It is undeniable that cybersecurity is a frequently discussed topic in today’s world. Whether it be on a personal level with passwords and personal data to a national level with the security of large corporations and businesses, cybersecurity can be seen everywhere. But how do we protect ourselves online? Increasingly, artificial intelligence is playing a large role in cybersecurity and protecting data.
But first, what really is artificial intelligence? The dictionary definition of artificial intelligence is defined as the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior. The key aspect of artificial intelligence that distinguishes it from other systems is its ability to get smarter with the more data it analyzes. Some common examples of this range from personal assistants such as Siri and Alexa to smart cars such as Tesla. Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, helps perform everyday tasks such as making phone calls and checking the weather through machine learning technology. This is a form of artificial intelligence that allows the system to learn and improve from experience through the more data it gathers. Tesla’s self-driving cars have a similar ability to act on a case-by-case basis and take in information from their surroundings and act accordingly. In the past, machines had to be hardcoded for each scenario, but machine learning and artificial intelligence allow systems to perform functions that are not necessarily explicitly coded. In this manner, artificial intelligence is more adaptive than previous technologies and not strictly rule-based.
Artificial intelligence can be employed for more than just personal use. Increasingly, businesses and companies have begun to integrate artificial intelligence into their cybersecurity systems. AI can supplement cybersecurity teams through threat detection, asset management, and much more.
One of the most common uses of artificial intelligence in cybersecurity is automatic threat detection. As our data has increasingly been stored online, businesses and companies will naturally have firewalls or network security defenses that protect against hackers and ensure that their data is secure. However, if hackers are able to get past these defenses, it’s essential to catch them before they do too much harm. This is where AI can come in; having a human monitor these systems 24/7 is impractical, time-consuming, and can lead to human error. In contrast, AI systems can work around the clock and detect threats within seconds.
Let’s take a look at some applications of artificial intelligence in real life. Google uses machine learning to block millions of spam emails every day for its well-known email service, Gmail. They are able to employ AI systems to detect spam emails, many of which contain phishing or other malicious security threats. Using artificial intelligence, Google is able to protect its users from potential cyber-attacks.
Another well-known example of artificial intelligence in security is AVATAR, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s deception-detection technology. AVATAR stands for the Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time and is used to aid in screening processes. It screens body language and facial expressions of people and is designed to detect any movements that raise suspicion. The system will take data from an interaction and compare it to a database of previous information it has “learned”, and match the interaction to previous data which indicates if someone may be lying. This system assists with security screening done by immigration and customs officers, and although these officers are well trained to detect people who could be lying about their intentions, this system is an added step that prevents human error and ensures greater effectiveness.
There are, of course, many more examples of how artificial intelligence is used for security purposes. As can be seen from the examples above, using AI to supplement cybersecurity systems and human security teams can be extremely beneficial as we move more data online and make advancements in technology. However, this is not to say that there are no negative consequences of using these technologies. Some of the main challenges of implementing AI are that it is costly, time-consuming, and requires a lot of resources. AI-based cybersecurity depends on training data in order to learn how to detect malicious activity and protect data in all scenarios. This training process can take a long time and requires a wide variety of data, which is not always available, especially to those with fewer resources to spend on security systems. Furthermore, developing AI to protect our information also, unfortunately, gives hackers the ability to potentially exploit these AI systems and use them to steal information. It’s undeniable that artificial intelligence is a powerful tool, however, when in the wrong hands, it can be extremely dangerous.
Nevertheless, it is widely argued that the role of artificial intelligence in cybersecurity today is largely beneficial. The flexibility of this new technology combined with its ability to “learn” as it operates and become stronger and more efficient with each success and failure allows for great possibilities. Artificial intelligence-based cybersecurity will only continue to grow and develop in the future, and its potential is endless.