In just a few months, artificial intelligence has been revolutionising an incredible number of fields: from medicine to finance, from IT to marketing, and even cybersecurity. AI was the focus of the 2023 edition of the RSA Conference, one of the most important events in the industry, which brought the world’s leading cybersecurity experts together in San Francisco last April for three days fully immersed in the world of cybercrime: discussions, debates, insight into new trends and challenges. Artificial intelligence applied to cybersecurity has emerged as an extremely urgent priority in this and in other important debates in recent months.

Just like most professionals in this field, we at Boolebox are convinced that machine learning and generative AI technologies will be major players in cybersecurity in the near future. That’s why it’s so important to understand, already from the outset, what we mean by artificial intelligence, how it’s applied in our industry and the risks it entails on the one hand, as well the advantages and great opportunities to be seized on the other.

What is artificial intelligence?

the eye of the artificial intelligence. Its role in cybersecurity.

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to a machine’s capacity to show typically human abilities such as reasoning, learning, organisational management and creativity. While it’s true that – conceptually and practically – artificial intelligence has existed for more than 50 years and has already been used in many fields for some time now, it’s equally true that rapid technological evolution and the enormous amount of data available today have made enormous strides possible in the development of AI technologies in recent months. Today’s systems are able to adapt their behaviour and output in relation to the effects of previous actions: they analyse, learn from their mistakes, adapt strategies and responses, putting what they have learnt into practice. And they do so in complete autonomy, providing increasingly precise information and automating and speeding up processes to an astonishing degree.

It goes without saying that this kind of technology can bring countless benefits to many application areas and plays a key role in the digital transformation of businesses and administrations, both public and private. All this while at the same time bringing new risks and threats, both in ethical terms – something we will not examine in this article – and in practical terms.

For example, artificial intelligence is a weapon of both attack and defence in the field of cybersecurity. As with many technological and scientific innovations, the difference lies in the intent with which it is used and applied.

Artificial intelligence and cybersecurity: a double-edged sword

In the field of cybersecurity, artificial intelligence is a very effective tool for cyber criminals, who can exploit it to easily increase the number of AI powered cyber attacks or create new viruses or intrusion systems. Yet it can also become a key ally in the fight against digital crime thanks to its great potential for developing increasingly secure protocols and predicting criminal attacks based on learning from past events.

AI cyber risks and how to defend yourself

Artificial intelligence can be exploited by hackers, with the dual objective of increasing the number of attacks and improving their quality. To date, most hacking is done manually. This prevents large-scale attacks, or at least makes them more complicated and rarer. The use of sophisticated AI can instead replace human intervention, making it much easier to focus on a larger number of targets, also speeding up the process of identifying vulnerabilities. 

At the same time, generative AI can help malicious IT technicians to create new malicious codes and viruses, and is potentially very risky if we consider the exploitation of human error. Generative AI technologies are based on developing the machine’s ability to adopt a natural language. They could thus easily be used to manipulate users, persuasively instructing them to create vulnerabilities and security breaches in systems and tools. By hitting specific, inexperienced and unaware cybersecurity targets, the implications could be very negative indeed.

To sum up, artificial intelligence can:

  • significantly increase the number of attacks;
  • broaden the pool of potential targets;
  • improve and speed up vulnerability detection processes;
  • contribute to the creation of new-generation viruses;
  • use persuasive techniques to increase the risk of human error. 

The importance of training on these issues for both companies and individuals is becoming increasingly evident. Raising awareness of cybersecurity and the defence tools and strategies to be adopted must become a priority for managers and institutions.

Moreover, at this stage in which artificial intelligence technologies are constantly evolving, it’s also hard to accurately predict possible malicious uses. It is therefore essential to have and use devices that can guarantee effective control and prevent all kinds of attacks. Right now, defence can only be based on the principle of ‘zero trust.’ As it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between human and artificial approaches, it is crucial to demand increasingly stringent user authentication and increasingly advanced levels of verification and encryption. At Boolebox, we continually refine all of ourcorporate data protection solutions precisely to guarantee the highest standards and to keep up with the constant developments in the industry.

The benefits of AI-based cybersecurity solutions in fighting online crime

Just as hackers can use artificial intelligence technology to their advantage, cybersecurity experts can also greatly benefit from it by developing AI-driven security solutions.

While it’s true that awareness of these issues is often lacking and that training is needed, it’s equally true that many small and medium-sized companies lack the resources to invest in cybersecurity.

In addition to adequate protection tools, cybersecurity requires constant monitoring, adaptation of systems to new threats, timely intervention and constant updates. These are time-consuming activities that can be partly automated and sped up thanks to artificial intelligence. Using decision autonomy and machine learning in cybersecurity systems will also make it increasingly easier to predict possible threats, study suspicious behaviour and anticipate hackers in identifying specific vulnerabilities.

Cybersecurity experts can use artificial intelligence to rapidly analyse huge amounts of data, identify trends and case studies, contributing to more widespread practices and processes for responding to cyber incidents in the future.

But watch out. It’s important to keep in mind that the artificial intelligence applications themselves could be the target of hacker attacks. These technologies rely on the data provided by users to learn and improve the generation of efficient, comprehensive answers. The large amount of data they have access to is certainly an inviting target for online crime. Cybersecurity experts and AI developers are already working to create synergies and develop processes that can also ensure the proper data protection and security of these new IT tools (for more on the topic of regulations, read this Forbes article).

Never before have we been faced with such radical changes, which will have a strong impact both digitally and in everyday life. To stay up-to-date on all the latest news concerning artificial intelligence in the field of cybersecurity, subscribe to our newsletter. Boolebox experts are also available for any clarification or to provide specific advice for protecting your company and preparing it for the tools of the future. Contact us and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.