AI: The Best Friend and Worst Enemy of Enterprise Security

By Melissa Lachman, Social Media Manager
December 19, 2019 • 3 minute read

Corporate security leaders and experts are facing a unique dual challenge: Staying one step ahead of AI-enabled hackers while advancing AI-based security within their own companies as quickly as possible.

With 2019 rapidly drawing to a close, we’re examining trends and topics that will be at the forefront of the AI industry next year with a new blog series running throughout this month: The IPsoft Top 5 in AI 2020. This is the fourth in the series.

As more enterprises begin to implement AI to improve customer experience, enhance employee engagement and drive revenue, cybersecurity is another critical avenue where businesses will drive AI deployments in 2020, and we expect an increasing number of security-centered use cases to materialize next year.

In an age of regularly occurring data breaches and rising cybercrime, cybersecurity of course remains top of mind for businesses in every industry and across global government agencies. Most companies are still unprepared for a cyberattack and while AI can be utilized to prevent cybercrime, hackers are leveraging the same technology to bypass any added security measures. This leaves corporate security experts with the unique dual challenge of remaining one step ahead of AI-enabled hackers while advancing AI-based security within their own companies as quickly as possible.

More Data Means Higher Security Risks

Cybersecurity experts are shifting budgets and priorities in order to adequately protect databases and put systems in place to fight back against costly and dangerous cyberattacks. In 2020, cybersecurity will continue to be a top priority for most organizations and governments on a global scale, as more data is being produced and collected today than ever before. Data production is estimated to be 44 times greater than it was in 2009, with an estimated 4,300% increase in annual data generation by 2020. As the rate of data production and transmission via IoT (Internet of Things) smart devices continues to increase, the risk of data breaches is more common, and hackers are always deploying more sophisticated attack methods.

“Current cybersecurity measures rely on ‘detection and response,’ but as attackers begin to leverage AI to bypass existing solutions, companies will be left at a significant disadvantage against these seemingly undetectable campaigns. We could see AI-based malware become prominent in day-to-day attacks,” said Guy Caspi, CEO of Deep Instinct, in a recent Forbes piece.

No industry or business type is immune, and even those companies that have shown great diligence in developing cybersecurity safeguards will need to rethink their defensive posture next year, envisioning how AI could further secure their digital systems against bad actors armed with AI themselves. Although some of the most high-profile data breaches have occurred at retail vendors, banks, hospitals and governments are increasingly on hackers' target lists.

Not only do data breaches and other cybercrimes cost companies billions, but when these attacks occur, it engenders understandable mistrust among customers and users who feel that their data is unsafe no matter what security protocol is installed. Ransomware attacks alone cost $10 billion this year, and many government agencies are still unprepared and unprotected, leading to the possibility of cyberattacks on a national level. Never mind potential financial or reputational losses — the World Economic Forum considers data breaches among the top three threats to global stability.

AI as a Data Security Guard

There is good news, however. Cybersecurity experts are utilizing AI to simulate hacks and train AI systems to uncover malware and detect viruses proactively. CPO Magazine stated: “AI systems can be trained to identify even the smallest behaviors of ransomware and malware attacks before it enters the system and then isolate them from that system. They can also use predictive functions that surpass the speed of traditional approaches.” When implemented correctly, AI has an inherent ability to scale that can be used to fend off multiple attacks in different locations simultaneously.

From 2020 and beyond, a combination of AI and traditional cybersecurity methods will be the most effective approach. As CPO magazine put it: “Conventional systems simply cannot keep up with the sheer number of malware that is created every month, so this is a potential area for AI to step in and address this problem.”

Despite incredible technical advances every year, AI is still viewed as a relatively newer technology, and there is a long way to go before it is utilized as a mainstream tool for preventing cyberattacks. This is due, firstly, because it takes significant resources to train an AI system to learn all of the various and possible data sets, malware codes, non-malicious codes and anomalies. Secondly, just as cybersecurity experts can deploy AI to prevent attacks, hackers will continue to leverage AI to test, improve and enhance their malware in an effort to make it as “AI-proof” as possible.

Nonetheless, by combining traditional cybersecurity methods with a boost from AI, and by continuing to invest in the development of AI tools, organizations can ensure that they have a strong offense and an even stronger defense in cybersecurity for 2020.

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