How Artificial Intelligence is Revolutionising the Cyber Security Industry
It wasn’t that long ago that AI (Artificial Intelligence) was considered a terrifying product of the future, with robots taking over the world. However, AI at present is commonplace with elements of it touching all our lives. For example, at the end of 2019, more than 100 million AI devices had been sold and introduced into people’s homes in the form of Alexa; Amazon’s virtual assistant. With Amazon’s Alexa, there have been mixed responses with some users embracing AI and others being concerned about the privacy implications. Such concerns are not necessarily misplaced. Although AI has revolutionised some industries, it has also revolutionised how cyber security professionals fight cyber crime with great success.
AI and Malware
Cyber security professionals are not alone where utilisation of AI technologies are concerned. Unfortunately, cyber criminals are now exploiting AI to create malicious malware at volumes not previously seen. Using AI, cyber criminals can automatically alter the malware code, making it almost impossible for traditional signature-based antivirus systems to detect and therefore manage using reactive methods. Malware comes in various forms; it can be a virus, adware, trojan, spyware, worm or ransomware, to name a few.
Famously, the NHS suffered a catastrophic data breach in the form of WannaCry ransomware back in late 2017. Cyber criminals in this instance produced malware which exploited a vulnerability within windows file sharing, ultimately enabling the malware to install without user interaction. After the malicious program had infected a computer, the program would automatically encrypt all files, WannaCry would then demand payment via bitcoin in return for all encrypted files stored on the infected computer. To this day WannaCry is still being spread, however, with altered malware code resulting in untold damages.
So where’s the intelligence in this?
At CIS we strive to make sure that all bases are covered in regards to cyber security. Currently, for our clients we use Sophos Intercept X to detect both known and unknown malware which all too often finds it way into emails and untrustworthy websites – Intercept X effectively uses a deep learning neural network (AI) to help protect against threats in a predictive manner rather than being wholly reactive to threats. The sheer speed in which malicious third parties are creating malware means that conventional methods for detecting, cannot keep up. Therefore; if malware is created using AI, to fight it effectively, AI must be used by cyber security professionals.
There is a constant race going on between cyber criminals and cyber security professionals to be one step ahead. Cyber security processes need to be adaptable to change and constantly learning from new threats. By utilising machine learning algorithms, AI systems are constantly refined to record and learn with ever increasing accuracy the difference between malicious threats and genuine user behaviour. AI systems are based on neural networks which identify whether an action is legitimate, malicious or disguised. Any identified anomalous behaviours, no matter how small, will be warranted as worthy of further investigation. Ultimately AI detects malware and ransomware before it has the chance to infiltrate core business systems by identifying and blocking the source of the attack. This intelligence can then be implemented into spam filters, fraud detection, and network intrusion processes, to name but a few. This continual data analysis is the fundamental factor for learning about new cyber threats and intercepting them before they cause any severe damage.
Humans remain an essential tool within the cyber security sphere. A human is needed to analyse data gathered by artificial intelligence about potential threats to set in place early detection and prevention processes. AI’s most revolutionary when dealing with new threats; AI systems are built to learn and grow to broaden their sophistication for coping with future threats. Cyber security firms like CIS are then able to stay abreast of all current threats and anomalies and enable suitable protection strategies to be put into place.
Impact on the Cyber Security Industry
Cyber criminals have been known to use AI to create malicious programs past and present. The industry has had to develop sophisticated responses to deal with the threats posed by these malicious AI programs with the aim to be one step ahead. As a result the cyber security industry is going through an AI-driven revolution, as machine learning creates ever-improving systems to help tackle cyber crime. It would seem that the cat and mouse game will continue as usual. However, It’s best to keep in mind that AI has already proved to be a highly effective tool for combating various types of cyber attacks, so it’s safe to say that AI will be a core element of cyber security processes for years to come.
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