybersecurity strategy, actively detecting and responding to AI-driven threats while maintaining tight control over vital security processes. 

With the right approach, AI can be a tool that eliminates many of the digital risks currently facing businesses, without hampering their ability to defend themselves. 

To learn more about the evolving role of AI in cybersecurity—and how to put emergent technologies to use in optimizing your business—contact ServiceNow today!

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