AI is becoming increasingly sophisticated and used in myriad applications, including providing greater cybersecurity to companies, governments, and institutions. Due to its ability to extrapolate conclusions based on massive amounts of data, AI is now better equipped to detect potential threats than a human. Companies must embrace that AI is the future of cybersecurity and understand the tremendous benefits that it offers to our interconnected world. Learn more about how AI is paving the way for the future.
What Is AI?
Artificial intelligence is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially computer programs, according to John McCarthy, one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence. AI builds intelligent machines that complete tasks that are usually reserved for humans and that require human intelligence. Often, AI is used to replicate or simulate human intelligence in machines. However, McCarthy notes that AI does not have to be confined to methods that are biologically observable. At its core, AI uses unique algorithms so that a machine can learn and make decisions.
Why Is Online Security a Threat?
Today, massive amounts of information are stored online. People bank online, shop online, complete work, and conduct many personal and business tasks on this forum. Therefore, if a thief or hacker gains access or control of this information through the interconnectedness that the web inherently provides, this information can be used for bad purposes. National security threats, inoperative systems, and control of systems by a third party are all possible through cvber attacks.
Particular cybersecurity risks to companies and consumes include:
- Data breaches – With information stored online, there are many access points to obtain this information. Malicious actors may use this obtained information to steal individual and corporate identities. Information may also be obtained and sold on the dark web where identity theft can repeatedly occur.
- Theft of confidential information – Business secrets, personal data, medical records, and other confidential information can be compromised.
- High corrective costs – Once a data breach or other cyber theft occurs, it can be quite costly for a business or person to correct the damage that has been done. Even if unauthorized transactions can be halted, there are likely to be lasting financial consequences to contend with, such as the cost to recover lost data, the purchase of new software, and the expense of IT training.
- Damaged reputation – Consumers may lose confidence in a business that has suffered a data breach or mishandled their personal information. Consumers may ultimately decide to do business with another company.
Types of Cyber Theft
Cyber theft is like any other type of threat except it involves a computer. Criminals use computers or computer systems to steal information from consumers and businesses by accessing a system without authorization. Some of the most common types of cyber theft include:
- Theft of funds – Criminals may gain access to an account or system to steal or transfer funds or to make other unauthorized transactions.
- Identity theft – Identity theft can occur during a data breach when a criminal extracts personal information about individuals, often from financial service providers, health care providers, educational institutions, retail establishments and other companies that collect personal information.
- Fraud – Criminals may impersonate people to establish new accounts or gain access to existing ones.
- Intellectual property theft – Intellectual property theft results in the loss of value of intellectual property.
Mechanisms Used to Commit Cyber Theft
As the web has expanded exponentially since its creation, the ways to commit cyber theft have become increasingly complex. Cybercrimes are committed when a criminal makes a malicious attempt to damage or disrupt a computer network or system. This may also include the attempt to access files or steal data.
Some of the most common ways that these crimes are committed include:
- Botnets – Botnets are networks of computers criminals infect with malware connected through a central command and control center. Criminals use these computers send spam emails and conduct various cyberattacks.
- Malware – Malware is malicious software that is designed to harm or exploit devices, computers or networks. There are hundreds of millions of different types of malware currently in existence.
- Ransomware – Ransomware is a particular type of malware that encrypts data on a local machine and demands the owner of the data pay a ransom for the criminal to unlock it.
- Phishing – Phishing is often conducted through email. There is a compromised link or attachment that has a virus that steals information from the recipient. This type of attack is often used to obtain a person or company’s login credentials for financial accounts.
- Social engineering – A criminal may impersonate an executive at a company in order to get an underling to transfer funds. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation released a press release warning businesses of this newer type of fraud in 2016 after 17,642 victims of these scams sustained financial losses of $2.3 billion from October 2013 to February 2016.
- Browser hijacking – This process uses malicious code to run a user’s browser, which can result in the criminal downloading malware, stealing login credentials, or committing crimes on the device.
Notable Cyber Theft Examples
Cyber theft losses can be astronomical. Perhaps the most well-known cyber theft is the Equifax breach in 2017 that compromised the personal information of 147 million people in the United States, including their Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card numbers, driver’s licenses, and home addresses. This attack was committed by using a vulnerability in Equifax’s web applications that had been exploited by the criminals with ransomware.
In 2013, 3 billion Yahoo user accounts were hacked. Hackers were able to obtain the private information and passwords from some of these users and sell it on the dark web. Target was also attacked in 2013, resulting in the theft of approximately 40 million payment card records. The company reported $292 million in incurred expenses that were a direct result of the data breach. The company settled with at least four major payment card networks and also settled for $18.5 million with numerous state attorney generals. The company suffered from a decline in sales and shareholder returns after the breach and damage to its reputation.
In 2014, Home Depot’s point of sale systems were breached, resulting in the theft of 56 million personal credit cards. During the attack, the customer’s card was captured and compromised by the criminals.
Network intrusion was blamed for the unauthorized interbank transfers including $101 million from the Bank of Bangladesh’s account at the New York Federal Reserve. Approximately 33% of all bitcoin exchanges are estimated to have been hacked.
In one of the most notable cyber crimes to date, a single vulnerability was used to distribute malware on more than 300,000 devices in 150 different countries in the WannaCry attack, including devices used by hospitals and car manufacturers. Hackers demanded owners pay to decrypt and restore their data.
What to Do to Protect Yourself from Cyber Theft
Businesses and consumers alike must give the proper reverence to cyber threats. Because these attacks can compromise your own or customers’ data and security, it is important that you put tools in place to protect against them, including:
Use a Credit Monitoring Service
A credit monitoring service actively monitors transactions, applications, and uses of your personal information and can help you detect potential identity theft or other problems much more quickly than if you try to monitor this activity on your own. Additionally, many services offer robust assistance if your personal information is compromised while you are using their service, such as assisting with legal fees and efforts to clear up your credit.
Purchase Cybersecurity Insurance
Some insurance companies now offer special cybersecurity insurance that helps to cover losses incurred because of a data breach or other cybersecurity attack.
Keep Software Up to Date
Install firewalls, anti-virus software, and other reputable tools that can detect cyber threats. The latest updates in your software may have the latest innovations in technology. Additionally, software companies often include patches that fix any discovered security vulnerabilities. Set this software to automatically update so that you always have the latest version.
Amp Up Your Cybersecurity
Look out for new options to better improve your security, including:
- Intrusion detection systems
- Intrusion prevention systems
- Continual attack simulation tools
- Anti-phishing and secure browsing tools
These and other new technologies and services make it easier to provide a strong defense against cyber threats.
Teach Your Staff
Your staff is your first line of defense against cyber threats, so it is important that you provide training to help your staff identify and detect potential risks. Teach your staff not to open suspicious emails, links, or attachments. Also, establish clear policies to avoid potential social engineering attacks.
Use Strong Passwords
Avoid common passwords or using default passwords. Instead, use a random password generator that uses a unique combination of letters, numbers and symbols
Secure Your Devices
Whether you are using a computer, tablet, or cell phone, be sure that you secure your physical device so that someone cannot access it or download malware on it. If you operate a business, establish clear policies for your employees to use with their own devices.
invest in an Identity Theft Protection
There are several identity theft protection services available today. They cover almost all cybersecurity needs. If you want to be completely safe on the internet, investing in an online identity theft protection service should be your go to.
How to Respond to a Cyber Threat
If you have been compromised by a cyber threat, had your data breached, or discovered that your identity has been stolen, there are steps you can take to minimize the damage and provide an appropriate response to it. Consult your incident response plan for the steps to follow. This plan should consist of the following steps:
Additionally, contact the authorities and report the criminal activity. You should also contact your cybersecurity insurance or credit monitoring company if your information has been compromised.
How AI Is Innovating Cybersecurity
Because cyberattacks are a big threat to businesses, governments, and institutions, major time, energy, money, and resources have gone into discovering ways to combat them, with AI being the biggest player in this space. Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex, so as soon as they gain mainstream recognition, the criminals are using new strategies to steal money, data, and information. Businesses need to keep up, so they use AI that can quickly learn patterns to quickly identify, detect, and respond to cybersecurity threats.
AI’s machine learning applies existing data to improve its functions over time. It is often much better at detecting unusual behavior and deviations from established patterns. This helps them detect fraud, malware, and intrusion much faster than other types of technology or human detectors. Many senior executives report that their cybersecurity analysts are overwhelmed and many have been unable to successfully investigate all incidents that have been identified as cyberthreats. Often, AI is able to identify potential risks with much greater accuracy and detect it much faster. When a threat is captured at the early stages, data breaches can be quickly discovered and responded to before substantial harm is done to the company. Ultimately, AI is more efficient and saves time and money by quickly filtering through information. This allows AI to potentially preempt attacks and notify users before irreparable harm is done to a company.
Additionally, AI is better able to put various pieces of global threat landscapes together to determine how they interact, further increasing their detection and prediction efforts.
AI also keeps up with rapidly evolving technology, including the proliferation of endpoint devices involved in the Internet of Things. This area is expected to increase to more than 25 billion by 2021. AI is expected to build predictive capabilities and strengthen cyber defenses in the years to come.
AI is redefining cybersecurity, improving business’ ability to detect threats of data breaches and other targeted attacks, and make connections between different data points that far outpaces the typical ability of a human. Stakeholders hope that advances in this realm will help them quell the proliferation of cyberattacks and provide greater consumer protection.
BIO: David Lukić is an information privacy, security and compliance consultant at idstrong.com. The passion to make cyber security accessible and interesting has led David to share all the knowledge he has.