Always Learning: How AI Prevents Data Breaches
This article discusses the use of Artificial Intelligence to prevent data breaches. It discusses how AI can be used to detect malicious activity and identify patterns in data that can be flagged, which can help security teams take action to mitigate threats.
Photo by Mati Mango
As technology advances, so does how criminals try to exploit it. Today, malicious attacks and data breaches are a significant cause for concern for individuals and organizations. Ransomware, phishing, and malicious insiders are examples of how corporate data can be exposed to threats. To mitigate the impact of these threats, businesses invest in emerging technologies based on the advances of Artificial Intelligence.
How Bad is the Problem?
To understand how bad the problem is with data breaches, it is helpful to look at the key findings of the latest Verizon 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report. According to the report, 74% of the reported breaches involved the human element, while external, financially motivated actors were responsible for 83% of the incidents – which means insiders, both malevolent and unintentional, were responsible for the rest.
Of the reported breaches, 24% were caused due to a ransomware attack, while Business Email Compromise (BEC) frauds were responsible for half of the reported phishing attacks. When data was breached, the top three categories were personal data, login credentials, and internal corporate information like intellectual property and strategic business plans.
If we examine the impact of data breaches, we will realize that the financial burden on businesses is enormous; the average data breach cost was $4.35 million in 2022, indicating a cumulative increase of 12.7% compared to 2020. The most affected sectors were healthcare, finance, pharmaceuticals, energy, and other critical businesses.
The problem becomes more averse as criminals leverage artificial intelligence (AI) tools, like generative AI or large language models (LLM), to craft sophisticated malware and compelling phishing emails which existing security controls cannot detect and mitigate.
How can AI help Prevent Data Breaches?
However, AI is both a curse and a blessing. Although its malevolent use can have detrimental effects on businesses, it can become a savior in the right hands. AI technology utilizes algorithms to analyze data and identify patterns that may signify malicious activity or suspicious behavior. With this information, potential threats can be flagged, and security teams can be alerted to take appropriate action.
There are many ways AI can detect and prevent threats and data breaches.
- Increase detection accuracy: AI can enhance the precision of malware detection systems by utilizing algorithms that detect patterns in data that could suggest questionable activities.
- Monitor user activity: By monitoring user behavior across multiple platforms, Artificial Intelligence can identify any suspicious activity, allowing security teams to be alerted before any harmful attacks occur.
- Update signature-based malware defenses: Updating signature-based malware detection systems can be made more efficient with the help of artificial intelligence. By utilizing advanced algorithms, AI can easily detect new strains of existing malware, preventing malicious actions such as ransomware attacks and minimizing their impact.
- Identify questionable content: AI can help identify suspicious content, such as phishing links, malicious URLs, or infected attachments, saving you from manually checking their validity. By scanning for such content, security teams can take preventive measures before anyone falls victim to phishing or email-based attacks.
- Detect zero-day vulnerabilities: AI can also aid in identifying zero-day vulnerabilities. With the help of algorithms, trends in data can be analyzed to predict potential zero-day attacks and isolate them before becoming a real threat.
The Benefits of AI in Data Security
Using AI to identify and prevent threats and data breaches benefits organizations in many ways. First, AI enables security teams to respond swiftly to potential risks to corporate data. These systems continually scan networks and monitor user behavior, alerting the team in real-time of any suspicious activity, increasing, thus, the likelihood of stopping an attack before any data is compromised or stolen.
Secondly, AI provides a more efficient approach to threat response by automating mundane tasks such as malware scanning and identifying malicious URLs. This allows security teams to focus on more critical areas that require greater attention. Eliminating manual jobs from their workflows enables teams to be more effective in detecting and preventing attacks against data, ultimately reducing the number of data breaches and their impact on the organization.
Furthermore, AI can help reduce security costs by minimizing the need for manual labor. By detecting threats early on, these systems can mitigate the damage caused by malicious attacks and reduce the damage caused by data breaches. The IBM Cost of Data Breach report highlights that the sooner a breach is mitigated, the less the overall cost to the affected organization.
Finally, AI can assist security teams in averting future attacks by identifying patterns in data indicative of a potential attack. By learning from past incidents, AI algorithms can help security teams take adequate proactive measures to harden the security of corporate and sensitive data and prevent attacks.
However, organizations should also be aware of certain limitations inherent in AI systems. For example, AI security tools require considerable data to be adequately trained and provide accurate detections and alerts. Otherwise, AI systems can become the source of false positives or may miss specific threats, putting increased pressure on security teams and damaging the security posture. Additionally, training the AI algorithms should be a continuous effort for them to stay effective as the threat landscape changes.
Boost Data Security with AI
In the fight against cybercriminals, artificial intelligence is a valuable ally. Investing in AI for data security and overall business cybersecurity is a wise decision, as it can provide enhanced protection against malicious activity and decrease the chances of data breaches and other cyberattacks. However, just like generative AI cannot replace human creativity, AI security tools cannot (yet) substitute human involvement in cybersecurity.
Anastasios Arampatzis is a retired Hellenic Air Force officer with over 20 years’ worth of experience in managing IT projects and evaluating cybersecurity. During his service in the Armed Forces, he was assigned to various key positions in national, NATO and EU headquarters and has been honoured by numerous high-ranking officers for his expertise and professionalism. He was nominated as a certified NATO evaluator for information security. Currently, he works as a cybersecurity content writer for Bora Design .