NewsDecember 18, 2017 @ 11:31 AM

Study: AI Assists Security Pros but Brings New Challenges

While the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has stoked fears of job loss in many industries, cybersecurity professionals have something new to worry about. A recent research study showed more than 91 percent of security experts are worried they’ll soon face AI cyberattacks.

Security firm Webroot conducted the survey, which gathered input from 400-plus experts in IT security across the U.S. and Japan who work in companies with more than 100 people. Of those, 87 percent said their firms already use AI to safeguard data, which may be why they believe cybercriminals will eventually figure out how to use the technology for their own purposes.

In a sense, there’s a pseudo-arms race to see who can more quickly employ tools such as machine learning and natural language processing effectively: CISOs and their teams, or cybercriminals. TechRepublic noted that an overwhelming majority of firms — 97 percent — will increase their spend on AI technologies between now and 2021. Only 1 percent said they didn’t see AI as strengthening their overall IT security posture, and three-quarters said it would soon be impossible to safeguard data unless they had the technology at their disposal.

As with any major wave in IT management, of course, it’s not just a matter of buying the technology, but choosing how and where you use it. As a story on BetaNews pointed out, those surveyed by Webroot are particularly interested in seeing where AI could improve the accuracy of their security analytics or offer early warnings of a cyberattack.

The potential for cybercriminals to launch AI cyberattacks, meanwhile, may only be limited by their imaginations. Digital Journal reported that those surveyed are concerned about the way AI could be used to develop more sophisticated malware, for instance. This is technology that’s designed to “learn” like human beings in some cases, so it could prove highly useful in creating near-foolproof phishing scams and social engineering techniques that dupe employees into handing over passwords or other forms of access. As smart as AI is, IT security pros may need to outsmart it once criminals get involved.

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Shane Schick

Writer & Editor

Shane Schick is a writer, editor and speaker who focuses on how information technology creates business value. He lives in Toronto.