In the increasingly digital world we live in today, cyber security has become a priority. Without even realising it, an unprecedented amount of our personal data from various aspects of our life make their way into the digital space. This could be a governmental (Aadhar card enrollment), corporate (intellectual property and sensitive business information) or medical (filling out registration data at a hospital and entry of personal medical data) process, just to name a few. A lot of this data stored is sensitive in nature- exposure of which can make one vulnerable to negative consequences. What effective cyber security does is safeguard the information along with protect the systems which process and store what has been inputted.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and a subsequent increased dependency on digital technologies worldwide, statistics prove that cyber crime rates have risen by a startling 600%. It is apparent that the need of the hour is to invest in reliable cyber security measures to safeguard personal, governmental and corporate data. We need to leverage on existing technologies and develop newer ones targeting improved cyber security—and Artificial Intelligence is one of them.

Cyber Security Threats Across Domains

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most wide scale cyber security threats from 2020 alone. One of the biggest global cybersecurity threats in the highlight this year is those directed towards skewing the results of the 2020 Presidential Election in the US. There are security concerns from domestic and international sources right from the voting database and the list of people registering to vote. It extends to those websites that reveal data on the voting results in real-time and the role that traditional as well as social media has to play. These threats are not new—election manipulation and misinformation using Facebook as a tool was a big topic of discussion back in 2018 when the tech giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in Congress.

While tampering with an election to decide who governs the USA may seem like a motive great enough, this doesn’t restrict the perpetrators of these cyber crimes from targeting small or medium-sized businesses or unsuspecting households. This could include the usual suspects like phishing, ransomware or spam.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit its peak, schools started functioning online with students and teachers logging into seemingly safe locked Zoom classrooms. This was often disturbed with people yelling profanities or flashing the impressionable school-going youth in a phenomenon that came to be named ‘Zoom-bombing’. These series of events forced Zoom to reexamine and upgrade their security measures after consulting with cyber security experts. One of Zoom’s approaches included tapping into AI and Machine Learning technologies to block explicit content on the platform.

Role of AI in Enhancing Cyber Security

Here are a few of the applications of AI in improving cyber security:

  1. Assessing vulnerabilities of existing IT infrastructure and taking appropriate action
  2. Biomimetic authentication processes for login over traditional user id and passwords
  3. Creating a pattern of attacker behaviours to reduce phishing, identifying malware and recognising other threats

But, as is the case for every technology, it comes with its fair share of limitations and proves to be both a blessing and a curse. These technologies are available at the disposal of those looking to protect themselves from cyber crimes, but are also equally accessible to those cyber criminals perpetrating these cyber security risks.

  • AI used to Protect against Threat

With the Zoom example mentioned above, it is apparent that AI finds its use case to protect against cyber security threats. Data remains at the core of every sector and Artificial Intelligence is a tool allowing customers and businesses to remain safe against cyber crime. AI technologies allow experts to feed data regarding cyber crime, analyse and trends to predict and prevent the onslaught of future attacks. In a previous model of human-run security monitoring, there were a multitude of vulnerabilities that opportunistic hackers could exploit. However, this is not the case for AI-run monitoring which protects every second of every day, all year long.

  • AI used by Threat Perpetrators

Adversarial Artificial Intelligence, a term coined by Accenture, is one of the biggest downfalls of using AI in cyber security. They describe adversarial AI as something that ‘causes machine learning models to misinterpret inputs into the system and behave in a way that’s favorable to the attacker.’ Another instance of AI technology which can be manipulated to a perpetrator’s benefit is Deepfakes.

However dire it may all seem, it is apparent that Artificial Intelligence is a technology that greatly enhances cyber security and the advantages continue to outweigh the disadvantages. So, it’s clear then: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are prime tools in enhancing cyber security.