Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a double-edged sword – able to launch attacks as well as detect and protect against them. Criminals leverage AI to execute sophisticated cyberattacks, and companies protect against these through an AI-enabled response.
AI allows organizations to respond quickly to security threats more efficiently and accurately (75%) as well as improve cyber analysts’ accuracy and efficiency (60%), according to a survey conducted by the Capgemini Research Institute. An AI-enabled cybersecurity program resulted in a savings of $3.05 million for companies that deployed them in 2022, according to an IBM report.
On the other hand, prolonged detection and response time to cybersecurity threats resulted in severe losses for enterprises, with the average cost of data breaches amounting to $4.35 million worldwide (per IBM). So, strengthening cybersecurity defenses with AI is critical for enterprises today and in the future.
How is AI Being Used in Cybersecurity Today?
The use of AI in cybersecurity today is somewhat limited. “Companies thus far aren’t going out and turning over their cybersecurity programs to AI,” says Brian Finch, co-leader of the cybersecurity, data protection & privacy practice at law firm Pillsbury Law. “That doesn’t mean AI isn’t being used. We are seeing companies utilize AI but in a limited fashion.” The technology’s current usage includes malware detection, breach risk prediction, data loss prevention, spam filtering and bot identification, phishing detection, and password protection and user authentication.
But, AI is increasingly being used in behavioral analysis tools. “By that I mean tools analyzing data to determine behavior of hackers to see if there is a pattern to their attacks — timing, method of attack, and how the hackers move when inside systems,” says Finch.
“Gathering such intelligence can be highly valuable to defenders.”
How Can AI Improve Cybersecurity?
Ideally, businesses would like AI to be proactive, i.e., detect cyber attacks in advance so as to neutralize them before they can do any harm. However, the reality is far from this ideal scenario. As online threats continue to evolve, enterprises are more likely to be playing catch up with cyber criminals.
But, in line with the proactive ideal mentioned above, the direction of AI’s development in cybersecurity includes the following:
- Improve threat detection
AI-enabled cybersecurity’s primary function is to recognize between what is and what is not a threat, and respond to an attack. AI applies machine learning to data analysis to help improve threat detection, giving organizations the time necessary to neutralize any incoming threats successfully. In the future, AI should not only be able to respond to known attacks but also be more nuanced in identifying new threats. and make better vital prioritization decisions.
For instance, in battling bots, AI allows companies to go through and analyze loads of data, and helps security professionals adapt their cybersecurity strategy to fit a continually altering landscape. “By looking at behavioral patterns, businesses will get answers to the questions ‘what does an average user journey look like’ and ‘what does a risky unusual journey look like’. From here, we can unpick the intent of their website traffic, getting and staying ahead of the bad bots,” Mark Greenwood, Chief Technical Architect & Head of Data Science at Netacea, explains to the IEEE Computer Society.
- Faster and at-scale threat containment and response
With AI, security professionals can automate time-consuming activities and streamline responses to threats, which makes managing an increasing number of sophisticated security issues easier. AI is also considered to be a force multiplier as it can help organizations manage security threats in real time and at scale.
In addition, AI’s ability to make autonomous decisions that result in preventative action not only lower costs but also improve threat response time, i.e., AI lessens the time between threat detection and remediation. With AI, companies can automate virtual patch creation or development of new protection mechanisms against a detected security threat in real time. AI also helps security professionals focus on priorities, i.e., issues that AI escalated to the SOC (security operations center).
- Automate vulnerability management
Managing more than 2,000 unique cybersecurity vulnerabilities would be practically impossible for humans, but AI makes vulnerability management easier and more efficient. Not only does the process require a lot of time and effort but it is also tedious, which increases the margin of error. AI sets a point of reference for the organization’s network traffic, and using advanced techniques, it analyzes suspicious patterns and proactively contain vulnerabilities in order to boost network security.
- Generate and recommend cybersecurity policies and procedures specific to your company
By studying patterns to improve behavioral analytics and analyzing other components of network traffic dynamics, AI learns, gets smarter, and improves the security measures continuously over time.
- Cybersecurity threat prediction
AI can be taught to predict cyber threats by scanning through a huge amount of data, respond automatically or semi-automatically to attacks, and provide modeling that can more accurately predict future attacks. AI removes false positives and filters the signal from the noise in gigantic data sets. “AI can trim this down to a reasonable size, which is more accurate,” explains research firm Gartner research vice president Mark Driver. “Analysts are able to work smarter and faster to resolve cyber attacks as a result.”
What Lies Ahead for AI-Enabled Cybersecurity?
The growth of AI will be fueled by the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), connected devices, and other trends, according to an Acumen report. Cloud-based security services will also provide AI with new uses for cybersecurity. In addition, AI is also expected to make the jobs of analysts and other security professionals more agile and more accurate.
With the vast amounts of data that only keeps on increasing, security professionals can no longer manage to efficiently secure an enterprise-level attack surface on their own. They need help – a backup they can rely on. Enter AI, which has become a must-have technology for organizations that want to enhance their IT security team’s performance.
What is the Future of AI in Cybersecurity?
AI can provide a boost, prioritize, and automate routine security tasks, leaving security professionals with a more strategic role. Strengthening cybersecurity defenses with AI is critical for enterprises today and in the future.