Cybersecurity remains one of the largest industries in modern society because it is a crucial component of conducting business. Almost everything we do as a society can be accomplished through online sources. Whether we need to purchase something, acquire information, or file our taxes, there is likely a website that offers the services we need. It has even gotten to the point where we have begun using online databases to store personal documents, photographs, and videos.
This newfound reliance on digital mediums has done wonders for the efficiency of services worldwide. Unfortunately, it has also introduced a new threat to our privacy and security since technically literate criminals can exploit these systems. Cybercrime is a growing issue that has jeopardized digitally stored information for the last couple of decades.
Countering cybercriminals has led to increased cybersecurity protocols that adapt to new tools and techniques while compensating for new issues. Our technology undergoes massive changes from year to year, with new systems being instituted that render the previous obsolete. This means systems using outdated software and protocols face a greater risk of being hacked than updated systems.
The rapid shift from one system to another can be difficult to manage, even with a full team of experts. This has led to a new, experimental concept being introduced to the cybersecurity industry. Specifically, the use of AI in cybersecurity contexts is being assessed and tested to determine if it can offer the edge cybersecurity professionals need to stay ahead of cybercriminal attacks.
What is AI?
You likely have a broad idea of what AI is, but the particulars of the concept can be a little more complicated than you were initially led to believe. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a machine-based intelligence capable of operating on a similar level as the intelligence of human beings or animals. Depending on what needs to be accomplished, the AI will be designed with greater intuition to keep it smart enough to handle the task.
When most people hear “AI,” their minds instantly go to science-fiction examples like the Terminator film franchise. However, artificial intelligence can be controlled more effectively than contemporary sci-fi films would have us believe. Nevertheless, there is significant opposition to the development of AI from computer scientists and philosophers because of the inherent risks of creating something potentially sentient.
Most modern examples of artificial intelligence are ultimately harmless and are used as minor features for larger programs. The most common application of AI is in search engines, which employ algorithms that learn from the user’s browsing history. Less common uses have been seen in applications like ChatGPT and the growing number of AI art programs on the market.
The key detail is that none of the currently available AI has developed sentience or self-awareness to rival humanity. Instead, AI is being used to facilitate programs and tasks that might be tedious or overwhelming for human users. As a result, more industries rely on simple AI programs to handle tasks and functions, requiring a more automated presence. AI is being used because it can adapt and learn new patterns that make it more effective than a standard automated program. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that there has been a recent surge in cybersecurity AI.
Method #1: Pattern Recognition
One of the main reasons AI has become a tool for cybersecurity is the same reason it is used as a companion for search engine algorithms. AI is an excellent tool for recognizing patterns and adjusting the situation to accommodate those trends. While the use of AI for recognizing patterns for search engines is fairly simplistic, the same concept can be enhanced to improve security. An AI designed to recognize potential threats and breaches to an otherwise secure network can apply that logic to support human analysts.
Additionally, cybersecurity AI can use that recognition ability to take proactive action against these breaches. The actions an AI can take to counter breaches are limited to the permissions the human technicians give it, but the AI can essentially serve as an automated watchdog.
Employing AI capable of pattern recognition also prevents repeat attacks that use the same methods or tools. Once the AI learns about a specific tactic or program that represents a threat to the network, it can alert human technicians of the breach before it becomes an issue. While pattern recognition is something human technicians can accomplish, an AI can recognize more subtle signs that might be overlooked. Additionally, an AI can do something that human technicians simply cannot.
Method #2: Indefinite Monitoring
Human analysts have needs that must be met because we are organic and bound by the limitations of our biology. This means we must eat, sleep, and use the restroom regularly to maintain our health. This time spent attending to our physical needs is spent away from our workstations and unable to monitor network security. Cybersecurity teams are expected to monitor who accesses the network and when to ensure no unauthorized access.
Unfortunately, human needs mean a human analyst cannot maintain a 24/7 watch on the network. That is why cybersecurity experts employ automated tools to try and minimize the risks during their downtime. This is where AI has begun to shine in the cybersecurity industry since AI does not have the same needs as human analysts.
As a result of AI being immune to the physical needs seen in humans, many cybersecurity AI programs are used as constant monitoring tools. An AI can monitor a network indefinitely while the human technicians are indisposed, even taking complete control when the cybersecurity staff goes home for the night.
Combining this constant monitoring with an AI’s ability to identify attacks in real-time makes it possible for an AI to serve as an acceptable stand-in for cybersecurity staff, albeit temporarily. As mentioned before, an AI also has limited permissions to address an attack independently if a human technician is unavailable. While the AI’s permissions are restricted to avoid mishaps, it can effectively manage security by overseeing specific cybersecurity tools.
Method #3: Identifying False Positives
One of the biggest issues in cybersecurity is determining whether a threat is genuine or a false positive. There are a finite number of code strings in the world of computers that legitimate programs and viruses can share. This can make identifying malicious code challenging to human analysts since there is little they can do to dissect the code. Therefore, when an apparent vulnerability appears on the network, the analyst has to make a split-second decision to determine the issue.
Many programs and files can generate a false positive, especially with automated monitoring software. Usually, the programs uploaded to a network are heavily controlled and are seldom misidentified. Unfortunately, there is always a possibility that something that is not recognizable to the current security protocols will be uploaded. Once again, AI seems to be able to compensate for this issue.
An AI can scan a file, program, or network with greater detail while applying the data it has gathered from monitoring the network over time. This learned knowledge and in-depth analysis means an AI can more effectively identify a genuine threat and distinguish a false positive. Over time, an AI can make the overall detection process more accurate while reducing the burden on human analysts.
Method #4: Advanced Automation
One key aspect of cybersecurity is automating the process as much as possible, which helps reduce the strain on the human staff. Cybersecurity staff must accomplish several tasks to ensure the network remains secure. Most cybersecurity teams have begun automating certain aspects of their jobs to expedite the process. This helps keep the network secure while maintaining the security system’s efficiency.
Many of the tasks that cybersecurity technicians normally oversee can be very time-intensive, meaning they spend less time focusing on major issues. Automating these tasks has helped cut down the time lost on these secondary tasks, but AI has helped further reduce the impact. Specifically, AI can automate network functions without intervals and improve response times for the team.
Recent statistics indicate that an AI-empowered automated system can save over 14 weeks of threat detection response times. This saved time enables cybersecurity staff to divert their focus to more important tasks and expedite the resolution of network breaches. As a result, less data is compromised, and the recovery period is much shorter, allowing you to return to normal operations more quickly.
AI is a Blessing and a Curse
Artificial intelligence has become a resource for cybersecurity professionals that have helped them streamline their tasks. Unfortunately, AI is not exclusively used by the good guys; anyone with the technical aptitude can co-opt its functions. Many cybercriminals employ AI-enhanced tools to launch their attacks, making AI a double-edged sword in the eyes of multiple cybersecurity professionals.
Unlike the AI used in cybersecurity (which focuses on optimizing pre-existing security tools), the AI used by cybercriminals is designed to make them harder to track. The main tool of the average cybercriminal is malware, which can infect a network or device and wreak havoc on the stored data.
The AI-supported malware allows cybercriminals to alter their malware’s signature and make it harder for the cybersecurity staff to detect it. AI-powered cybersecurity tools have a better chance of fighting off AI-enhanced malware, but most times, special tactics are essential to surviving AI-powered breaches.
This is especially true since the AI a cybersecurity team uses to secure a network is equally vulnerable to attacks. A skilled cybercriminal can launch an attack that compromises the integrity of your AI, causing it to leave the network unsecured and making the cybercriminal’s attempts easier. As a result, cybersecurity professionals who employ artificial intelligence must take extra steps to prevent their tools from being used against them.
Data manipulation is extremely difficult; only well-versed cybercriminals can execute such an attack. Nevertheless, it is a risk that cybersecurity teams must consider if they want to maintain the level of security their professions demand. Several practices have been recommended by different agencies on how to protect AI from cyberattacks.
The Brookings Institution suggests securing the decision-making subroutines of the AI to ensure the program is operating within its original parameters. At its core, an AI is a program, and its subroutines are managed by code that can be rewritten if malware infects it. Those subroutines control an AI’s decision-making algorithms, and malware could rewrite the algorithm to overlook hostile programs and software.
Therefore, the Brookings Institute recommends that all cybersecurity teams run routine checks on the AI’s subroutines to ensure the code is intact. If there is an anomaly, it could prove that a malicious program has compromised the program.
Artificial intelligence is a point of contention due to the moral and philosophical crises that might arise as these programs become more advanced. Nevertheless, AI seems to be a rising star in cybersecurity, making it an almost essential resource. While AI is far from perfect due to its vulnerabilities, it presents an amazing opportunity for advancing security technology through automated functions. The use of AI requires specialized knowledge since it is a constantly shifting programming field facing newer regulations due to public concern.
As a result, finding cybersecurity professionals capable of managing AI-powered security protocols can be challenging since qualified experts are in short supply. Fortunately, there are resources available.
We at U.S. Cybersecurity recognize the importance of staying up to date with all security protocols and software. We also know that AI is a concept that will likely play a major role in the future of computer technology. Our mission is to assist companies in their efforts to maintain a strong cybersecurity team by offering 3rd party services. We can offer a wide range of cybersecurity services, and our software is regularly checked to ensure it can resist malware attacks.
There are no shortcuts concerning cybersecurity, and only expert knowledge is sufficient to protect your data. We encourage you to visit our website and see just how we can help you protect your network. We are standing by and ready to assist you.