AI in Cybersecurity: Threats and Solutions

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is affecting many sectors, bringing significant advancements in personalisation, content marketing, and predictive analytics. But AI is a double-edged sword. While employees leverage it for process improvement, cybercriminals upgrade their AI skills to automate and improve malicious attacks. 

Understanding AI's dual role in cybersecurity is important as businesses gear up for the technology-driven future. In this article, we'll discuss the greatest threats AI brings to cybersecurity and explore potential AI-driven solutions. 

AI in cybersecurity

The rising tide of cyber threats in 2024

Cyberattacks have been a problem for decades, but in 2024, the threat is more serious. 

One cause for this is the persistent rise in cyberattack incidents. A recent Cloudflare report shows that 84% of European companies have seen an increase in cybersecurity incidents over the last 12 months. Additionally, 16% report cyberattacks every 6-11 days.

What's worse is the complexity of these attacks. Cybercriminals now have advanced tools to conduct more sophisticated attacks and bypass traditional security measures.

Frankly, being a CISO or cybersecurity manager these days is tough.

AI: The double-edged sword in modern cybersecurity

The rise in cybersecurity threats is closely linked to the rapid adoption of AI.

Have you ever imagined the power ChatGPT without ethical or moral constraints would give hackers? Well, it already exists in the form of malicious AI like Evil-GPT and WormGPT.

With the Dark AI launching a cyberattack no longer requires high technical skills. Now, just about any individual can create malicious code and malware. Unskilled bad actors can launch sophisticated attacks, while skilled ones can scale their operations to cause more damage.

Increased interactions between humans and large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT and Gemini have also increased cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Sometimes when trying to automate processes, employees share sensitive company information with AI tools. Unfortunately, this can eventually lead to data leaks.

Last year, Samsung Electronics banned employees from using AI chatbots after an engineer accidentally leaked internal source code by uploading it to ChatGPT.

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of human use of chatbots to steal information, worsening cybersecurity issues.

The percentage of Europeans working remotely has increased significantly. According to Statista, France has up to a third of its workforce operating remotely, while Germany has 24%. What does this have to do with cybersecurity? Quite a lot.

Workers access enterprise data at home, away from their offices' secure networks, surveillance systems, and access controls. Attackers often exploit these weaknesses to infiltrate corporate systems. This shift to remote work has broadened the playing field for cybercriminals.

Deepfake dangers 

AI can create hyper-realistic content, and cybercriminals are taking full advantage of it. Deepfake technology is one of the most common misuses of AI in cybersecurity. 

Deepfakes use AI to create fake audio, video, and images that realistically mimic real people. Cybercriminals use them to create realistic content to impersonate trusted individuals, tricking victims into transferring sensitive information or funds. 

Recently, the CEO of a UK-based energy firm was tricked into transferring €220,000 after hearing a voice cloned by AI, believing it was his German counterpart. 

Phishing 2.0 

Another common malicious use of AI in cybersecurity is for phishing attacks. AI-driven phishing attacks are harder to detect. These attacks use AI to craft convincing messages that can deceive even vigilant users. 

AI algorithms can analyze vast datasets to craft personalized phishing emails. It also enables bad actors to create near-perfect replicas of legitimate websites and scale their attacks, generating thousands of phishing emails quickly. 

A March 2023 report showed that 65% of users were tricked by AI-powered phishing emails into revealing personal information, 5% higher than those tricked by human-written phishing emails. 

Ransomware reloaded 

ACTUM Digital’s Head of Cyber Security & Forensics, Miroslav Kořen, recently shared a compelling story of a ransomware case. A hacker group encrypted an entire city's infrastructure and demanded €400,000 for decryption. Thankfully, Miroslav and his team were able to decrypt their tool and clean the infrastructure. 

AI is making ransomware attacks like these faster and easier. Using AI, hackers can automate the generation of malicious code, evade detection by security tools, and enhance phishing attacks to deliver ransomware.  

With AI’s automation powers, the threat and incidence of ransomware have increased globally. Individuals and businesses are at a higher risk than ever before.  

AI for cyber defense: turning the tables on cybercriminals 

We have extensively discussed AI's threats to cybersecurity. The good news is that AI also offers numerous mechanisms for businesses to protect themselves. You can think of it as fighting fire with fire. 

Here are several ways AI can be leveraged to bolster cybersecurity: 

Data loss prevention and encryption 

Data loss prevention (DLP) and data encryption are critical components of any cybersecurity strategy. AI enhances these areas by detecting data breaches and securing data with advanced encryption techniques. 

AI can track data in real time, detecting anomalies and automatically trigger alerts by comparing this real-time data movement to historical patterns. For example, sudden spikes in data transfer volume or unusual access requests can be flagged for further investigation. 

You can also use AI to boost your data encryption efforts. AI can contribute to managing encryption keys and developing adaptive encryption methods based on updated methods. Such steps make it more difficult for hackers to access your organization’s data, adding a layer of security. 

Predictive models and risk analysis 

One of the most powerful applications of AI in cybersecurity is using predictive models to analyze the risk of security breaches. These models help you forecast potential threats and take proactive measures to protect your systems. 

Predictive models can monitor user behaviour within the organization’s network to understand normal patterns and detect deviations that might signify malicious actions. For instance, unauthorized access attempts, unusual data transfers, etc.

AI models also integrate threat intelligence feeds from multiple sources, including global cybersecurity databases and industry reports. This comprehensive view allows the models to stay updated with cybercriminals' latest tactics, improving their predictive powers and risk scoring. 

Penetration testing 

Penetration testing simulates cyberattacks to uncover vulnerabilities in a system. AI is improving penetration testing, offering methods to identify and rectify security weaknesses before cybercriminals exploit them. 

AI can automate penetration testing, performing continuous and comprehensive scans of an organization's IT infrastructure. This allows regular testing without human intervention, ensuring vulnerabilities are identified and addressed promptly. 

AI can simulate a wide range of attack scenarios, from simple exploits to multi-stage attacks. This capability helps organizations understand how different attacks might impact their systems and prepare accordingly. 

AI-assisted security operations 

There are many opportunities for automation in cybersecurity, making AI the perfect ally. AI enhances security operations by automating and optimizing various processes. 

Tasks that can be automated include searching for hidden threats within an organization’s network, initial response actions, such as isolating affected systems or blocking malicious IP addresses, and generating incident reports. 

Using AI this way can help increase efficiency, accuracy, and response time to cybersecurity threats. 

Employee training and internal AI usage policies 

The importance of employee training on AI in cybersecurity cannot be overstated. All employees must be made aware of ways they may be targeted and how to avoid costly mistakes. 

AI can support employee training by simulating phishing attacks and other common threats. This helps educate staff on recognizing and responding to potential cybersecurity incidents.  

It is important to support employee training by implementing internal AI usage policies. These policies ensure that employees use AI tools safely, preventing accidental data leakage and maintaining compliance with security protocols. 

Cybersecurity mesh Architecture 

Cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA) is an emerging solution in cybersecurity. It is an approach that decentralizes security controls, distributing them across various parts of an organization's digital infrastructure, both on-premises and in the cloud. 

This method enables organizations to have consistent and adaptive security measures that protect central and distributed assets. Therefore, it is an excellent solution for companies with distributed workforces and remote staff. CSMA also enhances the organization’s ability to detect and respond to threats quickly and accurately. 

Gartner predicts that organizations that adopt CSMA will reduce the financial impact of cybersecurity incidents by 90%, highlighting the value of this method. 

Integrating AI with CSMA can enhance the process by providing real-time analytics, improving access controls, and boosting threat detection.  

AI for cyber defense with ACTUM Digital 

AI will undoubtedly shape the future of cybersecurity for decades to come. AI's role in cybersecurity can be positive or negative, depending on who gives the commands. Hence, you must understand how to use it to your advantage.

Are you searching for a trusted and experienced partner to navigate the complexities of cybersecurity? ACTUM Digital is exactly the partner you need. 

Our expertise includes services such as Security Assessment and Penetration Testing, Cybersecurity Strategy Implementation, Operational Technology Security, Threat Intelligence, and much more to help avoid such attacks and secure your organization’s IT infrastructure. Find out more about our related services here and contact us to get started on securing your company. 

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