Cyber-attacks are evolving as you are reading this article; according to a study by the University of Maryland, hackers are now attacking computers and networks at a rate of one attack every 39 seconds. The 2020 Cyberthreat Defense Report by CyberEdge Group says that 81% of surveyed organizations were aﬀected by a successful cyber-attack in 2019. No organization is safe; cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new ways to compromise organizations. Furthermore, the cost of a successful cyber-attack can be quite hefty.
On the other hand, many organizations have invested a great deal in their security infrastructure and security operations center (SOC); however, they are not getting favorable results when it comes to protecting their business and data from cybercrimes. This is due to the technological restrictions that limit the internal processes and security teams.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the rescue
To stay ahead of threats, organizations need to overcome the technological restrictions and automate processes; one way to do so is by integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the cyber security architecture. To implement automated and intelligent investigation and response processes, AI offers improved performance and better accuracy in handling large data.
The role of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in cyber security is getting bolder; it helps security experts to analyze, study, and understand cybercrime better, security tools powered with AI are able to analyze data from millions of cyber incidents and use them to identify potential threats.
Traditional ways of defense are no longer practical; we are now entering an era of cyber security where we need to rely more profoundly on machine learning algorithms as our first line of defense against cyber-attacks. Although AI is not capable of detecting all the threats, it can still manage time-consuming tasks such as analyzing large volumes of data a lot faster.
So, what is Artificial Intelligence (AI) exactly?
AI is a broad branch of computer science that enables the machine to think and function intelligently and independently. Simply put, Artificial Intelligence works towards replicating the same activities humans are capable of and combine human intelligence abilities — thinking, perception, and action.
Google search, image recognition software, personal assistants like Siri and Alexa, and self-driving cars are examples of Artificial Intelligence systems. Many of these artificial intelligence systems are powered by Machine Learning; Machine Learning (ML) is a subset of artificial intelligence that works by feeding computers data and information to get them to learn and improve automatically through experience over time, without having been specifically programmed to complete a task.
The main goals of Artificial Intelligence can be learning, reasoning, and perception.
According to Capgemini’s Reinventing Cybersecurity with Artificial Intelligence Report, 61% of organizations say they are unable to detect breach attempts today without employing AI technologies and 48% say their budgets for AI in cyber security will increase by an average of 29% in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. Here’s why AI greatly helps organizations in cyber defense.
How AI helps us in cyber security
Coupled with machine learning, AI makes it possible for organizations to detect threats automatically, fast, and prematurely and eliminate human errors from the process. AI cannot get exhausted or get bored when performing repetitive tasks. consequently, the risk of human error reduces significantly.
As mentioned, machine learning is a subset of AI that makes ‘learning from experience and patterns’ possible. In fact, machines can ‘teach’ themselves through ML, meaning that they can develop models for pattern recognition instead of waiting for humans to create them. Machine learning helps computers to utilize and adjust algorithms based on obtained data, learn from the data, and understand the necessary improvements. This aspect is used in cyber security to detect threats and identify any anomalies even more accurately than any human would.
Another favorable factor that AI offers is that it thinks on its feet instead of relying heavily on past results as traditional technology would do. Unlike traditional technologies, AI is able to get an understanding of hackers’ latest techniques and tricks. Besides, the amount of cyber threats people face every day is too much for humans; therefore, it is better to be managed by AI as it can complete these tasks more effectively and efficiently. Furthermore, Artificial intelligence automates the process of detecting advanced threats; AI is able to promptly analyze a very large volume of data generated by the activities across an organization’s networks and systems.
Another aspect of AI in cyber security is Identifying threats faster, and responding faster; the duration of identifying suspicious activities on websites through AI has improved significantly. For instance, Google blacklists around 10,000 suspicious websites every day; humans are not fast enough to analyze millions of sites and detect and block 10,000 suspicious websites per day. Additionally, security experts are utilizing AI to identify users with malicious activities on websites; AI can analyze tons of visitors and categorize them based on their threat level and behavior in a few seconds. As mentioned, AI can process massive amounts of data and learn patterns much faster and much more efficiently. This results in a faster response when it comes to protecting an organization from threats.
Another advancement that AI offers in cyber security is the ability of behavioral analytics. Machine learning analyzes the usual behavior and activity on devices and online platforms and through algorithms creates a pattern of everything from typical login times and IP addresses to typing and scrolling patterns. Based on these patterns, AI detects unusual activity or any behavior outside the standard range of generated patterns, then flags it as anomalous activity or even blocks the suspicious user.
Last but not least, another use of AI in cyber security is in vulnerability management; handling the never-ending security vulnerabilities is quite a difficult task for humans or traditional technologies to do. However, an AI-based system is able to manage vulnerabilities by proactively looking for potential vulnerabilities in systems instead of waiting to be exploited by online threats.
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