AI in Cyber Security: Is it Getting Harder to Stay Secure?

December 09, 2021


AI in Cyber Security: Is it Getting Harder to Stay Secure?
Photo Courtesy of Author

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for decades, but it is only recently that it has become efficient and effective enough to be accessible to the average person.

In the context of cyber security, AI can be used in a number of ways to improve protection against attacks. However, on the flipside, it's also fueling the next generation of cyber warfare. 

As AI becomes more ubiquitous, it's important to understand the benefits and risks associated with its use in cyber security. 

In this article, we'll explore the benefits of AI in cyber security, how AI is making it harder to defend web systems, and some of the risks associated with AI implementation.

AI in Cyber Security

The last fifteen years has seen a massive increase in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for various purposes. Understandably, AI scales best on digital platforms - in the virtual world, you have a near-infinite amount of data to improve your model on, whereas in the physical world you're often constrained by input. 

For that reason, AI has become a critical tool in cyber security. Defensively, it's used to detect unusual behavior on networks or spot new malware strains. People have applied it to help create better passwords, identify fake emails, and even respond to attacks automatically. 

Jeff Hill, CMO of Dark Cubed chimes on with his take: “There’s no doubt that AI/ML can be a valuable additional weapon in the cyber security arsenal of many organizations, but it’s important to appreciate it’s not a panacea, nor does it add value under all circumstances. AI/ML is best suited to a specific purpose within an organization’s cyber security strategy, and the more narrow the task, the more effective the AI/ML. For example, ML can help identify the highest risk vulnerabilities on a network, guiding remediation priorities. Conversely, the promise of more fantastical uses of AI like UBA and UBEA has yet to be realized.”

Using AI for Malicious Purposes

On the offensive side, however, AI has also given hackers and malicious actors a new way to exploit systems. By using automated information gathering systems and bots, they can speed up the process of finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in software.

There are many other ways that AI can be used to cause harm, including:

  • Automated phishing: Bots can send millions of phishing emails in a very short time, increasing the chances that someone will click on a link or open an attachment.
  • Social media manipulation: Bots can be used to create fake social media profiles and post content that is designed to influence people’s opinions.
  • Automated malware: Bots can carry out a sophisticated series of steps to bypass defenses & install malware on a system.

As algorithms grow better and faster at performing certain tasks, hackers will increasingly turn to artificial intelligence (AI) to help them carry out their malicious activities. From stealing personal data to taking down entire networks, AI will likely be used for a wide range of nefarious purposes. 

Using AI to defend and secure

The fact that AI is routinely used for malicious purposes doesn't mean that all artificial intelligence is inherently bad. Like any tool, its effects depend on the intent of the user. Artificial intelligence has also led to breakthroughs in cyber security, allowing individual technicians significantly more power over company data, and automating a large portion of the security process.

In particular, artificial intelligence is used for good in the following ways::

  1. AI can be used to detect and prevent cyber attacks. By analyzing data patterns and identifying anomalies in traffic, artificial intelligence can help to identify potential threats before they have a chance to do damage.
  2. AI can help you recover from a cyber attack. If a system has already been hacked, AI can be used to track down the malware and remove it from the offending storage..
  3. AI can be used to create secure passwords. AI algorithms have processed billions upon billions of passwords, and understands (on a statistical level) what makes some passwords good and others bad bad. By using machine learning algorithms, AI can create passwords that are both strong and easy to remember.
  4. AI can be used to protect your online privacy. By monitoring your online activity and tracking down personal information, AI can help to keep your data safe and secure.

In Closing

Artificial intelligence has both benefits and drawbacks in the field of cyber security. Malicious actors routinely employ AI algorithms to attack or penetrate systems, which has led to a significant number of data breaches in recent years.

However, when used for good, AI can be an incredibly valuable tool in helping to protect networks from attacks. By automating tasks that are repetitive and time-consuming, AI can help human analysts focus on more important tasks and improve the overall efficiency of a security team.