Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a potent force, wielding both the power to enhance cybercrime and the capability to defend against it. This double-edged sword brings both opportunities and challenges to the world of digital security. Understanding the impact of AI in the realm of cybersecurity is essential for organizations seeking to navigate the complex and dynamic landscape of modern cyber threats.
Enhancing cybercrime through AI
Offensive AI enables cybercriminals to launch more sophisticated attacks against enterprises that are harder to detect, often evading conventional, rules-based detection tools. Among the areas where AI has had a profound impact in enhancing cybercrime are:
Phishing and spam
Phishing, a practice where attackers impersonate trusted entities to deceive individuals into revealing sensitive information or performing actions, has been a long-standing threat.
AI-powered phishing messages have become more sophisticated and personalized. One facet of phishing, known as “spear phishing,” targets high-profile individuals within organizations. AI can identify these high-value targets by analyzing their company profiles, email signatures, and their activity on social media platforms.
Deepfakes use AI to replace a person’s likeness in existing media, such as images, audio recordings, or videos, with someone else’s face or voice. These AI-generated media can be employed for fraudulent purposes, potentially costing companies millions of dollars. A report by VMware shows that malicious deepfakes are increasingly used as part of cyberattacks, with email as the primary delivery method.
AI can enhance the capabilities of malware by navigating an organization’s internal systems more effectively, avoiding detection while analyzing network traffic. It can adapt and learn to target specific endpoints, implement self-destruct or self-pause mechanisms to evade traditional anti-malware solutions.
One significant example of AI’s role in cybercrime was the 2018 attack on TaskRabbit, a company where nearly 3.75 million people had their personal information stolen. Hackers utilized an AI-powered botnet to launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on TaskRabbit’s servers, effectively disabling the entire site until security was restored. In total, 141 million users were affected by this attack, highlighting the destructive potential of AI in cybercrime.
Fighting cybercrime with AI
While AI has the capacity to fuel cyberattacks, it also provides powerful tools for defense. The use of “defensive AI” is on the rise as organizations seek ways to anticipate, detect, and respond to AI-driven cyber threats.
A report by MIT and Darktrace revealed that 96% of respondents were adopting defensive AI to counter new AI-driven attacks. “Defensive AI” means self-learning algorithms that comprehend typical user, device, and system behaviors within an organization, enabling the detection of abnormal activities independently of past data.
Defensive AI can execute autonomous responses to cyber threats, intervening during an attack without disrupting day-to-day business operations. This includes identifying unusual patterns of behavior associated with ransomware and taking action to halt it.
Threat hunting and behavior analysis
AI improves threat hunting by seamlessly integrating behavior analysis, enabling the creation of detailed profiles for applications and devices operating within the organization’s network. This in-depth analysis of endpoint data can offer valuable information about adjustments to the organization’s settings that could enhance the security of its infrastructure and software.
By understanding the traffic patterns on the network, AI can recommend specific policies and changes that would contribute to a more secure digital environment, equipping cybersecurity teams with valuable insights to proactively address security issues and fortifying their digital defenses.
As cybercriminals leverage AI to enhance their attacks, organizations must remain vigilant and invest in defensive AI to protect against these evolving threats. The integration of AI-driven tools and practices is essential for staying ahead of malicious actors and ensuring the security of digital assets.
By comprehending the potential benefits and risks associated with AI in cybersecurity, organizations can navigate this issue more effectively. As technology continues to advance, proactive adaptation to emerging cyber threats will be the key to maintaining robust cybersecurity defenses.