The Role of AI in Cybersecurity: Anticipating and Preventing Attacks

The Role of AI in Cybersecurity: Anticipating and Preventing Attacks

Cybercrime has had an unprecedented impact on businesses across industries, with its cost predicted to reach $8 trillion in 2023 and $10.5 trillion by 2025. For every cybersecurity innovation, cybercriminals make their own. Robust cybersecurity in today’s digital age is more important than ever as business leaders attempt to stay one step ahead in an ever-changing landscape. Like many other areas, the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in cybersecurity is likely to become more pronounced. 

AI in cybersecurity is predicted to reach a market value of $46.3 billion in 2027. AI cybersecurity companies offer significant benefits, providing businesses with invaluable tools to navigate the cybersecurity landscape and become more agile in the face of cyber threats. 

Understanding the Cybersecurity Landscape

Cyber threats are complex and constantly evolving by nature. Cybercrime was estimated to cost the economy just under a trillion dollars in 2020, and the average cost of a breach is $4.27 million. Many organizations go to great lengths to innovate and avoid the financial and reputational damage of a breach. Still, cybercriminals are just as creative, always finding new methods to penetrate robust cybersecurity structures. 

The current cyber threat landscape is dynamic, requiring agile and flexible options to stay ahead of malicious actors. Increasingly sophisticated attack methods and tools as well as greater reliance on information technology are just two of the contributing factors. 

Common Forms of Cyberattacks

Although new attack methods are emerging all the time, organizations often focus their efforts on the following: 

  • Malware: Malicious software — or malware — is unsanctioned software installed on your system without your knowledge. It can hide in legitimate sources or attach to your files. There are many types of malware to fulfill various cybercrime objectives, such as replicating or encrypting files, blocking legitimate user access or stealing sensitive data. 
  • Ransomware: Ransomware is a form of malware designed to encrypt the files on your computer. Malicious actors then demand a ransom to grant you access to them. 
  • Viruses: These malicious programs replicate themselves and infect your files and systems, often rendering your computer unusable. 
  • Denial of service (DoS) attacks: DoS is a malicious attack that floods your network with false requests to disrupt your business operations. 
  • Phishing: This cyberattack relies on imitating legitimate sources to access sensitive information like passwords and credit card details via phone, email, SMS and social media. 
  • Insider threats: Although many cyberattacks come from external sources, intentional and unintentional threats exist within your organization. These people may have access to your network and sensitive data and can choose to sell it for financial gain. Unintentional insider threats often involve negligence. 

New cyber threats are constantly being invented, and organizations must employ advanced technologies to counter these ever-evolving threats. AI has the potential to revolutionize how we deal with cyber threats, creating a more predictable cybersecurity landscape.

The Evolution of AI in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity and artificial intelligence have been linked for many years, and AI has helped create robust defenses and assist analysts in the fluid global threat landscape. In its infancy, the first wave of AI used rule-based systems executed on observations to track network traffic and user actions based on rules that human operators applied manually. These rules helped create alerts, although they had some significant limitations. 

AI became a more beneficial cybersecurity tool in the second wave in the late 20th century, as advances in machine learning allowed AI to determine its own thresholds for rules, eliminating much of the time and labor of human-driven inputs. In addition, AI developed the capability to integrate deep learning algorithms in threat detection, teaching itself more effective strategies to pinpoint potential threats. 

Today's generative AI uses predictive analytics to support threat detection.

Today’s generative AI — the third wave or predictive AI — provides many cybersecurity advantages, from automating repetitive tasks and reducing human error to using predictive analytics to support threat detection. AI has also proved invaluable in automating responses to security incidents. Cybersecurity teams can use AI systems to analyze threats and take immediate action to counteract these attacks. 

Subsets of AI, such as machine learning and deep learning, have changed the face of cybersecurity. The innovative AI of today can analyze — and learn from — massive amounts of data, identify patterns and make informed decisions in detecting and mitigating potential threats. 

AI-Powered Threat Detection and Anticipation

Predictive AI can streamline threat detection and generate advanced cybersecurity solutions aligned with the constantly changing threat landscape. These AI systems are self-supervised and self-learning and can apply their analysis in frenetic situations and create solutions based on their own observations.

AI can power threat detection and anticipation in the following ways:

  • Analyze large datasets in real time: Active monitoring of your threat network requires you to sort through massive amounts of structured and unstructured data. Without AI, this process would require significant time and human resources. AI can automate threat monitoring, reducing human error and making detection more effective. 
  • Identify unusual activity: Risk identification is critical for predictive AI in cybersecurity. AI can analyze network changes and use these patterns in a predictive capacity. It can employ behavioral analytics and anomaly detection to identify unusual activities within and outside your framework. 
  • Predict potential attack vectors: The methods or paths cyber attackers use to access your system or network are called attack vectors. AI plays a crucial role in predicting attack vectors based on historical data. It uses machine learning techniques to analyze historical data for patterns and anomalies, which can help predict future attack vectors. AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data and detect subtle connections in events that look unrelated to the “naked eye.” The more data you provide, the more it learns, so AI improves its prediction capabilities over time. 

The Future of AI in Cybersecurity

The future of AI is exciting, as emerging technologies impact operations across industries. Cybersecurity can look forward to the emergence of more robust technology to meet the challenges of a landscape that is likely to evolve more rapidly than before. 

A new era of threat detection and response is on the rise, and it may well transform how organizations respond to cyber threats. AI has the potential to significantly reduce analysts’ workloads, bringing productivity gains and freeing them up to focus on strategic planning and other mission-critical strategies. In short, AI can take us from reactive to proactive, allowing organizations to gain traction and stay further ahead of a host of cyber threats.

As AI and other cybersecurity technologies evolve, so do the cyber threats themselves — and cybercriminals can use the power of AI to achieve their own ends. Privacy and ethics will become more critical as AI systems become more integrated into cybersecurity, making AI both a challenge and an opportunity. 

That being said, the rewards outweigh the risks in many ways. As AI can analyze data and predict future threats, it can also deploy deception technologies like decoy networks, using its predictions to lead cybercriminals away from the real prize. In addition, advanced threat detection, real-time responses, more accurate behavioral analysis and adaptive capabilities are some of the many future trends to watch out for. Striking a balance between the exciting possibilities of AI and its ethical considerations will become more critical than ever. 

Strengthen Your Cybersecurity with BDO Digital

Cybersecurity is one of the most complex and significant challenges that businesses face, and leveraging AI as a more substantial part of the solution is the next logical step to protecting your organization from the effects of cybercrime. BDO Digital can show you how to use AI to help improve your digital strategy and align with today's ever-changing cybersecurity landscape.

Work with BDO Digital to get access to customized services that meet your business and industry needs. Together, we can power your cybersecurity strategy with data-driven insights, helping you improve processes and confidently move forward. Contact us today to learn more.

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