By The Integrity360 Team on September 07, 2018

Artificial intelligence: Empowering cyber security and enabling hackers

Managed Security Services, Cyber Security Technology

Superpowers aren’t only reserved for superheroes; supervillains have them too.

Artificial intelligence is being hailed as the end-all be-all of technological innovation in modern cyber security – and for good reason. But analysts won’t be the only people deploying it in an effort to protect the network. Hackers have it earmarked as the solution to develop more creative ways to infiltrate a digital environment, and manufacture new and complex attacks.

It’s a fight that will pit fire against fire, and businesses need to be ready for it. 

Brief overview of artificial intelligence and cyber security 

Artificial intelligence is a concept that needs little introduction. The field of computer science breathes artificial life into programs and machines, enabling them to accomplish tasks previously only achievable through human interaction.

Through repetitive learning, these systems have gone on to surpass some of the most competent people in the world on their own turf in games like Chess and television shows like Jeopardy. The platforms can effectively think for themselves – at a rate that far exceeds any human being.

Artificial intelligence has rapidly emerged as an effective and accurate technology for a variety of fields, including cyber security. Industry-leading security information and event management (SIEM) platforms like Splunk utilise artificial intelligence to deal with the growing volume, variety, velocity and veracity of machine data that’s generated across the network.

The tools are able to effectively identify false positives, pick up on anomalous behaviour and generate reports with lightning quick efficiency that would otherwise be impossible. They’re already critical to any cyber security strategy for a number of reasons, including compliance.

But like in movies, it’s not just the good guys that have the superpowers. Malicious threat actors have seen the radical improvements cyber security specialists have been able to make using artificial intelligence, and there’s no doubt they’ll use machine learning to get past them. 

How hackers will use artificial intelligence 

Giving a malicious threat actor access to artificially intelligent systems is a dangerous proposition. Many, like the creators of GandCrab, are already excelling without the ability to rapidly learn, modify and scale at lightning speed.

Once artificial intelligence fully evolves, hackers will gain a level of efficiency in their craft that can only be rivalled by state-of-the-art cyber security solutions. A failure to implement these tools will contribute to three distinct developments that will ultimately improve the effectiveness of cyber-attacks, according to a joint report from 14 academic, industrial and governmental institutions titled, “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence,”: 

  • Extend the reach, criticality and severity of existing threats. 
  • Create an environment that strengthens the proliferation of new threats. 
  • Evade detection of threats by disguising them in advanced ways.

In a developed digital world where highly refined artificial intelligence platforms are commonly accessible, authors of the report believe that multiple scenarios could become prevalent among the hacking community: 

  • Social engineers can expand a phishing campaign to all the known languages in the world using artificial intelligence, rather than having to manually transcribe the message.
  • Threat actors could use artificial intelligence to rewrite the code after unsuccessful attacks, learning quickly from where they went wrong and evading those defences in record times. 
  • Hackers will be physically separated from extremely heinous attacks – like taking over a drone to attack a person or event – and therefore will find it easier to commit the crime with no psychological toll attached. 
  • Digital attackers can create an automated command and control (C&C) centre to exploit vulnerable systems that normally couldn’t be taken advantage of due to the absence of a means of communication, like in air-gapped networks. 
  • Criminals will be able to generate lists of potential targets, develop a campaign to undermine individual enterprises’ specific and unique vulnerabilities, tweak the code to beat the tools that may have a chance at stopping it and make it incredibly difficult for anyone to identify who’s behind the attack.

While the future is for the large part uncertain, one thing is for sure: Hackers will be making full use of all the capabilities that artificial intelligence has to offer. 

Preparing for artificial intelligence’s influence in cyber security 

Companies across the world find themselves deploying artificially intelligent cyber security tools at any chance they get. It’s a trend that’s driven by how effective the platforms are against traditional threats, but they’ll become even more valuable as hackers continue to improve.

A recent study by ESG research found that incident detection and incident response were the two key movers in adoption of artificial intelligence to fuel better cyber security. Advanced tools like Splunk Enable the platforms to vastly outperform their competitors, cut through the enormous amounts of noise generated daily on a network and accurately identify threats before it’s too late.

Adopting SIEM is already an essential component to maintaining compliance with well-respected cyber security frameworks. Incorporating a next-generation platform to deal with the hyper-advanced tactics that hackers will deploy in just a couple of years could make or break a data security strategy.

Contact Integrity360 today and visit our cloud security services page to learn more