The role of AI in cybersecurity: opportunities and challenges

February 27, 2023 |
Will Shaw

Written by
Will Shaw

Artificial intelligence (AI) is currently a hot topic. Chatbots are the most recent AI technology to make headlines. You've probably heard of ChatGPT, which amassed 100 million users within weeks of its launch. Google, Microsoft, and other companies have followed suit.

ChatGPT is a significant advancement in a rapidly evolving field. However, this is far from the first application of machine learning technology. It's already widely and successfully used in other fields, such as cybersecurity.

AI – a brief introduction

In general, AI operates through a process known as machine learning. This term refers to a set of processes (algorithms, pattern recognition, and handling massive amounts of data) that allow computer programmes to "learn".

In layman's terms, this enables it to process massive amounts of data quickly and automatically complete tasks. These tasks could include anything from creating text to analysing data. More importantly, the machine learning process enables the technology to improve at these tasks over time.

It's an old topic. The term "artificial intelligence" first appeared in the 1950s. However, enormous advances in programming, data storage, and computing power have occurred since then. Investment is now pouring into field R&D. Deep learning is now used instead of machine learning. As a result, we're seeing visible accelerations in what AI can accomplish - hence ChatGPT.

How AI is used in cybersecurity

AI has numerous applications in cybersecurity. Some of our Brigantia vendors excel at utilising this technology.

InboxGuard by Ironvest, for example, employs it to create a highly advanced email security solution. It performs advanced checks on every email you receive using machine learning. It can check a large number of data points almost instantly - and it constantly learns from itself. More information can be found here.

Another example is Heimdal, who employs AI in a variety of applications, including endpoint protection. Their artificial intelligence performs threat analysis, prediction, and prevention. This allows it to recognise and prevent threats automatically and in real time.

The role of AI in cybersecurity – the opportunities

First and foremost, there is the amount of data it can compute and analyse, as well as the speed with which it does so. It vastly outperforms any person's abilities in terms of both volume and speed. As long as it is turned on, it can continuously monitor and analyse, detecting anything malicious as soon as it appears.

Because of its learning ability, it can also make suggestions and forecast potential future threats. This enables users to be proactive as well as reactive in terms of security, which is an important consideration. Threats, after all, evolve over time. This is the technology that responds to this fundamental fact.

Furthermore, AI can automate complex tasks., such as mapping networks to identify potential vulnerabilities. This is time-consuming, labour-intensive work for an IT team. However, we can automate it using AI, saving time and money. It also brings up one of AI's challenges. 

The role of AI in cybersecurity – the challenges

What does it mean for IT teams if AI can do all of these things automatically? Are they still required? This raises a concern shared by many professions, which MSPs should address.

What are our thoughts? When used correctly, AI should complement rather than replace people. Consider an AI threat analysis. A person is still required to set the parameters and interpret the results. AI accelerates these processes, allowing IT teams to focus on more strategic tasks. Our success, as with any other technological advancement, is dependent on how we adapt.

There is another issue to consider. We should not assume that only the "good guys" will employ AI. AI-powered cyberattacks are uncommon, but that is likely to change. NATO is already taking the threat seriously.

But it's not just a military issue. AI will help attackers in every way we've discussed. They will be able to target more people more quickly and with less manual intervention. The solution, as always, is to remain vigilant and keep an eye out for emerging threats. AI can greatly assist in this area thanks to machine learning.

Final thoughts

AI will continue to evolve, and no one can predict where the technology will lead. It also provides a lot right now, thanks to its ability to process data and automate complex tasks. The threat of cyberattacks will never go away, but AI puts us in a better position to prevent them.

Contact us for more information on how our vendors are utilising AI.

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