Defensive Cybersecurity – The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

ByErma F. Brown

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How is the rise of AI improving defensive cybersecurity? We discuss in this article. Read on!

There’s a lot of hype surrounding artificial intelligence and for good reason. It can potentially change nearly every aspect of people’s lives, personal and professional. Machine learning and neural networks can automate and run full operations and even power many of the technologies used by manufacturing and the supply chain. 

However, there is one area where the technology shows incredible promise as a society and an industry: AI in defensive cybersecurity. 

The AI cybersecurity market is expected to top $38 billion by 2026 and is already valued at over $8.8 billion today. There’s definitely some growing interest, but AI is more of a buzzword used often in information technology and cybersecurity circles. While the reality of its use is far less exciting than one might expect, it has a role to play in the current state of affairs, as well as the future of cybersecurity. 

What precisely can it do in today’s landscape? What might it be able to do in the near future?

‘Round the Clock Coverage

Technology and digital platforms never sleep. They’re always running and available, so there’s always the potential for incoming attacks. Unfortunately, human engineers can’t man the ramparts indefinitely, even with excruciatingly long shifts. That is where AI and neural networks come in real handy. 

They can leverage many data solutions, like pattern matching, predictive analytics, and past events and apply them to advanced threat detection. Alerts go out when an incoming attack or suspicious behavior is identified, allowing IT teams and security professionals to react in kind.

AI-driven systems can also be directed to respond to protect the network, connected systems, and sensitive data. For example, the AI could disengage and disable the network upon detecting a breach, booting all users and locking down the entire system. That gives the security team time to investigate without worrying about recurring damage to the network or operation. They can rest easy knowing the system and network are secure, even when they’re not at the helm.

Addressing the Rise of RaaS

Ransomware is a significant concern in today’s digital-dependent world. About 27% of all malware incidents in 2020 were a result of ransomware. However, like many forms of technology, it has evolved. Ransomware is much more sophisticated, accessible and dangerous than it’s ever been.

Ransomware as a Service (RaaS), where cybercrime is available to all for a price, is becoming more widespread. Organizations that have developed malicious code or software are now outsourcing and repurposing them as tools. Cybercriminals now have sophisticated attack tools, funds, and motives — even those with minimal development experience. It calls for much more capable defense tools driven by AI and machine learning to assess and react to these growing threats.

AI defensive tools can accurately predict attack vectors, pinpoint sensitive areas of the network and systems, and even prepare IT teams for incoming events. The AI solutions can also dig deeper into malicious code — sometimes called suspicious observables — allowing teams to better understand what it’s doing and how it’s affecting the network or systems. 

The other side of that equation is that the same technologies can be used to thwart and trick AI, which means the tools will have to protect against these kinds of vulnerabilities. This requires a lot of forward-thinking on the part of IT and development teams.

Improving the Defensive Cybersecurity

With technology so critical to the functioning of society, it is crucial that we are able to defend our infrastructure. An attack on something as basic as our GPS system could cripple airports, shut down the trucking and shipping industry and derail power grids, banking systems and more. But though human security technicians guard these critical systems, they cannot stop every threat, and hackers keep creating new attack ideas.

Luckily, an innovative feature of AI and machine learning solutions is that they learn over time through experience or by ingesting more data. Darktrace manufactures self-learning defense systems, using AI to detect and respond to attacks, many of which are new and have never been seen before.

This highlights how the technology is growing every day, not just as it interacts with the digital landscape but also mirroring the way people learn more about cyberattacks and how they play out. The stream of continuous threats can be frightening at times. However, it’s also improving defenses and cognitively and training AI on what to look for, how to defend against attacks, and also where new threats may come from. Attacks are never welcome and can cause a lot of trouble, but at the same time, AI and related technologies benefit from them, as well.

Responding With Speed

An emerging benefit of AI is that machine learning solutions can analyze and report at incredible speeds — faster than any human could ever dream. Moreover, the technology applies complex pattern recognition, historical data, and predictive analytics to respond with unprecedented accuracy and speed. AI is fast and incredibly reliable, with the right data opportunities in place.

That makes it a nearly perfect companion for assessing incoming threats, understanding how to defend against them, and taking action with exceptional speed and reliability. It gives security teams a leg up in an industry where the odds are already stacked against them and continue to grow.

The Digital and AI Arms Race

AI can also be used on the opposite side of the battleground to discover vulnerabilities, spearhead sophisticated cyberattacks and create an always-on attack solution. It can be effectively described as a digital or AI-driven arms race. The only way to stay ahead and remain competitive is to deploy new tactics and technologies and be persistent. That is precisely where AI comes into play in the defensive cybersecurity space.

It may be more of a buzzword right now, but that’s rapidly changing. AI has a role to play in defensive cybersecurity now and in the future. It will enable ‘round-the-clock protections, highly sophisticated detection and research, and ensures defenders can respond at incredible speeds to potential threats. The rise of RaaS and more unpredictable attacks means people will need all the help they can get.


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