A cybersecurity specialist analyzes AI defenses.

AI and Cybersecurity: How New Tech Is Impacting the Industry

Artificial intelligence is here and is making waves in many industries. Learn how AI and cybersecurity are powerfully working together to keep data safe.

In the 2001 Steven Spielberg film A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Haley Joel Osment plays a robot programmed with the ability to love. Instead of looking like an artificial life form, Osment’s character looks and acts almost exactly like a real boy. A.I. offered a very human view of a technology that was emerging as a real-world presence in business and government operations at the time.

Many depictions of artificial intelligence (AI) in popular media portray this technology as something to be afraid of (The Terminator or HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey). Yet present-day AI is very different, and it is playing an increasingly integral role in modern industry. Read on to discover what artificial intelligence is and how it is used in one crucial field: cyberdefense.

What Is AI?

At its most basic, artificial intelligence refers to the ability of a nonliving entity to receive information and “learn” over time how to handle and respond to new input. AI programs start with a simple framework that is capable of growing and developing, paralleling the way a human being might learn and improve. However, before AI systems work, they need to be programmed with enough data to understand key differences and trends. For example, a company programming AI facial recognition software must first upload thousands of faces to help the system understand the characteristics of a human face.

Artificial intelligence might not be as advanced as it has been portrayed in popular culture, but it already plays a major role in our society. Though current AI is neither sentient nor self-aware, it is able to learn, adapt, and grow with its environment. The term “artificial intelligence” was first used in 1956, but for several decades AI was mostly the stuff of movies, showing the potential benefits and pitfalls of having smarter-than-human technology in the world. A major breakthrough in AI came when IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in a six-game series in 1997, illustrating the amazing potential of such technology.

In the last decade, AI has reached the general public. Personal assistant devices like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa use voice recognition, data algorithms, and machine learning to continually improve their responses, allowing them to search millions of websites and data points to provide the answers they are tasked to find. When Netflix recommends a show you might like based on previous viewings, or when Amazon suggests a certain product based on prior purchases, that is also AI in action.

While AI has many benefits, there are risks associated with the growing prevalence of the technology as well. In fact, the widespread use of AI technology could lead to more cybercrime, according to “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation,” a 2017 report from the Future of Humanity Institute et al. AI can be used to carry out attacks and to automate the search for weaknesses in software and computer networks. Despite these risks, cybersecurity professionals are exploring how AI can be used to counter attacks.

How AI and Cybersecurity Work Together

Artificial intelligence can play an important role in cybersecurity. Cybercriminals are using increasingly varied methods of attacking computer networks, websites, companies, and governments. Cybersecurity professionals use technology to keep data safe, often incorporating AI into the defense of sensitive information. AI and cybersecurity tactics work well together. Improvements to AI’s ability to apply deep learning to security processes means that the technology can rapidly identify and mitigate threats. Deep learning is AI’s ability to learn from unstructured data without the oversight of computer scientists. This is a powerful tool that can be used to combat threats both large and small. From recognizing threats to responding to them, AI has the potential to change how professionals protect computer networks.

Recognize Threats

The first thing AI cybersecurity systems must be able to do is recognize what is and is not a threat. This saves IT professionals time, since they do not personally have to assess and respond to every potential threat as it arises. Instead, their AI-backed defense systems are able to recognize and respond to attacks. It is easy to program AI to respond to known malware and phishing scams, but cutting-edge machine learning technology is giving systems a more nuanced ability to recognize the traits of cyberattacks. In this way, AI is able to identify not only known threats but also new ones.

Categorize Threats

Once AI cyberdefense systems recognize a threat, their next step is to determine how significant that threat is. Machine learning helps AI systems use what they have learned about past threats and apply that knowledge to action against new attacks. AI systems determine what needs the attention of human cybersecurity experts and what is unlikely to produce any real risk to the network. This also helps humans and computer systems alike prioritize threats, giving their attention to the most pressing attacks first.

Take Defensive Action

As reported by Infosec, studies show that, as of 2016, it took an average of 99 days for companies to realize that their security had been compromised — a lengthy window of vulnerability. With improvements to AI in recognizing and acting against threats, that window can be narrowed.

AI’s presence will only expand in the technological landscape. The fact that it can be used for both fighting crime and protecting sensitive data reinforces the need for experts working to identify and mitigate threats while innovating AI as a whole. The demand for information security analysts in general reflects this need. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the field will grow by 32 percent between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the national average of 5 percent for all jobs.

Learn About AI and Cybersecurity with Tulane University

CSO magazine reports that only 30 percent of cybersecurity professionals feel “very knowledgeable” about AI and machine learning, but as the trends in the field continue to follow innovations in AI technology, it will be more and more crucial for tech and cybersecurity experts to have a strong understanding of how to work with such technology. The effects of AI in cybersecurity can be profound, cutting down on programming hours and allowing for more rapid responses to threats to sensitive information. This advanced security can resonate throughout any organization, improving customer confidence as well as general operations.

Explore how Tulane University’s Online Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management can help you merge your understanding of IT with an advanced knowledge of AI and other emerging technologies such as blockchain, bioinformatics, new wireless tech, and cloud security, putting you on the cutting edge of cybersecurity.

Recommended Readings
High-Level Tech Positions: What Is an IT Director Salary?
How to Develop the Most Effective Data Science Workflow
The Top IT Trends Shaping Today’s Business

Sources
CSO, “Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity: The Real Deal”
Department of Homeland Security, “What Is Cybersecurity?”
Future of Humanity Institute et al., “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation”
Gear Patrol, “How Does a Virtual Assistant Work?”
The Guardian, “Growth of AI Could Boost Cybercrime and Security Threats, Report Warns”
Info Security Magazine, “How AI Is the Future of Cybersecurity”
Investor's Business Daily, “AI Companies Race to Get Upper Hand in Cybersecurity — Before Hackers Do”
LiveScience, “A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence”
Technopedia, Artificial Intelligence (AI)
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts

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