Is AI fundamental to the future of cybersecurity?

Everyone has been talking about artificial intelligence since the mid-90s, if not earlier, but AI is only just now starting to develop as a breakthrough technology with foundations in reality. While it’s only now coming onto the scene in a significant way, it’s already safe to compare AI to the internet and smartphones in terms of its transformative potential.

AI has potential applications and uses in just about every industry and activity you can think of. With time, we may even find ourselves having complex relationship with AI. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For now, we’ll settle for making basic AI tools work for us.

In the cybersecurity industry, putting AI to work represents a cosmic leap forward in digital safety – at least in theory. Some cybersecurity AI tools are already in use and they’re only getting more sophisticated with time. AI could represent a quantum leap for the good guys in the arms race against hackers, allowing for tighter security provided by fewer personnel.

Smart firewalls

The most obvious advancement that AI offers to cybersecurity experts that could be prevalent in the near future is smart firewalls. These important defenses currently require manual management, but AI-enhanced firewalls bring things to a whole other level, removing a significant amount of human input from the equation.

By giving firewalls the gift of machine learning, they will be able to deal with most tasks related to event monitoring and incident response currently handled by humans. Not only does this remove the need for constant attention from a trained human, it also reduces (in fact, it almost eliminates) the factor of human error.

These firewalls will recognize threats more reliably and much quicker than humans by recognizing patterns in web requests and blocking the bad ones automatically. And it’s not just firewalls; this same principle could be applied to cybersecurity in a number of different ways, ushering in a whole new era of security that hackers would struggle to get around.

AI could also put experts an extra step ahead by giving them unprecedented information on cyber threats and how they originate. In fact, the technology to accomplish this is already in existence. Bots and other AI tools are already scanning publicly-available data online and analyzing it in meaningful ways. This will surely be adapted for use in cybersecurity in the near future.

No need for passwords

Though slightly more futuristic, AI may soon make passwords obsolete altogether. Passwords are one of the main ways users are able to protect their information online today, but they are cumbersome, annoying and often vulnerable to attack, exposing entire systems to the right (or wrong) cyber threat.

Various forms of AI could be brought together to identify users in better ways. Passwords are like the key to your house: anyone can get in as long as they have it. But facial recognition, fingerprints and speech analysis could provide a better, more secure way to access your accounts and information online.

Similar AI tools could be used to track your activity online and send alerts whenever there is a serious deviation from regular behavior that may constitute a threat. In short, AI promises that you’ll need to be less alert than today and yet you’ll still be more secure.

The biggest challenge of AI technology is cost. Small businesses and organizations are the prime target for cyberattacks today because hackers know they are the least likely to have robust defenses in place. They are also the least likely to be able to afford advanced AI solutions. In time, the technology is likely to become cheaper and more accessible, but until then, smaller businesses focused on growth and survival in a competitive global market may be left behind.

Is AI the future of cybersecurity? Almost certainly. AI is set to transform the world in countless ways and cybersecurity is no exception. The road to get there may not be smooth, however, and traditional solutions are going to be a commonplace necessity for many entities for years to come.