While the answer is a resounding yes, skilled cybersecurity professionals will never be replaced
Forget what you’ve seen in the movies: machines aren’t about to replace the need for human intelligence – especially in the field of cybersecurity. When it comes to winning the war against hackers, the future isn’t man or machine – but a finely-tuned combination of both that plays to the individual strengths of artificial intelligence and human analysts.
Make no mistake: artificial intelligence (AI) adds a previously unavailable smart, adaptive layer of defense against hackers that’s faster than any human or computer. It can do much of the heavy lifting of first-response cybersecurity – wading through mountains of data in seconds that would overwhelm an army of human analysts – using tools like pattern recognition and data aggregation to provide a reasonable number of actionable insights.
This innovation is critical for short-staffed IT departments, who struggle to keep up with the demand of ever-evolving cybercrime. An alarming shortage of cybersecurity professionals forces the average IT employee to work an average of 52 hours a week – leaving little time to catch and respond to every threat effectively.
But the clever criminals that lurk behind cyber-attacks make it nearly impossible for AI to win the cat-and-mouse game of cybercrime alone. Human hackers are experts at analyzing new cybersecurity defenses and developing new, out-of-the-box ways to get around them. And they are also using AI in their own attacks.
For sure, smart machines are excellent at certain things: automating simple tasks, analyzing reams of information in an instant to identify patterns, and quickly solving complex equations. But they lack the creativity, intuition, and determination that colors the decisions of experienced cybersecurity professionals … for now.
The AI revolution is not about replacing humans with machines. Rather, the best cybersecurity strategies create an effective partnership that decreases human error while improving human governance. At their best, AI solutions enable skilled cybersecurity professionals to quickly analyze the context and information they deliver, spot suspicious behavior they have never seen before, and make informed decisions about how to act.
What is artificial intelligence?
Put simply, AI is a field of computing where a machine is designed to complete tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as decision-making and visual perception. It makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs, and perform human-like tasks. The three biggest buzzwords are:
- Machine learning. Machines learn by processing massive amounts of data, giving them the ability to make predictions and identify anomalies.
- Rules-based systems. Machines process data based on a set of predetermined rules.
- Knowledge representations. Information about the world is represented in a form that a computer system can use to solve complex tasks, such as diagnosing a medical condition or carrying on a “dialogue” in a natural language.
Why does it benefit cybersecurity?
The ever-changing scope of cyber-threats demands a solution that can adapt and react faster than humans and any existing application. Adding AI to your cybersecurity solution can be a turning point in the fight against cybercrime – enabling understaffed IT departments to use their time more effectively and boost their performance.
More than 4,000 ransomware attacks alone have bombarded businesses daily since 2016 – and a hacker attack occurs every 39 seconds, impacting one in three Americans annually.
AI instantly triggers red flags that human IT workers don’t have the time or resources to manually search for – categorizing attacks by threat level so companies can immediately understand their priorities. Its ability to learn over time even enables it to use data from prior attacks to spot new but similar risks.
Traditional cyber security measures struggle to detect new generations of malware and other ever-changing methods employed by clever hackers.
AI can even remediate most of the simple threats and attacks that bombard companies on its own – freeing up enormous amounts of time for IT professionals to concentrate on more complex and dangerous threats.
So what’s the catch?
“Machine poisoning” can thwart the best AI defense. It’s where clever criminals figure out how an algorithm is set up and bombard it with misleading data to change its perspective about whether traffic is legitimate or malicious. For instance, hackers might run campaigns on thousands of accounts in order to convince an algorithm to mark malicious messages as “not spam.”
Hackers are also beginning to steal AI innovations to enhance the sophistication of their own attacks. The first AI attack was reported late last year in India, where a simple form of machine learning was used to help malicious software blend into a company’s network by observing and learning patterns of normal user behavior. Hacking tools have also popped up that use machine vision to defeat Captchas; that field or question at the end of a form the that, until AI, required a person to click the box or picture or answer a question.
Checkmate: the future is here
Companies have never faced cyber-attacks at a greater volume or level of sophistication than they do today. Add the short-staffed IT workforce into the mix and it becomes alarmingly clear that most businesses are unprepared to combat cybercrime.
The emergence of AI solutions offers companies a distinct advantage in the war against cybercrime. At its current stage of development, the biggest cybersecurity benefit that AI provides is understanding what is “normal” for a system – and then flagging anything unusual for human review. It’s a sentry, not a cure-all, that can gather and analyze large quantities of complex data better and faster than the most skilled human.
But having those results quickly interpreted by a skilled cybersecurity professional is essential to thwarting cyber-attacks. Machines can’t direct investigations and properly perform forensics to find the underlying root cause and scale of an attack. They also struggle to identify new types of attacks that computer algorithms haven’t seen before – especially if they were carefully designed not to be recognized.
Consider this story that rocked the chess world some years ago: a team of two amateur chess players operating three standard desktop PCs defeated the most gifted chess grandmasters – as well as a supercomputer – in a freestyle competition. Individually, the amateur players and simple computers were no match for the advanced skills of their adversaries. But the combination of human and machine thinking proved superior to either in isolation.
The future of cybersecurity is about innovating for man and machine to work as partners, relying on each other to win each battle in the fight against cybercrime.
CyberGuard360’s clients across four states and 40 industries are guided safely through the threat landscape. Our wide array of services includes system security suites, risk assessment, education, and training and disaster recovery, and we specialize in helping New York companies comply with 23 NYCRR 500. If you’d like us to put our expertise to work for you, we’d be happy to help. Call us at 844-315-9882 or use our contact form for a free consultation.