Many industries have had to tighten belts in the “new normal”. In cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI) can help.
Every day of the new normal we learn how the pandemic sped up digital transformation, as reflected in the new opportunities and new risks. For many, organizational complexity and legacy infrastructure and support processes are the leading barriers to the effectiveness of their security.
Adding to the dynamics, short-handed teams are overwhelmed with too much data from disparate sources and an abundance of tools, yet a scarcity of insights. These challenges can easily exceed the skills of even the largest, best teams.

Source: IBM

In a time of greater challenges and fewer resources, how can security leaders become more effective, minimize their expenses and get the most out of their employees without burning them out? A recent study from the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) suggests people are investing in AI and automation to address many of these challenges.

The IBV partnered with APQC (American Productivity and Quality Center) in a survey of 1,000 business leaders to find out how AI is being used to support their operations and to quantify its impact on performance.

AI: Defense in a fast-paced world

The in-depth report contemplates questions that are top-of-mind for today’s leaders. How do AI and automation help? Where in the security life cycle do these tools have the greatest impact? Can pairing AI with automation deliver a higher return on security investment?

There are four primary ways AI technologies are transforming security operations:

  1. Machine learning helps identify patterns, take inventory of new assets and services and refine the performance of AI models.
  1. Reasoning tools help inform data analysis, enhance scenario modeling and foresee new attack vectors.
  1. Natural language processing can be used to mine text data sources, improve threat intelligence and enrich knowledge resources.
  1. Automation can help orchestrate time-intensive tasks, improve response times and reduce the burden for human analysts.

According to survey respondents, adopting AI-powered automation has enabled them to operate faster, with greater flexibility.

How are they doing this? One of the survey’s most compelling findings is that the mix of AI and automation is being used to offload routine triage tasks. It enables skilled analysts to focus on higher-value investigations that require human expertise and judgment.

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Practical use of AI

The report offers actionable insights into how security leaders are using AI and automation to support their protection, prevention, detection and response processes. For example:

Source: IBM Security Services based on an analysis of aggregated 2021 performance data. Note: Performance thresholds depicted are expected to improve on a continuing basis. 

Investing in security AI and automation is leading to tangible performance benefits. Compared to non-AI adopters, AI adopters can save more than 14 weeks in threat detection and response:

Source: IBM

Importantly, these organizations are achieving this level of performance while also reducing costs and complexity.

Backed by research

Other IBM security research studies have found similar results. The 2022 Cost of a Data Breach report from IBM and Ponemon Institute found security AI and automation had the greatest positive impact on reducing the overall costs of a data breach. To address emerging threats, the IBM X-Force annual Threat Intelligence Index suggests best practices such as adopting a zero trust approach, automating incident response and deploying extended detection and response.

For security leaders, the key takeaway is that investing in AI and automation enables you to make more of your skilled talent while also improving your overall performance.

Want to dig into the data or get more insights? Read the full report here. Learn more about AI and cybersecurity here.

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