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How AI is Changing Cybersecurity

artificial intelligence, ai, cyber security

The future is here, but it may not be what we envisioned. The life-changing conveniences from Artificial Intelligence (AI) have arrived with some unexpected challenges. And, there’s confusion of what AI is and what it is not.

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence’s portrayal in entertainment has created confusion about what it really is. It’s a technology that allows machines to “learn” from experience or repeated patterns and adapt their actions based on the learning.

Today, AI is used on manufacturers’ production lines, computer software, geo-trackers, auto and home appliance technology and more. It expands the functionality of programmed devices to perform repetitive tasks or provide insights to improve decision-making. That message you received from word processing software – “Welcome back, pick up where you left off?” is AI.

It’s now present in most modern homes. Instead of rising from our comfy seats to retrieve our Smartphones to fact-check an interesting stat or consult a calendar to confirm an appointment, we simply ask our virtual personal assistant to do it for us. And, our security systems can be “told” to alert us in multiple ways – from texts or voice messaging -- when someone comes to the door.

Other recently emergent technologies, namely Cloud Computing, enables AI to be integrated further into our personal and professional lives. Devices with a specific chip, including Smartphones, tablets and computers are capable of connecting to remote databases and other platforms to utilize software to perform tasks on that platform. While this offers nearly unlimited data storage and computing capability, it also makes our devices and the sensitive information stored on our devices vulnerable.

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Into the Cloud

Another danger of continuous connectivity is technology’s ability to track connected devices to a physical location. This exposure sacrifices individual privacy and adds to our already vulnerable state.

Caution – just because you can connect to multiple platforms doesn’t mean you always should. The businesses that we trust to provide us with goods and services now have even greater access to us, so it’s best to be careful of the vendors we allow access to our personal information.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more prevalent with appliances and tools that are connected to their manufacturers or service providers, we no longer have to track warranty requirements, maintenance recommendations or the operability of our machines.

While this eliminates certain repetitive tasks, it leaves us exposed to fraudsters who want access to our machines for the credit cards that we use to pay for our conveniences. When we place our sensitive files and financial information within the reach of criminals, this scenario turns AI’s magic into a potential nightmare.

Fortunately, AI not only points to the need for cybersecurity, it also has the capability to improve cybersecurity to protect us from the dangers that it brings into our lives.

Related Article: How your Data Might be Under Attack

How is AI Used in Cybersecurity?

Unlike human technicians, AI never gets tired or requires a day off. It can be programmed to monitor entry points into devices and databases to keep dangers out. The moment a breach of security takes place, the system can deploy a front-line defense based on pre-determined algorithms to neutralize the threat, and/or alert security technicians to take further actions when needed. 

AI cybersecurity measures can be programmed to efficiently detect and tag malware and identify code that’s “clean” of malware. The system operates continuously to keep malware out, all without human involvement. If properly developed and integrated, AI perfectly executes cybersecurity services and alerts each time.

But to stay safe against sneaky black-hatters who are constantly looking for new ways to penetrate firewalls, a thinking approach that includes constant vigilance and updates to the knowledge-base is needed. After all, if a hacker understands the code within a security system that tags malware, all he or she has to do is switch the code to identify malware as clean.

Another line of defense is Biometric security systems. It utilizes unique physical characteristics, such as retina scans or voice metrics as a log-in to access sensitive personal or business information. According to a 2018 CNN article, by 2020 up to 90 percent of companies will be using biometric log-ins to protect sensitive information. But, with evolving cyber threats, it may not be enough.

Cyber criminals are constantly working to turn the benefits of AI in their favor. To remain protected we must be vigilant. A layered approach to cybersecurity can help keep them out, utilizing several security methods at different points of vulnerability. This requires continued education of technology and cybersecurity professionals who want to protect organizations and individuals from those who seek access to sensitive information.

If you want to shape the future of AI or cybersecurity, explore a degree program at Northcentral University’s School of Technology. The world needs educated professionals to move us forward and keep us protected from the threat of cyber criminals.