Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving landscape, where industry professionals face constant changes and challenges. As cyber attackers continuously develop increasingly sophisticated methods, security measures need to provide improved protective measures and discover innovative ways to stop criminal activity. The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has transformed the cyber environment, empowering cybersecurity providers with new and innovative ways to provide protection. With immense processing power and unparalleled algorithms, AI has emerged as a powerful tool for detecting and preventing cyber threats. However, it’s important for cybersecurity experts to understand that cybercriminals also leverage advancements to accelerate their criminal activity. Understanding AI’s potential as both a defensive tool and a means for attackers to improve their strategies can help those in the industry leverage AI to their advantage.
How Does AI Escalate Cyber Attacks?
Artificial Intelligence (AI), in its essence, is the simulation of human intelligence in machine programming that can automatically learn and adapt to data. Its strengths are the ability to perform tasks that are historically human-driven with utmost accuracy and efficiency. One of the most common uses of AI is automation, where tasks are automated and no longer require human assistance.
In terms of cybercrime, criminals can utilize this technology to advance their tactics and automate hacking, malware, and online corruption. In the past few years, one of the most common strategies has been the automation of attacks. This enables cybercriminals to automate their detection of vulnerable parties, automatically initiate contact and breach of personal information, and even perform post-attack activities that streamline the entire process. When we look at stopping cybercrime, one of the most important aspects is understanding the series of events that lead to a full breach. With AI, criminals are able to take the most complex approach that is the least identifiable, and essentially remove humans from the process. This is dangerous in multiple ways. First, it makes it easier for criminals to come up with complex strategies. Secondly, it gives them access to enhanced processes and data that would otherwise require a lot of human input and planning.
Another way hackers are using AI to their advantage is through a scheme known as social engineering. Social engineering is when a hacker impersonates another individual, often a member of the victim's company or personal life. The process can range from days to months, but the goal is to gain access to the victim's information and coerce them to provide access to private data, banking information, or system access. Social engineering has been a highly discussed method of attack for many years but has become more challenging to detect with the assistance of AI tools. With proper cyber security training, employees and individuals would be able to detect if the person contacting them was impersonating someone else. Today, AI has configured the most complex approaches and can pose as someone else with the same tone, email, and communication style that would not come across as suspicious.
Lastly, AI has enabled attackers to bypass standard security measures and often go undetected. Through intricate algorithmic work, AI tools can detect security scans and infiltrate methods that avoid triggering detection in standard security systems. Essentially, when cybersecurity software develops sophisticated tools to detect advanced hacking techniques, hackers can employ similar AI-driven tools to evade detection. This pushes the boundaries of cybersecurity, emphasizing the need for continuous innovation and attention to stay ahead of the evolving tactics employed by cybercriminals.
How Does AI Improve Cyber Security Strategies?
While AI certainly makes it easier for hackers to perform complex attacks, it also plays a vital role in improving cyber security to more easily detect these updated schemes. AI has enabled what is referred to as “rapid threat detection”, where algorithms can process immense amounts of data in a short period of time and identify any vulnerable or suspicious information. A recent report by IMB noted that businesses that use AI in their cybersecurity prevention plans had a 74-day shorter breach lifecycle, which dramatically cuts the overall risk of the event.
AI tools range in terms of function and benefit, but cybersecurity mainly uses methods of detection and analysis. For example, one commonly used AI tool is predictive analysis, where large sets of data are analyzed to determine complex trends and patterns that will detect any suspicious activity before a breach occurs. Prior to AI innovation, all detection was done manually and left room for significant human error and oversight. AI benefits in that it's almost 99% accurate in its ability to identify behavior, trends, and vulnerabilities.
Once vulnerabilities are detected, AI can also create risk management processes that automatically organize risks and notify parties of potential infiltration. These processes, as with most processes in cybersecurity, require extensive resources and human attention. AI’s ability to offload this work to computers and create streamlined systems with little to no error serves as a huge benefit to professionals in the industry.
AI evens the playing field for cyber hackers and cyber security professionals. The algorithms that employ AI tools are able to identify any new threats almost immediately after they are created. So while cyber hackers may have advantages with advanced technology, those fighting against them can use the same tools to stop them in their tracks. Organizations can significantly enhance their cyber defense capabilities, reduce response times, improve threat detection, and mitigate risks through the employment of AI assistance. However, as with any system, it is important to combine AI with human expertise and continuously monitor accuracy and effectiveness.
Has AI Increased the Severity of Cyber Crime?
The introduction of AI tools has certainly brought about changes in the cybersecurity landscape. However, does AI worsen the threat of cybercrime? In short, the answer is no. While AI can be harnessed to both initiate attacks and provide defenses, the cybersecurity realm remains well-equipped to tackle the challenges presented on a regular basis. That being said, certain institutions, particularly smaller businesses, and start-ups, may experience an increase or shift in the nature of threats that require a new approach to protection. Larger businesses typically allocate resources towards regular cyber training and seek professional insights, ensuring they stay up to date. In contrast, smaller businesses may have less frequent and outdated training materials at their disposal. Given the growing sophistication of the cyber industry, it remains important to allocate adequate resources to cyber training and ensure that all staff and employees are able to identify phishing schemes, malware, and social engineering tactics. Although hacking techniques are becoming increasingly complex, with up-to-date training, the risk of cyber threats remains highly preventable.
Protect Your Business From Cyber Threats With ECBM
Even with the best risk management plan, the threat of a cyber attack is always there. This is why having a proper cyber insurance program is the best way to protect your business from financial losses and reputational damage. ECBM has expert training in the cybersecurity field and can ensure your business is adequately covered from all potential risks. Our consultants can identify vulnerabilities within your company, and help devise a plan forward that puts your people, data, and business in a safe direction. For more information on how we can serve your cyber needs, please reach out to one of our agents.