Artificial intelligence and cybersecurity: A double-edged sword - Hindustan Times
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Artificial intelligence and cybersecurity: A double-edged sword

ByHindustan Times
Oct 31, 2023 10:56 AM IST

This article is authored by Lt. General Iqbal Singh Singha, director, global and government affairs, TAC Security.

‘Wisdom is the knowledge of good and evil, not the strength to choose between the two’. This quote by the famous novelist, John Cheever, aptly describes the utilisation of Artificial Intelligence in the cybersecurity landscape.

Artificial intelligence tools can now even write for you.(Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash)
Artificial intelligence tools can now even write for you.(Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash)

With digitisation emerging at the forefront, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have progressed significantly over the course of time. As much as AI has improved operational efficiency and productivity, concerns around cyberattacks have also arisen. AI and ML can also pose a risk to the security of organisations, steal data, and be involved in malicious acts. But on the other hand, it can be an effective tool to fight such dangerous attacks as well and improve security systems.

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Artificial Intelligence empowers both defenders and attackers in the digital world, which makes it a double-edged sword that holds immense potential for growth but also poses a significant threat.

The role of AI in improving cybersecurity systems are as follows:-

· Threat detection and response - AI is pivotal in identifying and reducing cyberthreats. The technology employs ML algorithms to analyse datasets from various sources, such as network traffic, logs, user behaviour, etc., learn from them through past experiences and recognise patterns and anomalies, allowing AI-powered cybersecurity systems to detect even subtle deviations from normal behaviour and predict potential threats accurately.

· Real-time analysis - Artificial Intelligence’s key strength is its ability to analyse data in real-time. It can gather, process and analyse data at lightning speed, enabling companies to respond to threats without wasting any time. This is crucial in the fast-paced realm of cybersecurity, where even a split second can make a huge difference- either you can wade off a major breach or suffer a devastating attack.

· Automation - AI can seamlessly automate routine cybersecurity tasks, giving humans free time to focus on the core, complex and strategic aspects of cyber defense. Automated threat detection, incident response and patch management powered by the new-age technology can improve an organisation’s cybersecurity posture and even mitigate the risk of human error.

· AI’s dark side - AI comes with numerous advantages, but at the same time, it comes with associated challenges and risks that should be managed.

Let’s deep-dive into the dark side of AI that cybercriminals bring out to carry out attacks in cyberspace:

· AI-enabled cyberattacks - If Artificial Intelligence can be used to defend cyberthreats, it can also be leveraged by attackers to conduct malicious attacks by exploiting the weakness of the cybersecurity systems. They can also employ AI to automate and enhance their attacks, making them more efficient, advanced and difficult to detect. AI-driven cyberattacks are all the more precise and accurate, leading to dire consequences. For example, cybercriminals can use AI to generate fake or altered images, videos, audio or text, to impersonate or deceive users. They can also use the technology to craft personalised phishing messages or fake websites that can bypass traditional security filters. AI-powered security systems can be easily fooled by adversarial attacks or be used to develop new types of malware as well.

· Data privacy concerns - AI systems usually need access to large amounts of data sets to train effectively. But what goes unnoticed is this raises concerns about data privacy and potential misuse of the same. Hence, organisations should strive to strike a balance between harnessing the power of AI for cybersecurity and protecting the privacy of their customers, employees and other stakeholders.

· Data poisoning - The data can also be manipulated and corrupted which leads to inaccurate or biased outcomes, known as data poisoning. For instance, cybercriminals can inject malicious data into an AI system’s training to compromise its performance. The attackers can also alter the data used by the AI system to make decisions or predictions, which can lead to erroneous results. In fact, there can be situations where AI-driven systems can generate false positives as well, which can cause unnecessary strain on the security teams.

Just like a coin has two sides, similarly, technological advancements have both pros and cons; they can be a boon for us but also become a curse when misused. Similarly, Artificial Intelligence is a powerful tool that is transforming cybersecurity. It can help detect and respond to cyberthreats faster and accurately, and ensure data protection and seamless automation of tasks. But it can also be used by cybercriminals to launch all the more advanced and intense attacks that can corrupt data and raise ethical and legal issues.

Even though the associated risks with AI exist, the bottom line is that it is imperative for a robust cybersecurity ecosystem. In fact, it would be apt to say AI is a double-edged sword for the cybersecurity landscape. The technology can offer immense benefits to enhance security posture and resilience, but it can also be a weapon for creating new threats and risks. Hence, it is essential to adopt a holistic and balanced approach to leverage AI for cybersecurity, while addressing its challenges and limitations.

This article is authored by Lt. General Iqbal Singh Singha, director, global and government affairs, TAC Security.

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