We are currently in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also called Industry 4.0, which is fundamentally transforming the business landscape by relying on heavily interconnected systems. While this is driving innovation and efficiency, it has also increased the attack surface for threat actors and introduced additional complexities in cybersecurity. Attack volumes are increasing at an unprecedented rate and are carried out at a pace which overwhelms traditional cybersecurity defenses. According to the World Economic Forum, we are also faced with a global shortage of 4 million cybersecurity professionals. This is another reason why organizations are struggling to protect their infrastructure. 

In this situation, using artificial intelligence (AI) to process large volumes of data at high speeds is proving to be a game changer. Organizations are increasingly turning to AI to automate their cybersecurity processes.  

AI and the advantages delivered 

In addition to speed, automating analysis with AI brings many other benefits. Three key benefits are mentioned below. 

  1. Enhanced threat detection and response
    AI-driven analysis, behavior analysis in particular, can be used to identify anomalies which may help in proactively detecting and responding to threats. This enables organizations to stay ahead of attackers, thereby reducing the risk of being breached. 
  2. Improved scalability
    AI automation can process large volumes of different datasets, allowing organizations to effectively manage growing complexities and volumes of threats. 
  3. Continuous learning
    By continuously learning from new data and refining its algorithms, AI can become more accurate and efficient in detecting threats. This adaptability is crucial to keep pace with evolving attack techniques and tactics used by cybercriminals. 

However, along with the advantages of AI automation, we must also be aware that this can also introduce challenges. Here are some of the most notable ones:  

  1. False positives and false negatives
    An AI system can be prone to false positives (flagging benign activities as threats) and false negatives (failing to detect threats) due to a number of factors. These can be the training data used, lack of contextual information, overfitting/underfitting and use of unsuitable algorithms. As a result, these may lead to unnecessary alerts or missed detections, impacting the effectiveness of the cybersecurity measures put in place. 
  2. Adversarial attacks against AI systems
    AI systems can be vulnerable to adversarial attacks targeting the AI logic, where attackers provide specially crafted inputs in a way that deceive the system into making incorrect detections. This not only reduces the effectiveness of cybersecurity measures but can also introduce new threats to the ecosystem. 
  3. Lack of explainability 
    AI algorithms do the heavy lifting of processing large volumes of data in a short time to provide the final outcomes. However, the reasoning used to reach the conclusion is not provided. This makes it difficult to verify the accuracy and effectiveness of the outcomes. 

Adopting a sustainable methodology 

So, is AI automation the solution for all cybersecurity troubles or a Pandora’s box of false positives that will end up exacerbating the very problems it is supposed to solve? Will we end up trading one devil for another? 

The answer lies in the adoption methodology 

AI is not a miracle cure for all problems and needs to be thoughtfully implemented. Blind adoption can do more harm than good. Therefore, a balanced approach combining AI, human supervision and policies to address the challenges introduced by AI will be crucial for effective usage of AI automation. 

Some of the things to be considered while implementing an AI-powered automation would be as below. 

  1. Human supervision
    AI should be used in collaboration with human expertise, and not as a replacement. Incorporating human supervision and decision-making to validate the outcomes from an AI system can help in catching errors in the AI models or in identifying anomalies that the model missed, thereby reducing false positives and the risk of false negatives. 
  2. Robust architecture
    Like any IT setup, an AI system also needs to be designed with robustness in mind. Use architectures that leverage models that are trained using adversarial examples so that they can identify and resist such attacks. 
  3. Input preprocessing
    Input preprocessing is a common and effective cybersecurity practice. In this case, however, the importance of input preprocessing is significantly high. AI models deal with data that may contain a variety of attack payloads. Improper handling of such data can lead to unintended consequences, including potentially rendering the model ineffective. 
  4. Continuous learning and model updates
    Regularly updating AI models and algorithms with feedback and new data can enhance accuracy and adaptability. In turn, this reduces false positives by ensuring that the AI systems keep up with evolving attack techniques. 
  5. Explainable AI (XAI)
    XAI seeks to provide the reasoning behind the outcomes provided by an AI system in a way that can be understood by humans and provide meaningful contextual data which may be relevant to the decision-making process. This allows for a more effective collaboration between man and machine.  

In addition to the above, organizations must also consider ethical concerns related to privacy, bias and accountability to avoid unintended consequences. Consider this example: A bias in training data, such as disproportionately large volumes of attacks from a certain geography, is likely to make the model flag off activity from that geography even if it is benign, leading to higher false positives. 

Organizations must ensure AI systems are used responsibly and ethically, safeguarding privacy rights and mitigating bias in decision-making processes. 

AI: Unlocking the future of data analytics and cybersecurity 

AI-powered automation holds immense potential for bolstering cybersecurity by automating analysis and response. However, to fully realize this potential, organizations must address the challenges posed, while navigating the ethical considerations inherent in AI. By adopting a balanced approach that integrates AI with human expertise, collaboration, and ethical principles, organizations can effectively contend with the escalating volume and speed of cyber threats while upholding the values of privacy, fairness, and accountability.