As artificial intelligence technologies become more complex and better integrated into new services and products, leaders around the world are worried about cybersecurity vulnerabilities. While AI is a powerful tool for security, security experts also predict that malicious actors will use artificial intelligence to trigger a global cyber incident in the near future.
Today, unauthorized users can easily access AI-powered systems to create sophisticated cyber threats. For example, AI chatbots have become a new gateway for cyber attackers, and Emotet Trojan malware is touted as a prototype AI-based cyber threat aimed at the financial services industry.
A recent global study of early adopters found that more than 40 percent of executives have “extreme” or “major” concerns about AI-related threats, with cybersecurity vulnerabilities at the top of this list. Executives fear that hackers will exploit AI to steal proprietary or sensitive data, to manipulate data, and to automate cyber attacks or conduct corporate espionage activities. These findings indicate that key stakeholders are not oblivious to the possibilities of malicious actors and hackers using AI systems.
Both attackers and defenders are getting smarter
The idea behind AI security – leveraging data to become more accurate and smarter – is what makes this trend so risky. AI-based attacks can be so sophisticated that they can be difficult to predict and avoid. Cyber ââresearchers do their best to stay ahead of the game, but it’s critical to understand that attacks become more difficult to control once threats outgrow the tools and expertise of protectors. This is why it is imperative to react immediately to the growing possibility of cyber attacks before it is too late to catch up.
While there’s no denying that AI brings increased reliability and speed to your business, that’s precisely what drives malicious actors. For example, cybercriminals benefit a lot from this speed, especially in terms of increased network coverage. Additionally, cyber attacks can take advantage of swarm attacks to gain faster access to the system.
As bad actors become more advanced, preparing for cyberattacks by leveraging machine learning (ML) is critical. Even though it’s widely regarded as a type of AI, machine learning is actually the type of algorithm that powers artificial intelligence. ML algorithms are specifically designed to enable machines to learn from information without requiring human intervention. many cybersecurity applications – as well as the uses in cyber attacks.
How cybercriminals exploit AI
Threats and malicious actors turn artificial intelligence into a weapon by using it to plan the attack and then carry out the attack. Moreover, as the World Economic Forum reveals, AI can easily pretend to be trusted actors, helping them to achieve these nefarious goals. They just need to take the time to study a legitimate user and then take advantage of the bots to mimic their language and actions.
Since AI can become a powerful part of their arsenal, expect hackers and cybercriminals to become more innovative and sophisticated in their attacks. They can even employ “deep scythes“- exploitation of AI to manipulate and reproduce the image and voice of a user.
By leveraging AI, attackers can act quickly and spot infiltration opportunities, such as faulty firewalls or networks without layered security. Plus, their AI-powered systems help them explore vulnerabilities that a human might not be able to detect. For example, a bot can leverage data from previous attacks to identify very small changes in your security infrastructure.
While many companies leverage AI to predict their customers’ needs, threat actors use similar concepts to increase the chances of a successful cyber attack. For businesses, customer data can enter a marketing plan, while cybercriminals use it to design an attack that not only puts users at risk, but can also endanger entire organizations.
For example, if someone receives emails from their children’s school to their work address, a bot can quickly launch a phishing attack that mimics the same school email. Additionally, AI can also make it difficult for defenders to identify the specific attack or bot. Malicious actors use it to design new mutations of cyber attacks depending on the type of protection they are targeting.
The challenge of AI cyber attacks
The problem with protecting your systems from AI-powered cyber incidents is the pace of adaptation you must face. The development of defensive technologies is often slower than the speed of attacks. This means that hackers are likely to have the upper hand if you don’t already have systems and processes in place to thwart their attacks before they even reach your network. If they gain access, it can be difficult for protectors to regain access and control.
These cyber attacks are becoming more and more powerful and can be launched on a larger scale by adding new attack vectors. Particularly during the pandemic, when more people than ever are working from home and using personal devices for business tasks, the risks associated with mobile devices are more and more numerous.
According to the Verizon Mobile Security Index report, 79 percent of mobile devices in companies are in the hands of employees. Additionally, cybersecurity companies Verizon and Lookout report a 37% increase in corporate mobile phishing attacks globally in 2020.
From a business perspective, it’s imperative to start with a deep understanding of how unauthorized actors exploit AI for attacks and the types of incidents and common entrances they exploit. Only then can you work to prevent them.
Protection against AI-enabled attacks
Planning your defense is essential to protect the data of your employees and customers. To start, use PCI Compliant Hosting to collect, store and process credit card information. This is a must have for any business that collects payment information from customers.
Here are other ways to defend your business against internal AI-based cyberattacks:
Train in safe practices
Some of the biggest recent hacks to date have been caused by human error. So make sure your employees don’t make preventable mistakes like using personal USB drives on company computers, falling victim to phishing scams, and clicking links without knowing where it will take them. As long as you have the proper protocols in place, it is possible to minimize the risk.
Know your code
To learn how to analyze all software code for malware, bugs, and behavioral anomalies. Since new attacks likely use unknown tools and techniques, it’s more important than ever to understand the bugs in your code. Testing is essential, both of the systems and products you build and of the integrations between those you buy.
Monitor your logs
Continue to track and identify threats and assess behavioral anomalies to predict security events before they happen. AI-based tools can be used to do this, so you can harness artificial intelligence to fight against artificial intelligence. But make sure you also have a human audit of the logs to make sure nothing goes.
As ML-based technologies continue to evolve, hackers are acquiring highly innovative tools to undermine the digital security of businesses. But as the use of artificial intelligence in cyber attacks becomes more prevalent, your business can also deploy it as a tool to improve security. As a security expert, you need to prepare for an AI-based system that can assess all potential threat vectors and effectively mitigate AI-based cyber threats.
Shanice Jones is a Chicago-based techie and copywriter. Over the past five years, she has helped over 20 startups develop B2C and B2B content strategies that have empowered them to grow their business and help users around the world.