Artificial Intelligence: An Essential Layer of Security

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Artificial Intelligence: An Essential Layer of Security

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is broadly defined as the process of developing computer systems to adapt to changing circumstances and perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. The concept of artificial intelligence (AI) has been around since the 1950s. Pioneering computer scientists like Alan Turing posited that sometime in the future, computers would be able to emulate the work of humans and perform "intelligent" tasks like play chess. Over the last 60 years, the hype and hope around AI has come in waves, as advances in computing technology made analyzing huge data sets possible and opened doors to new applications.

AI Moves from Hype to Hero

In the last two decades, we've seen AI make major strides in capability. We can point to IBM's Deep Blue narrowly defeating world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, and their Watson AI defeating Jeopardy Champions as evidence that AI has become mainstream.

Today, we rely on elements of artificial intelligence in many facets of our everyday lives:

  • Rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft use AI and machine learning to determine fares, predict rider demand, and estimate time of arrival - even going as far to recommend riders relocate for their pickup, based on patterns found in millions of successful and challenging pickups.
  • Depositing checks via a smartphone requires a complex system of AI and machine learning to accurately decipher and convert handwriting on checks into text for processing.
  • Video games have long used elements of AI to improve the challenge for the player, with enemies now able to interact with their environment and learn from past encounters with the player to increase their chances of success.
  • Music and movie recommendation capabilities in Spotify, Netflix and Pandora apply a simple AI system to present you with new media that reflects your interests and previously expressed opinions.
  • Investment management gets smarter, with AI taking the lead in developing financial portfolios according to investment goals and risk tolerance of the client and managing those portfolios in real time as the market changes.
  • Chatbots and virtual assistants now serve as the front line of customer service for many brands, handling everything from recruiting to technical support.

Artificial intelligence is now an intrinsic part of our lives. Yet, for many, the growth of AI presents a major concern, with skeptics pointing to everything from potential loss of jobs via automation to fears about the inability of computers to perform the complex tasks, such as driving, for which they are being designed.

Cyber Criminals Getting Smart with AI

One of the benefits of AI is the ability to act as an amplifier that helps people work through large amounts of complex data and perform highly repetitive tasks that would normally require a human. Automating what would be a manual process allows criminals, especially cyber criminals, to improve targeting, expand the scale of attacks and increase the speed at which they can create new malware. Security researchers have been hard at work exploring what is possible.

Here are a few examples of the research into how attackers could use AI:

  • Bypassing CAPTCHA systems. CAPTCHA has become an essential tool on the Internet that allows us to determine whether a site visitor is human or a bot. Visitors are presented with an image or string of distorted text and asked to take action that would normally require a human.
  • Improving the accuracy of phishing. With AI, cybercriminals have a tool that can be used to parse through huge volumes of data about their targets and craft messages that will produce a higher degree of success. They are able to get targets to click on malicious links using AI compared to other approaches.
  • Developing highly evasive malware. Hackers have turned to low-level AI to perform checks to identify hardware configurations and the environment they are in, as well as determine if a human is operating the machine at the time.

As the cyber security arms race heats up, it's fair to say we are nearing a new phase, one where AI and machine learning will play an important role in both attack and defense.

An Essential Layer of Security for Businesses of All Sizes

Cyber attacks occur in the blink of an eye. A single point of infection can spread like wildfire from endpoint to endpoint; location to location; and business to business. Parsing through huge volumes of threat indicators is an intensive, time-consuming process for even the most skilled teams. Chances are your IT teams are already overwhelmed with alerts and false positives, leaving attacks to go unnoticed for months at a time. This is where AI can provide a tremendous amount of value. With a foundation of AI, you can save time, correlate more data, make faster decisions, minimize human error, and predict future threat trends while improving your security posture.

What problems can AI help to solve? 

Scarcity of Security Expertise

Many organizations, especially small businesses, lack both headcount and expertise when it comes to security. IT teams are often operating in blended roles, wearing multiple hats of responsibility. AI enables the automation of security processes, which is a time-saver that allows IT to spend more time on business-critical tasks.

Resource Constraints

SIEM and security management tools are out of reach for many smaller organizations who are operating on tight budgets. Although the data is there, time constraints mean much of it cannot be analyzed and consumed in time to be effective. When properly implemented, AI can perform correlation, analysis and scoring for you, while learning from multiple threat intelligence sources to ensure cyber vigilance. AI gives you the ability to automate remediation with minimal disruption to your business.

Threat of Zero Day and Evasive Malware

Policies and signatures can quickly become obsolete and out of data, leaving significant security gaps when used alone. AI provides intelligent layers of defense, able to detect and defeat malware much earlier than legacy approaches. When properly trained, AI offers predictive predictions that anticipate future threats, without needing signatures, Cloud connectivity, etc. AI can look at hundreds of thousands of characteristics of a given file and determine the threat level of the file.

Every security analyst's goal is to prevent attacks as efficiently as possible, while being able to detect and respond to threats as early as possible. Through automation, AI is like having a skilled security analyst that works 24/7/365 to keep you safe. AI enables the automation of prevention, detection and response.

As a full suite IT and cybersecurity firm, Restech can help with your security and business technology needs. Contact us today to learn more.


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