AI Helps Security Teams, But Boosts Threats – Security Boulevard

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Opinions are divided on the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in cybersecurity, according to a recent survey from CyberEdge Group. The report found that more than a third (36%) of security professionals anticipate that AI will primarily benefit IT security teams.

However, nearly a quarter of the 1,200 IT security respondents (24%) to CyberEdge Group’s 2024 Cyberthreat Defense Report expressed concern about AI-driven tactics giving threat actors the upper hand. For 45% of respondents, the top apprehension is the use of AI by threat actors to pinpoint vulnerabilities in cyber defenses.

The dynamics of cyber threats are evolving, as evidenced by recent trends in ransomware attacks. Following a steady increase over five years, the report suggested, the number of organizations falling victim to ransomware saw a notable shift from 73% to 64%.

While there was a decrease in the percentage of organizations succumbing to ransom demands, dropping to 49% from 60%, the ability to recover data post-attack remained a challenge for many.

The report also identified IT components that continue to pose significant challenges. Industrial Control Systems (ICS), application containers, and mobile devices emerge as the top contenders on this year’s list of the most difficult assets to secure.

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AI Gives IT Security the Upper Hand

Given the profound influence of AI on the cybersecurity industry, the technology has clearly given IT security teams the upper hand, at least for now, said Steve Piper, CEO and chief analyst of the CyberEdge Group.

“The threat detection and prevention algorithms used by network and endpoint security tools have dramatically improved because of AI, and they’re getting better every day,” Piper said. “My dream is that incident responders will one day feel like Maytag repairmen, just sitting around with nothing to do.”

Beyond that, Piper noted generative AI is now built into many if not most, major cybersecurity platforms. That inclusion is enabling short-staffed security teams to customize security policies, remediate security risks, and research cyber adversaries faster.

“AI enables security teams to work smarter, rather than harder, to accomplish day-to-day tasks,” Piper said.

The AI Arms Race

Organizations must also ensure they stay ahead of threat actors who may also leverage AI for malicious purposes.

“Year after year, ‘low security awareness among employees’ is cited as a top inhibitor to the success of IT security teams,” Piper cautioned. “Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of an appetite to remedy this problem. I suspect this will change soon as threat actors embrace AI.”

For example, one telltale sign of phishing emails is that they’re almost never written by native English speakers; the messages usually contain lots of spelling and grammatical errors. Now, with ChatGPT and other generative AI tools, the threat actors can craft perfectly written emails with ease.

Soon, a telltale sign of a phishing email might be that it’s written even better than the attributed sender, Piper said. “What really keeps me up at night is deepfake audio,” he said. “I believe AI will eventually be a game-changer for threat actors. We’ve got to be prepared and invest more in our human firewalls.”

Talent Shortage Persists

The advent of AI tech comes as organizations are grappling with the tech talent shortage, with 86% of organizations surveyed experiencing a shortfall of security professionals.

Among specialists, IT security administrators have been in the highest demand for the last two years, followed by IT security analysts and architects.

The report also revealed that the presence of board members with cybersecurity expertise is becoming more prevalent, with six in 10 organizations reporting at least one board member with a cybersecurity background.

Having cybersecurity expertise at the board level can benefit organizations in terms of risk management, governance, and overall cybersecurity strategy, Piper explained.

“Cybersecurity is a language. It’s also an ecosystem with a steep learning curve,” Piper said. “If you’re going to do a ton of business in France, it would be great to have a native French speaker on your board.” Similarly, board members with cybersecurity backgrounds are better equipped to translate complex security topics into language that other board members can understand.

“Perhaps there’s a correlation between record-setting security budget increases and strong demand for board members with cybersecurity backgrounds in this year’s report,” Piper added.

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