Machine learning and AI

Artificial Intelligence and Its Impact on Cyber Security

Chiragh Dewan
May 1, 2017 by
Chiragh Dewan

Understanding Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence or AI is the intelligence shown by machines. Usually, the term Artificial Intelligence is used when a machine behaves like a human in activities such as problem-solving or learning, which is also known as Machine Learning. AI is a science and technology based on disciplines such as:

  • Computer Science
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Mathematics
  • Engineering
  • Linguistics

The main goal of Artificial Intelligence is to create a technology that allows computers and machines to function in an intelligent manner. The entire problem has been broken down into the following sub-problems

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  • Learning
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Reasoning and problem solving
  • Planning
  • Creativity
  • Social Intelligence
  • General Intelligence
  • Knowledge representation
  • Perception
  • Motion and manipulation

Are We Close to Artificial Intelligence Right Now?

In 1943 Isaac Asimov coined the term Robotics. In Artificial Intelligence was coined by John McCarthy in 1955. In 1958 John McCarthy invented LISP, and by 1997 The Deep Blue Chess Program had beaten the World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov. There are so many ways we all interact and use Artificial Intelligence without even realizing it. Here are a few:

  • Siri: Apple's personal assistant on iPhone's and Mac OS.
  • Netflix: Recommendation engine
  • Nest: Home Automation
  • Alexa: Amazon's smart hub
  • Gaming: Games like Call of Duty and Far Cry rely heavily on AI
  • News Generation: Companies like Yahoo, AP use AI to write small news stories such as financial summaries, sports recap, etc.
  • Fraud Detection
  • Customer Support: Companies have been using small scale Chat Bots to automate this process.
  • Self-driving cars
  • Speech Recognition
  • Robotics

Industries That Will Benefit from Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence will and is playing a major role in revolutionizing a number of industries. Some reports have suggested that the total global market for Robots and Artificial Intelligence will reach ~$153 billion by 2020. AI not only decreases costs but also saves time, increases accuracy and productivity. The development in the field of AI has been phenomenal. Google estimates that robots will reach levels of human intelligence by 2015, one-third of jobs will be replaced by robots and other smart machines.

Few industries that'll greatly benefit with advancements in AI are:

  • Healthcare: Current AI (IBM Watson) is capable of diagnosing life-threatening diseases and prescribe treatment. We have also seen robotic surgeons, robots that are helping people in wheelchairs walk again, etc.
  • Transportation: With more connected vehicles and self-driving cars, AI is replacing the need for a driver. Studies suggest that the installation rate of AI based systems in new vehicles will increase from 8% in 2015 to 109% in 2025. Furthermore, according to Gartner's prediction, by 2020, there will be more than 250 million cars interconnected via Wi-Fi that will even allow the cars to communicate among themselves and the roadways. Driverless cars are said to save the U.S. alone $1.3 trillion a year by 2035 to 2050 and a global saving of about $5.6 trillion.
  • Manufacturing: Being one of the first industries to use Artificial Intelligence by using robots for packaging and shipment. Factories have been started to automate their assembly line with little or no human supervision.
  • Customer Service: With the rise of Chat Bots, the customer service industry has taken a turn for good. With decreased costs and high productivity, the customer service industry has been greatly affected by AI.
  • Education: Education is a billion-dollar industry contributing heavily to the various economies. EdTech, as we all know, is a booming industry. AI could be used to grade papers, bots to answer questions, personal assistant systems that act as tutors, virtual reality for hands-on learning, etc.
  • Finance: The financial data has been increasing at a rapid rate making it harder for the financial services companies to keep up. With the help of Artificial Intelligence, predictive systems are being put in place to forecast stock trends and manage finances. Recently, we have also seen the trend of "Robo-Advisors" that are automating the industry.

Future of Artificial Intelligence in Cyber Security

With AI being introduced in every industry, the cyber security space would be no stranger to it. With advancement, new exploits and vulnerabilities could be easily identified and analyzed to prevent further attacks. Incident response systems could also benefit greatly from AI. When under attack, the system will be able to identify the entry point and stop the attack as well as patch the vulnerability.

Studies show that it takes, on an average in 2016, 99 days for a company to realize that they have been compromised. Although a long way from 146 days in 2015, yet a very long time for the attackers to gain all the information they were looking for. This time frame is not only enough to steal data but also manipulate it without detection. This can have a great impact on the company as it makes it very difficult for the company to differentiate between the fake and the actual data.

With the advancements in AI, hopefully, all of the above problems would be able to mitigate the problems being faced.

Current role of Artificial Intelligence in Cyber Security

A security firm by the name of SparkCognition showcased, what is said to be, the first AI-powered cognitive antivirus system called DeepArmour.

"We are using cognitive algorithms to constantly learn new malware behaviors and recognize how polymorphic file may try to attack in the future," said Keith Moore, senior product manager at SparkCognition. "This keeps every endpoint safe from malware that uses domain-generated algorithms, obfuscation, packing, minor code tweaks and many modern tools" he added.

Another information security startup, Darktrace is also said to be working on a self-learning security system to enable automatic defense.

Many more companies across the world are trying to integrate Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing into new products to make the cyberspace more secure.

Advantages of Artificial Intelligence

Organizations face millions of threats each day making is impossible for a security researcher to analyze and categorize them. This task can be done by using Machine Learning in an efficient way.

By finding a way to work towards unsupervised and supervised machine learning will enable us to utilize our current knowledge of threats and vectors fully. Once those are combined with the ability to detect new attacks and discover new vulnerabilities, our systems will be able to protect us from threats is a much better and efficient way.

However, like every Machine Learning algorithm, even these advanced algorithms would require human guidance to learn from as humans are better equipped to look beyond a simple anomaly that a machine could pick up and put it in a different context and decide to ignore it as a security threat.

Another benefit of using AI-based machines is that, in theory, these systems would work in a more calculated approach and in a more accurate way resulting in eliminating human error. Additionally, these systems could work simultaneously on various tasks, monitoring and protecting a vast number of devices and systems. They can, therefore, mitigate large scale attacks.

Disadvantages of Artificial Intelligence

The biggest disadvantage of any AI based system is that we cannot predict what it will do. If fallen into the wrong hands, the result could be fatal, and a whole different level can do more damage than good.

A super-intelligent AI will be really good at completing goals, but, if those goals are not aligned with ours, we will have a problem. AI in security systems had foregone the utilization of valuable analyst skills and therefore didn't benefit from human feedback.

Even though the initial concerns about the development of AI in cyber security may revolve around concerns about eliminating the much needed human expertise, intuition and judgment, the real disadvantage of artificial intelligence is its unpredictability.

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It is really difficult to predict what the future Artificial Intelligence holds. Some say it will help us to better our world while the others lean towards the possibility that it may go rouge.

Chiragh Dewan
Chiragh Dewan

A creative problem-solving full-stack web developer with expertise in Information Security Audit, Web Application Audit, Vulnerability Assessment, Penetration Testing/ Ethical Hacking as well as previous experience in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing. He has also been recognised by various companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Netflix, Blackberry, etc for reporting various security vulnerabilities. He has also given various talks on Artificial Intelligence and Cyber Security including at an TEDx event.