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How AI Is Changing Cybersecurity

Few industries have evolved as quickly as the cybersecurity industry over the past couple of decades. Technological developments have ushered in dramatic improvements in the performance of cybersecurity teams, who continue to embrace innovative new solutions to better defend their organization against attackers. A leading example is Artificial Intelligence (AI) which has begun to play a much more important role in the cybersecurity field, offering businesses of all sizes access to more sophisticated security technologies that better protect them against attacks.

But the growing prevalence of AI in cybersecurity is something of a double-edged sword. Cybersecurity teams are far from the only ones embracing AI technology—malicious actors are adopting it too. For security teams to stay ahead of the curve, it’s vital they develop and maintain a sophisticated cybersecurity infrastructure powered by the latest technologies.

The cost of ignoring advancements can be devastating for small and medium businesses (SMBs). According to a 2021 report by IBM, the average data breach cost for businesses with fewer than 500 employees is $2.98 million. 

In this guide, we’ll outline the role AI technologies play in modern cybersecurity environments and explore the benefits and risks you should be mindful of as you deploy these technologies across your own systems.

What Role Does AI Technology Play in Cybersecurity?

AI has become a popular buzzword in recent years. It’s a technology that now appears in all kinds of products, from self-driving cars to streaming platforms, and new use cases are constantly emerging. With so much hype around the technology, it’s helpful to start with a clear definition of what AI is (and what it isn’t). 

AI systems use large sets of training data to identify correlations, patterns, and other relationships between data points. This data is then used to make informed predictions about future events. This enables the automation of many manual tasks that were previously performed by humans, helping organizations operate more effectively at scale. 

AI is not a magic bullet that will solve your organization’s cybersecurity problems. Procuring, deploying, and managing AI-driven cybersecurity technologies requires significant investment. Successfully implementing AI technology in an organization often takes time and expertise. Much like any other new technology, AI-based cybersecurity solutions must be carefully integrated with your existing security infrastructure. 

In cybersecurity, there are many applications of AI technology. Some of the most common include:

  • Threat intelligence
  • Anomaly detection 
  • Endpoint monitoring
  • Automation of routine security tasks

As the capabilities of AI technologies have continued to evolve, the cybersecurity industry has quickly embraced them, adding AI-driven features to existing security products and services. The market for AI-enabled cybersecurity software is predicted to grow at 23.3% every year, exploding from $8 Billion in 2019 to a projected $38 Billion by 2026

With such widespread adoption, it’s only natural for security leaders to be curious about the advantages and disadvantages of using AI cybersecurity technology in their organizations.

The Benefits of Using AI in Cybersecurity

AI-enabled cybersecurity technologies have become so popular in recent years because they offer organizations that use them significant upside. Together, these benefits add up to a more effective security team that’s free to spend time on high-value strategic tasks. The bottom-line difference equates to a 36.8% average savings in the cost of a security event for those organizations with more mature use of AI platforms.

The Ability to Detect Suspicious Traffic Patterns

One common sign of a potential cybersecurity incident is the presence of unusual traffic patterns on an organization’s networks. By using AI cybersecurity tools, organizations can conduct automated scans of their networks and immediately flag suspicious activity to their security operations center. 

Advanced AI tools that use unsupervised machine learning models can flag other suspicious behavior. These models focus on identifying previously undetected patterns and alerting network administrators to any anomalous activity. Proactively seeking out these threats enables security teams to take command of a potential situation early on before it develops into a more serious issue.  

Reduction in Labor-Intensive Manual Tasks

Many AI-based security solutions can process huge amounts of data in next to no time, seamlessly automating what was once a time-consuming task. And unlike humans, AI-based tools don’t take vacations or make mistakes—they’re online 24/7. Deploying these technologies in certain scenarios unlocks increased security at lower costs. 

Automating routine security processes also allows organizations to refocus their cybersecurity professionals on more strategic work that better advances the overall cybersecurity posture of the organization. 

Proactive Threat Hunting

With so many threats out there, it can be difficult for organizations to know where to begin identifying potential vulnerabilities. By pairing AI threat-hunting technologies with skilled human oversight, security teams can dramatically improve detection rates. 

This is achieved by processing security data collected from endpoints all over an organization’s networks. Automated tools identify concerning activity and flag them for human review, eliminating false alerts. This enables security teams to take a more efficient approach to resolving potential threats. Doing this proactively, rather than waiting for an attack to happen, is a major shift that promotes much higher levels of security. 

At Tech Heads, we’ve partnered with Arctic Wolf to provide THInc. Patrol™, a managed detection and response solution that uses advanced AI technologies to monitor and address evolving cyber threats. 

Potential Risks of Using AI in Cybersecurity

The growth of AI-based cybersecurity technologies is a clear trend that will continue into the future. However, there are several risks associated with this. In order to successfully implement these technologies into their existing cybersecurity frameworks, it’s vital security leaders keep these in mind. 

Cost of Upskilling IT Teams

Deploying, maintaining, and working with AI-based cybersecurity tools requires a fundamentally different approach to cybersecurity than the approach many organizations have traditionally taken. Effectively leveraging AI technologies requires a unique skill set. You’ll likely find members of your IT team need significant retraining in order to effectively work with these new technologies.

In some instances, you might find it necessary to hire new security team members with the expertise to manage AI-based cybersecurity environments. These professionals are in high demand, and with a major skill shortage, you should expect them to command high salaries. 

AI Cyber Attacks

Cybersecurity teams are far from the only group using AI: the technology has also been adopted by cybercriminals. Increasing numbers of attackers are leveraging AI technology to find new ways to bypass security protocols and breach organizations’ internal networks. 

If anything, this underscores the need for organizations to invest in their own AI technologies. Not doing so leaves you vulnerable—it’s the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight. As a security leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure your organization is equipped to ward off the latest attack vectors. 

Requires Significant Investment

The best AI-driven cybersecurity technologies are expensive, and for SMBs, investing in these tools can often be a stretch. Even once you’ve paid the licensing fee for an AI-based solution, significant resources are required to implement it in your existing infrastructure. 

Alone, AI technology is not enough––it must be complemented by a skilled cybersecurity team. This human oversight is vital to the success of any AI technology. But many SMBs lack the team and capacity to effectively manage these technologies; working with external security consultants may represent a better fit. 

How SMBs Can Use AI Cybersecurity Technology

It’s clear that AI is changing cybersecurity for the better, adding more sophisticated capabilities to security technologies and ultimately increasing organizations’ abilities to proactively address potential security threats. 

However, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind, particularly for SMBs. Smaller security teams may lack the sophistication, bandwidth, or resources to implement AI cybersecurity technologies on their own, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t embrace these tools in other ways. 

Working with a trusted cybersecurity partner like Tech Heads represents the perfect solution for SMBs. With a team of experts with various specialties, you can outsource your entire cybersecurity infrastructure to Tech Heads, safe in the knowledge that your organization is well-protected. 

Interested in working with us? Contact the team today