How will AI and Machine Learning affect cyber security?

Published June 29, 2018   |   

Like it or not – artificial intelligence is here, and it is going to stay. Researchers predict that by 2020, artificial intelligence technologies will be implemented in the majority of new software products and services, which will inevitably change the way we live, work, and do business.

The machine learning technology is only in its infant stage, but it has already proven its efficiency in performing routine tasks in a broad array of industries, from retail, manufacturing, and healthcare to education and cybersecurity.
However, while AI can be a huge help in detecting and fighting the latest cyber threats, experts are worried that artificial intelligence techniques could also bring more risks and even fuel cybercrime. “As AI capabilities become more powerful and widespread, we expect the growing use of AI systems to lead to the expansion of existing threats, the introduction of new threats and a change to the typical character of threats,” a report warns.

Researchers strongly suggest that before completely trusting the benefits of deep machine learning, it’s crucial to take into consideration potential misuse of the artificial intelligence technology.

How AI can help you stay ahead of cyber-criminals

When implemented and trained properly, deep machine learning can enhance cybersecurity in many ways, mostly by saving resources and defending against attacks in real time. With the help of AI, security teams can automate a significant part of their workload, which will give them more time to focus on developing new defense strategies and fight hackers proactively.

As cyber threats are constantly evolving, regular security solutions often fail to recognize and prevent the latest risks. Therefore, tools that rely on machine learning already play an essential role in cybersecurity. They have the “knowledge” and “abilities” necessary to identify and analyze the threat and find the best way to take it down at the right time.
Therefore, incorporating deep machine learning into your security systems can help you build a solid defense against new generations of cyber attacks.

Surprise! Hackers are also using machine learning

While it’s true that AI is becoming a must-have for fighting the bad guys, the same technology could help cyber-criminals to pull off their crimes.

Take the good old phishing. Despite being one of the simplest and straightforward attacks, phishing remains highly effective. People still haven’t learned to avoid opening suspicious messages and downloading attachments from unknown senders. Now imagine how this scam could be improved with the help of AI. A perfectly constructed message, looking exactly like something your best friend or colleague would send. Who would resist opening it?

And AI-based phishing scams are only the start. Using machine learning, cyber-criminals could look for potential vulnerabilities and automatize selection of their potential victims. The same technology could help them effectively study the AI-based cyber defense systems and develop new types of malware that could slip through them.

Last year, a group of researchers created an AI tool that could make modifications to malware code to bypass machine-learning-based antivirus software. Therefore, if security researchers have already done that, it would be naive to believe bad actors aren’t using AI to their advantage.

It looks like the story will never end – while one machine is being trained to detect and fight malware, another one is being taught to trick the fighter.

So what’s next in the cybersecurity game?

Sophisticated machine learning-based attacks aren’t that frequent yet, but cyber-criminals are getting there. Therefore, security teams should pair their human intelligence together with the advanced AI solutions to prevent the crime faster than hackers start to attack.

After all, AI is just a tool, yet a very powerful one; it can be used for both – improving security or boosting the crime. It all depends who learn to use it better.