How AI Can Benefit Cybersecurity

How AI Can Benefit Cybersecurity

by Maja Talevska


Cybercrime is a global concern for both big and small enterprises, as it poses a real threat to most businesses. Recent research revealed that it takes 206 days on average for companies to identify a breach of their system. Already, worldwide spending on cybersecurity is predicted to reach $133.7 billion by 2022, with nearly 70% of business leaders confessing that they feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing.

In the US alone, a jawbreaking 8,854 breaches were recorded between 2005 and 2018, many of which led to a loss of sensitive customer information. The issue of cybercrime spans across various industries and can affect almost anyone. 

For example, 500 million online gamers had their data compromised in the last five years due to several breaches. Another 412 million accounts were compromised when the dating website Friendfinders lost control over its site to hackers. 

With data breaches and cybercrime on the rise, coupled with a lack of preparation from most companies, there is a need to invest in high tech security to keep your business alive. This is where AI comes in. 

Why AI?

Over the years, AI has found use across various industries and is now slowly establishing itself in the field of cybersecurity. It can learn by consuming millions, or even billions of data from structured and unstructured sources over the internet. 

With the help of machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL), AI can gather insights and derive meaning from large chunks of data. These insights are used to identify threats such as malware and other malicious files, thereby speeding up the risk identification process involved in cybersecurity.

Challenges Mostly Encountered in the Cybersecurity Field

The Increasing Sophistication of Attackers

With millions of malware already in existence and more being generated each day, hackers are always on the prowl looking to exploit targets with visible weaknesses and less sophisticated protection. 

Hackers of all levels try as much as they can to target victims whose exploitation will bring the highest return on investment (ROI). However, the more secure and updated your cybersecurity becomes, the less vulnerable you become to these hackers.

In other words, every online business needs to pay attention to its cybersecurity needs. All it takes is one successful attack, and things may never look the same. According to reports, every successful breach carried out on a business costs $3.92 million to fix. It gets even scarier when we consider the amount of time a business can be kept out of full functionality (200 days).

Shortage of Skilled Cybersecurity Experts

Often, organizations turn to their employees’ cybersecurity knowledge and education when it comes to taking necessary cybersecurity actions. While this approach may be a good thing, it is always not enough.

Employees who are already engaged in other activities with the company can get pieces of training that creates awareness and helps them understand potential threats and malicious files. However, it would require the skills of a cybersecurity analyst to effectively analyze and detect every possible malicious behavior or pattern over a network. 

These experts are trained to fish out potential and already existing threats in a repetitive and consistent manner. They are also skilled in the necessary steps on how to eliminate these threats. 

However, the issue remains that adequately skilled cybersecurity experts are short in number, as there aren’t just enough of them in circulation. Reports have it that almost 65% of organizations complain of a shortage of cybersecurity staff, with 36% saying that a lack of experienced security personnel tops the list of their problems.

Rising Cost of Cyber Attacks

As businesses grow and their database increases, so does the cost of fixing any successful breach on their database, sometimes running into millions of dollars. A good example is the Equifax Company that got affected by a breach in 2017. This breach, which also led to the compromise of a total of 147 million consumer records, caused the company $4 billion to fix the damage.

However, reports indicate that the average total cost of fixing a breach is 95% higher for organizations with no automated security. The concept of "security automation" refers to organizations allowing security technologies and software to replace human effort. That way, the ability to detect a breach and the time it takes to contain it are much improved.

In other words, the cost of fixing a security breach is way higher for companies relying on human effort alone when compared to organizations already utilizing security automation tools like AI.

Alert Fatigue

The amount of threats encountered by security analysts daily is surreal. According to a study by Imperva, 27% of security experts surveyed receive more than 1 million threat alerts every day, most of which go unresolved and unattended.

Analysts can only attend to those threats identified as high risk. However, other large chunks of threats that are left unattended can lead to alert fatigue, while also increasing the risk of that business getting attacked.

Where Does AI Come In?

Quicker Response Time

AI can carry out repetitive routine tasks faster than humans, thus making the process of threat detection even swifter. With the help of both ML and DL, AI is not just able to process a massive amount of data but also learn underlying patterns. The gathered insights can then be used to predict possible breaches and threats, thus helping the analyst react faster to a potential breach before it becomes a severe issue.

Eases the Authentication Process and Helps Secure Passwords

For businesses running online platforms that require login details like password and email addresses, there is always the risk of a cyberattack. For decades, passwords have been the main source of a breach. This follows because, in most cases, it is the only form of security preventing a hacker from gaining access to an account that houses sensitive information. 

However, most users don't see it fit to use secure passwords for their online activities. Others fall victim to using the same password across various platforms, causing them to be more susceptible to a password attack.

This has led to the introduction of biometric authentication processes such as fingerprint and facial recognition software, all powered by AI. Biometric login uses a set of recognizable, unique characteristics that differ from person to person to identify and authenticate your login process. 

There are factors and main data points about your face and fingers that are specific to you and you alone. What AI does is to exploit these unique features using neural engines during your login process, such that any login attempt without your main data points gets declined. 

Some organizations like Apple have gone as far as integrating infrared sensors to help determine if a user is trying to login using a photo or live facial scanning, further beefing up the security of biometric login.

Automatic Threat Detection

While traditional cybersecurity methods can help to detect existing and past threats, they are not the best at detecting new threats that have not been seen before. According to 2019 statistics, around 10 million new malware programs are created every month, further spiking the need for AI in helping to detect these new threats.

The presence of both ML and DL allows AI to study and analyze past data to identify how these malicious programs are developed. That way, it can differentiate between a program that poses a threat and those with non-malicious codes.

With the help of AI in 2016, Google was able to blacklist about 20,000 websites and 50,000 phishing scams weekly. This goes to show how useful AI can be in helping to detect unknown threats.

AI Can Help With Vulnerability Management

For every organization with a database housing sensitive information, there is always the possibility of vulnerabilities. It could be from employee error, update error, phishing attack, etc.  In 2019 alone, 2,197 unique vulnerabilities were reported before the end of the year.

Although traditional methods of detecting these vulnerabilities are still useful, AI can take it a step further by regularly scanning through the network for possible ways of attack. It does this by using information gathered from the internet and the dark web. That way, your business is better prepared for attacks even before they come into existence.

Conclusion

Every day, cybercrime continues to be a menace to online businesses, bringing in millions of new threats into existence consistently. The traditional model of fighting cybercrime certainly has its limitations, hence the need for more advanced and sophisticated ways of detecting and eliminating cyber threats.

AI comes with so many features that can help combat and speed up cybercrime detection. With the help of both machine learning and deep learning, AI can make sense of large sets of data, using whatever insights gathered to improve cybersecurity processes.

From vulnerability management to automatic threat detection and quicker response time, AI is seamlessly fusing into cybersecurity and helping businesses to reduce their chances of getting attacked.

March 26, 2020
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