With technology so integrated into our lives, staying secure online has become important like never. Our personal, financial, and even medical information is digital now and, if not handled securely, can be stolen. Currently, we are witnessing an ongoing game of cat and mouse between cybercriminals and security researchers, and companies. Criminals come up with fresh ways to harm. Companies and researchers counter them with fresh ways to protect. One of these ways to protect is using Artificial Intelligence as part of cyber protection for both companies and individuals.
What is AI and Why is It Important?
Any software you use every day is just a long list of primitive commands – store some info, read it, do calculations, and so on. All that regular software can do is execute these commands the way us – users tell them to. Regular software cannot improve itself, learn and adapt. This is when Artificial Intelligence comes into play.
The shortest definition of AI will be “programs that can think”. Engineers create AI programs, also known as models, by writing an algorithm, then feeding it with data – inputs with their correct answers. Then the model starts analyzing and finding patterns between the inputs and the correct answers and modifying itself in a way that it can produce a correct answer the next it reads an input. This process is called training the model.
For example, engineers will give the model a set of photos of dogs and cats and tell the model which photo corresponds to which animal. After the model analyzes and trains on this data, you can show it any photo of a cat or dog and it will tell which one is which.
Why Would We Need AI to Tackle Cybersecurity Problems?
Threats in cyberspace are skyrocketing. We see an increase both in the numbers and types of threats and in their complexity. Regular security software is not “smart” and fast enough anymore to protect you from these sophisticated threats. Thus, having programs with the ability to learn and adapt each time an unknown threat appears is becoming essential.
Artificial Intelligence can analyze the behavior of your machines and network, find irregularities, and report it much quicker than a trained security expert could do.
AI models can process massive amounts of data in a fraction of the time humans can. According to Google, there were approximately 280,000 websites affected with malware every month in 2016. This means that Google could analyze millions of sites every month and flag suspicious ones. No team of security experts could do even a tiny fraction of that work in a single month.
A well-trained model can have an accuracy rate close to 100%. Humans, even experts, are prone to making mistakes. Unlike humans, AI models do not get tired or bored when doing the same task again and again. Thus, using AI security software significantly reduces the risk of human errors.
Types of Most Common Cybersecurity Threats
Now that we understand AI and how it benefits cyberspace, let us discuss the threats these models are made for countering. Cyberthreats come in different forms. Let us go over the most common ones.
- Hacking: when the malicious program or criminal gets access to your computers or network and either steal information or take control of the systems for their personal gain
- Phishing: When you receive an email or message from the name of a reputable company asking you to provide them with sensitive information, such as credit card number or your password, but in reality, it is the criminals sending you that message
- Ransomware: a program that encrypts all the data in your computer and demands a “ransom” payment, usually in bitcoin for decrypting your data back.
- Denial of Service attack or Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDoS): when a single computer or a group of infected computers constantly request data from your server and overload it.
How Can Online Security Be a Threat For Both Individuals And Businesses
Remaining secure in cyberspace is essential both for individuals and companies as the number of attacks is proliferating. Statistical data shows just how significant the impact of these threats is on us. Statistics on identity theft are particularly alarming.
- Human error was the reason behind 95% of breaches.
- 30% of U.S. adults have been victims of identity theft.
- 36 billion records were stolen in the first half of 2020.
- A data breach costs companies $3.86 million on average as of 2020.
- Individual victims experienced $320 in losses on average.
- It takes on average 207 days to identify a breach.
- Personal data was involved in 58% of breaches in 2020.
Thus, if you, as an individual, neglect safety rules, your passwords, personal data, or credit card can appear in the hands of criminals. As a company, you might have your trade secrets are stolen or your website overloaded and unavailable to your clients.
How is AI Protecting Us Now?
AI-driven security has developed significantly in the past years. Many companies, services, and programs have emerged, each solving a specific security pain. Let us list several products and companies and see how they use AI to make the world a safer place.
- Cylance uses AI to scan and monitor all files in a company’s computers, predict new types of file infections, find these infections and quarantine the affected files.
- Tessian’s AI models protect from spear phishing and harmful emails. Their filters can understand if an email you have received is genuine or its intention is to steal sensitive data from you.
- White Ops has created an AI-driven traffic monitoring platform that can predict bots and block them.
- Securonix provides models that can analyze user behavior and prevent user activities that are deemed fraudulent.
- Webb Fontaine, a customs management platform, employs AI models that can detect false invoices and prevent customs fraud.
How To Be Secure Online Without AI
If we ask any security expert how we can be 100% secure, they will answer with a famous joke, “Just turn off all of your electronics, if they are on, you can never be 100% secure”. Despite this joke, there are general rules and best practices that will significantly increase the security of your data and devices. Some of the most important ones to consider are the following:
- Creating and using secure passwords.
- Using the MFA (multi-factor authentication)
- Checking if your identity is included in any known data breach – keeping an eye on your personal information by using identity monitoring service like IDstrong or identity theft protection like LifeLock.
- Using only trusted secure networks when browsing any website where you have personal data (e.g. online banking sites)
- Backing up your data constantly.
- Installing trusted security software such as firewalls and antiviruses.
Artificial Intelligence, despite its young age, has made significant strides in improving the security of individuals and companies online. Research on AI-driven security continues now as well, with smarter and faster AI solutions on the horizon to make our world a safer place.