Over the last few years, we have seen a sharp increase in the amount of consumer data being compromised. As the Internet of Things (IoT) and widespread internet use have taken hold, cybercrime has grown at a rapid pace. Not only does this compromise consumers, it damages the reputation of companies, too.
When these breaches occur, the economic losses are staggering. Here’s how artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to tackle cybercrime.
AI: The Floodgates for Cybercrime
The one thing that is enabling cybercriminals like never before is artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things relies on it massively. Simply put, AI developments are making it much easier for cybercriminals to breach systems and steal data. Given that AI is developing at a rapid rate, there is certainly cause for concern.
Cybercriminals are widely known to be adopting the latest technologies in areas such as AI. They are doing this to create attacks which are more powerful, less detectable and have farther-reaching effects. Additionally, because of the huge extension in cloud computing the entire cybersecurity environment is as complex as it has ever been.
As AI capabilities become more powerful, it is only natural that AI systems will be used to create new threats and aid existing ones. Additionally, the ever-greater influence that AI is having on the physical world—think drones and automobiles—could, in theory, result in some extremely frightening results.
A Cybersecurity Talent Shortage
All this couldn’t be coming at a worse time: there is a huge talent gap within the cybersecurity industry. This has been recognized as nothing short of a crisis. As hackers and cybercriminals ramp up their efforts using sophisticated technologies and tools, cybersecurity professionals need as much help as they can get their hands on.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals are well aware and are taking advantage of this weakness.
Underprepared and understaffed companies can do very little to prevent attacks, or respond decisively when they happen. This cybersecurity skills shortage means that demand is astronomical, prices are high, and access to cybersecurity professionals has many barriers. These are very difficult to overcome, particularly for smaller companies.
With the ubiquity of web and cloud products and services currently dominating the market, it is hard enough for businesses to find the right talent for their IT needs, never mind cybersecurity. It is start-ups and smaller businesses who are targeted most frequently, and the results can sometimes be fatal.
All this occurs while larger corporations are able to tap into cybersecurity expertise, albeit not easily. It goes without saying that something needs to change, but what?
The Potential for Machine Learning
Pitting AI against AI in the fight against cybercrime is what many companies are currently looking at. It is abundantly clear that, at the moment, we are in the middle of an arms race against the cybercriminals.
The cybercriminals may currently be winning, but as cybersecurity experts and new start-ups begin to improve their AI algorithms and focus on fixing this rife problem, it is not clear for how long they can go on unchecked.
One exciting development has taken its inspiration from the human body. Over millions of years, our immune system has learned to understand itself. A huge part of this is the way it can detect threats and rapidly fight them, even if our bodies have never ‘seen’ them before, then remember that threat for next time.
This is the basic way to describe our immune system and the same can be applied to AI.
Using machine learning, cybersecurity solutions—in effect, a computer’s ‘immune system’—could use algorithms to identify digital threats as they occur, long before a breach takes place, and use this information to prevent them. By connecting to a company’s network, AI could learn about it.
Over time, machine learning would determine what’s normal and fight off anything that seems out of the ordinary.
There’s an Algorithm for That
It is great to see AI developing in a way that can combat cybercrime, but perhaps the best way to do this begins with ourselves. Although the threats from AI-assisted cybercrime are scary, what is perhaps scarier, as documented by a 2014 IBM study, is that well over 90% of cybercrime results from errors on behalf of us, the end-users.
Despite the many advanced cybersecurity solutions available today, including those utilizing AI, most major breaches target human error rooted in our behavior, not only errors and vulnerabilities found in networks and systems. By becoming self-aware and spotting this behavior, consumers such as you and I can defend against cybercrime. This requires very little effort. Many human behaviors are widely recognized as aiding cybercriminals, but three stand out more than any other:
1. Default Bias
Accepting default security settings on computers and not utilizing the full benefit of two-factor authentication don’t only give IT departments a headache, they put data at risk.
The constant news about new threats, exposure to minor cybersecurity problems that are easy to spot such as phishing, and lots of security warnings and alerts means that we have been conditioned to tune out and become complacent.
3. Hype and False Fear
Each time there’s a high-profile attack or problem it hits the news. This prompts security experts to work round-the-clock to fix it. Organizations also follow suit and try to protect themselves from something they may never need to worry about. All the while, they ignore present vulnerabilities.
So, what’s the solution—technology that uses AI to fight cybercrime that uses AI, or better human behavior? Whilst the former is far more likely to happen than the latter, it is a combination of both that is going to be the most effective solution.
Yes, we can do a lot more to fight cybercrime by being more careful and self-aware. However, there is still a major skills shortage and cybercrime is getting smarter, more brazen, and harder to detect. It is the combination of AI and human intelligence that is most promising in the battle against cybercriminals.
Want to Learn More?
AI is destined to transform the way our world works. It is something that is going to touch upon everything and disrupt areas of technology and even aspects of our day-to-day lives that have gone untouched for decades. From the chips in our computers and devices to western democracy, nothing is out of AI, tech and big data’s reach.
Learn more about how antivirus systems are using AI to protect you!
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