As the technology landscape continues to develop and progress, innovations like artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming the way the industry operates and impacting the full range of tech fields within it. Cybersecurity is one of the fields experiencing this revolution, with AI now enabling newer and faster methods for detecting and preventing digital threats. For example, organizations can automate and streamline processes to identify and contain cyber-attacks more quickly using AI-powered incident response tools.
While only an estimated 28% of companies have adopted AI extensively for cybersecurity operations, according to IBM's Cost of a Data Breach 2023 global survey, more companies are seeking to invest in the technology due to factors like potential cost and time savings.
AI may seem like it will replace humans in information security and IT, but in reality, the trend is shifting more toward professionals working with AI models, similar to how assistance tools like spell check or code completion aids like IntelliSense have been used in the past. Despite the integration of AI, the need for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow in all sectors.
Read on for reasons why trained cybersecurity professionals remain indispensable and explore some of the uses of AI in this field, its benefits, and challenges.
Rising Cybersecurity Threats
Cyberattacks are on the rise, putting personal data, financial information, and even national security at risk. The number of cyberattacks worldwide increased by 38 percent in 2022, according to a report by Check Point Research. In 2023, this trend is expected to continue and potentially lead to $10.5 trillion in projected costs by 2025, according to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures.
With an ongoing global cybersecurity skills shortage and the increasing complexities of digital threats, AI plays an increasingly vital role in both offensive and defensive cybersecurity strategies.
Types of AI Cybersecurity Threats
In the world of cybersecurity, AI has become a double-edged sword, being used by both malicious cybercriminals and vigilant professionals alike. The following are some examples of types of AI cyberthreats:
AI-powered phishing attacks: Using AI large language models, such as GPT-4, cybercriminals create tailored phishing emails that are more likely to fool targets. By utilizing AI, cyber criminals can generate emails in a style and consistency matching official communications from credible banks, credit card companies, or any number of other institutions in order to trick even cyber-savvy users into sharing their sensitive information.
AI-powered malware: The use of AI by cybercriminals is making malware more difficult to detect and remove. Sophisticated malware can intelligently adjust its own code to avoid signature-based detection and even make real-time adjustments to its own functionality.
AI-powered deepfakes: A deepfake is a video or audio recording manipulated to give the impression that someone is saying or doing something that they have never actually said or done. Many tools and systems used by cyber criminals to create deepfakes are not intended for that purpose. Today it is possible to generate audio in someone’s natural voice using only a few seconds of their speech. It is possible to spread incorrect information, damage reputations, or commit fraud with AI deepfakes.
For organizations and cybersecurity professionals, AI offers a range of indispensable capabilities and ever-evolving threats.
Uses of AI to Combat Online Threats
According to the same survey referenced above, data breaches were detected and contained, on average, 108 days faster within organizations that incorporated AI capabilities extensively into their security posture. The costs of data breaches were lower by $1.76 million USD compared to organizations without AI and other automation capabilities. It was also found that 51% of organizations plan to increase their security investments in incident response, employee training, and threat detection and response technologies.
Additionally, around 71% of IT and cybersecurity professionals surveyed earlier this year, reported that their organizations were affected by the cybersecurity skills shortage, according to Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) and Information Systems Security Association.
In order to respond to digital attacks more effectively and reduce some of the ongoing impacts of the cybersecurity skills shortage, some organizations are utilizing AI tools to perform:
Threat detection: By analyzing network traffic, log files, and security events, AI is able to detect suspicious patterns and anomalies that could indicate a cyberattack.
Incident response: AI can automate many of the processes involved in responding to an attack, such as notifying the security team, identifying the affected systems, containing damage, and eradicating threats.
Risk assessment: AI helps to provide insight into how vulnerable an organization's systems and assets are to cyber threats. By leveraging this data, security investments can be prioritized, and risk mitigation strategies can be developed with a clear understanding of the risks associated with them.
Compliance: AI is used to help organizations comply with complex cybersecurity regulations. For example, AI can be used to identify and monitor sensitive data, and to detect and report on data breaches.
Through AI and automating some offensive and defensive tasks, cybersecurity professionals can focus on more strategic and complex tasks. AI may also improve the decision-making abilities of cyber professionals by streamlining the collection and sorting of digital information, as well as analyzing patterns in the data.
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Why AI Can't Fully Replace Cybersecurity Professionals
Although AI offers a number of benefits, such as automation and predictive analysis, it is equally important to acknowledge its significant limitations. A key factor in maximizing the potential of AI for an organization is possessing cybersecurity professionals to work alongside it and question information and outcomes. Here are just some of the many ways in which cybersecurity professionals address the limitations of AI and continue to add value to organizations.
Critical Thinking and Innovation: Patterns and historical data form the basis of AI. Cybersecurity professionals, on the other hand, possess innovative problem-solving skills to handle new and unfamiliar challenges. While AI excels at detecting known threats, human expertise remains essential for addressing unforeseen threats.
Bias and False Positives: Although AI systems are capable, biases can cause false alarms and missed threats, putting organizations at risk. Security professionals are critical in deciphering and analyzing the broader context to identify and reduce inaccuracies to enhance security posture by leveraging their judgment and experience.
Vulnerability to Exploitation: AI systems themselves can become targets for exploitation by cybercriminals. If attackers compromise AI-driven security measures, the consequences can be disastrous. Cybersecurity professionals are essential in securing and maintaining these systems.
Comprehensive Security Strategy: Beyond identifying risks, cybersecurity professionals help organizations develop comprehensive security plans and strategies. The strategies include not only technological solutions, but also policies, procedures, and training for employees.
Due to these limitations, cybersecurity professionals are highly in demand. More than 600,000 cybersecurity positions are available across the nation, reported Cyberseek.org. Roles like information security analyst are projected to grow 33% from 2020-2030, according to U.S. the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
By learning cybersecurity, you can make a meaningful impact and benefit from the growing demand for professionals. Consider enrolling in a Fullstack Academy Cybersecurity Analytics Bootcamp to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of this dynamic and ever-evolving field. Learn live online, part-time, or full-time from field-knowledgeable professionals and an immersive, hands-on curriculum that prepares you for industry-recognized certification exams.