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How can AI impact cybersecurity?

NetworkTigers asks how can AI impact cybersecurity.

As artificial intelligence grows in size, scope, and ability, the field where it’s predicted to have one of its biggest impacts is still cybersecurity. The capacity for AI to revolutionize the cybersecurity landscape is almost limitless. In the Internet of Things, both in the literal and metaphorical sense, artificial intelligence is the next great frontier. 

Artificial intelligence business sector growth

The IT analyst firm Info-Tech Research Group reports that 44% of private sector companies plan to invest in AI systems in 2023. Some of the most pressing factors encouraging companies to get behind AI investment include: 

  • Evolutions in business strategy: What happened to businesses that didn’t embrace the internet back in its early days? Businesses don’t want to get left behind on the next big tech development. 
  • Cloud migration and modernization: Cloud storage and other data protection measures are better equipped for integration with AI than older legacy systems. As existing cybersecurity measures are modernized, they offer companies expanded capabilities to dip their toes into using AI for many more areas of threat detection and data privacy.
  • Budget constraints and cost-cutting: Investing in AI may be pricey up front, but the payoff in eventual savings can be enormous. For instance, conversational AI could save a whopping $80 billion in agent labor costs by 2026, according to research and consulting firm Gartner.
  • Inflation: As inflation rates have surged, AI suggests the capacity to lower overall employee costs such as wages and health spending by automating certain worker roles. 
  • Customer service potential: While some developments in AI, such as robocalls and automated customer service, have been infuriating, others may have the capacity to create heightened levels of customer satisfaction by suggesting similar products or offering ease in daily life. Some examples of AI already at work in these areas include Netflix’s suggested titles algorithm or the popular Google Alexa feature. When it comes to e-commerce and AI, one Gartner prediction expects customer satisfaction with machine-learning elements to grow by at least 25% in 2023. 

AI cybersecurity predictions for 2023 and beyond 

AI has the capacity to be helpful or harmful, depending on how it is implemented. Many, although not all, AI developments in cybersecurity have been defensive due to constantly evolving threats in the data privacy landscape. For instance, a July 2022 report from Acumen Research and Consulting put the global market for AI technologies at $14.9 billion in 2021. While already enormous, this reach is only expected to grow up to an estimated $133.8 billion by 2030. Some of the biggest drivers of innovation have been increased internet usage in the post-COVID landscape, continued risk of hacking threats, as well as the rise of remote work. 

But while customers may benefit from advances in AI, some cybersecurity experts have darker predictions for AI and cybersecurity. AI may be used by hackers to vastly expand their capacity to infiltrate business systems. For instance, AI password-guessing programs have seen shocking growth over the past few years. AI password-guessing programs such as PassGAN, John the Ripper, and hashCat have already been able to crack over 90% of passwords used on certain websites when used in conjunction with each other, according to the University of Texas. Likewise, a new AI program from the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey was able to crack more than a quarter of passwords from a set of 43 million random real LinkedIn profiles. Even more alarmingly, it took just minutes to do so. 

Where will AI take the field of cybersecurity? Experts suggest a variety of possible outcomes: 

  • Slow but steady expansion: Many businesses already implement AI in certain limited facets within their larger cybersecurity plan. For instance, email filtering and malware identification tools are often powered by AI. The shift to more cloud-based solutions may incentivize further adoption of AI cybersecurity tools for businesses. 
  • AI as a white hat sidekick: Many advances in AI are currently being built in order to anticipate and outpace the possible developments in machine learning that hackers may try to create. As such, it may be that AI becomes the ultimate “white hat” tool, a way to test out the power of certain passwords and security systems against hackers’ devices before they are tested for real. 
  • Automation and job loss: While AI is still a long way away from taking over every IT role in your business, many jobs may be replaceable by emerging AI technology. Just as the rise of automated voice systems has decimated customer service, so too might many hands-on IT jobs be swapped out for their more efficient machine counterparts. 
  • Rise of deep fakes: One possible cybersecurity as well as a national security threat is the risk of deep fakes, or extremely believable hoaxes powered by AI. BEC attacks may become especially powerful when deep fakes are involved. Additionally, cybercriminals may be able to wreak havoc with market forces by releasing deep fakes that involve public figures such as CEOs or celebrities.
  • Supply chain disasters: Supply chain attacks such as SolarWinds have already proven their potency even before a widespread rise of AI in hacking. A software supply chain breach using AI could prove even more worrisome, poisoning companies’ ability to respond to threats from within. 
  • Increased cyber threats: Studies show that AI-generated phishing emails have higher open rates than their human-made counterparts. AI hacking can also evolve much faster, researchers warn and may lead to companies needing to innovate endlessly in order to stay one step ahead of constantly shifting threats. 

Is AI a useful innovation or the first step on the road to ruin? Like all human developments, the answer probably lies somewhere in the grey area. When it comes to cybersecurity, AI may do more harm than good before it allows businesses to expand their capabilities to fight back against the threats it poses. On the other hand, with AI, the power for threat detection is as limitless as the threats themselves.

Gabrielle West
Gabrielle West
Gabrielle West is an experienced tech and travel writer currently based in New York City. Her work has appeared on Ladders, Ultrahuman, and more.

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How can AI impact cybersecurity?