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AI in cybersecurity

Staying ahead of advanced threats – the role of AI in cybersecurity

Cybersecurity has always been a key focus for many organisations – and it’s perhaps never been as critical to get your defence right. As cyberattacks continue to grow in both frequency and complexity, businesses must understand the current cybersecurity landscape, and how they can capitalise on emerging innovations as part of strategies to keep them ahead of bad actors. One such innovation is artificial intelligence (AI), where insights and intelligence from previous breaches and the latest attack vectors are used to get ahead of threats, reduce the burden on IT teams, and help mitigate the damage done by a security breach.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at the increasing prominence of AI-driven technology in cyber security – the factors that have led to its expanded role, how it can be applied, and why it’s proving a valuable tool as businesses arm themselves against cybercrime.

The modern threat landscape

One of the defining characteristics of modern cybersecurity is the continuous rise in cyberattacks. We’ve seen a 15% increase in cyberattacks this year, compared to 2021. This is driven by several factors, but one major contributor is the widening range of tools and approaches that bad actors can adopt to launch a cyberattack:

  • First, low-tech methods for compromising an organisation (such as social engineering) remove the technological barriers to launching a cyberattack. Why would a cybercriminal expend time and resource penetrating technologically advanced defences when they can simply convince a legitimate user to give them voluntary access to a network? Ultimately, advanced defences can still be compromised without similarly advanced tech, as people remain a major vulnerability in any organisation.
  • Secondly, while the rise of remote and hybrid working models has led to a host of benefits, it’s also significantly widened the attack surfaces in most businesses. As workers (and the networks they rely on) become spread over a larger area, this offers cybercriminals more potential points of entry when trying to break through an organisation’s defences.
  • Finally, in the same way that businesses leverage technology for operational efficiency, cybercriminals are optimising their processes. The rise of technologies such as Ransomware-as-a-Service is a key example here – offering individual bad actors or small groups a cost-effective vehicle to launch more sophisticated attacks.

Unsurprisingly, the increased level of cyber risk has accelerated cybersecurity innovation for vendors seeking to protect organisations, but cybercriminals are also innovating at an accelerated rate. This leads to more frequent and complex attacks that leave businesses exposed, with some reports estimating that cybercriminals can compromise up to 93% of company networks.

The end result of this perfect storm of cyber threats is a change in the prevailing attitude in cybersecurity. Where strategies had revolved around building a wall of seemingly impenetrable defences, there is now an acceptance that no defence is infallible. The ensuing likelihood of a potential breach shifted focus away from just protection to protection, detection, and response.

Where AI adds new value

With new emphasis placed on detection and response, vendors and businesses are seeking the best approach to identifying and remediating potential breaches – locking attackers down, forcing them back out of the network, and learning from the experience to prepare for the next attack.

That’s not to say that maintaining strong protections is not still a key component of this strategy. In fact, a core part of the process is ensuring that any gaps in protections that are exposed by an attack are quickly remediated, and defences are kept maintained – after all, there’s no point in endangering an organisation by allowing an increased number of attacks through.

This is where AI enters the picture – a powerful ally for organisations looking to fend off malicious threats, and ensure the best and most efficient recovery.

AI can be trained to recognise the patterns of attack related to breaches and learn the best ways to respond to and resolve them. As an example, Microsoft offers customers adaptive protection against ransomware as part of Defender for Endpoint. This takes the form of a cloud-based, AI-powered system that harness previous threat intelligence to identify when a device is under attack before locking it down, preventing an attacker from using the device to compromise the system and in turn reducing the likelihood of successful wider breach.

This works by feeding the AI examples of attacks, and typical daily usage of a system, training it to differentiate between the two. This not only prepares the AI to spot attacks, but reduces the number of false positive alerts which would be generated by an automated system that simply pointed out every time a particular interaction occurred. With AI to lend a hand, IT teams can avoid alert fatigue with a reduction in false positives, and focus on only the most critical and immediate threats. In turn, this frees up more time for other projects which help to create value.

As a result, AI gives valuable utility in automatically detecting and resolving breaches, and delivering benefits to every aspect of a business, which is why AI has come to sit at the heart of modern cybersecurity operations. Whether a security team is in-house or outsourced, AI provides a powerful partner that can keep IT systems safe and help to focus a team on the issues that need immediate attention, keeping organisations protected, even amidst a precarious cybersecurity landscape.

If you’d like to know more about anything we’ve discussed in this blog, reach out to our team for more information.