Spohn: Using Artificial Intelligence to Counter Cyber Threats

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In a constantly evolving digital threat landscape where firewalls and antivirus programs are considered tools of antiquity, companies are looking to utilize more technologically advanced means of protecting crucial data.

In 2016, 357 million malware threats were detected, leaving businesses scrambling to find effective ways to protect their sensitive data.1 Until recently, firewalls and antivirus software provided adequate cyber security for such threats. But, increasingly, cyber security threats are too sophisticated to respond to traditional security methods.2 Cyber criminals can easily bypass firewalls and other traditional measures and, once they’ve gained access to a system, often remain undetected for some time.2 In a survey of 70 professional hackers and penetration testers at 2016’s Defcon, 88 percent of respondents indicated that they could break through a network’s security system in under 12 hours, while 81 percent said they could steal valuable data and remain undetected for an average of 100 days.2 To safeguard crucial data, cyber security experts such as Timothy Crosby, senior security consultant for Spohn Security Solutions, recommend a multi-pronged security approach that includes adopting technologies which use artificial intelligence and training staff to identify threats.

“In the past, a compromised network was easy to identify: computers would stop working, or you’d receive messages that there had been a security breach,” Crosby said. “Today, cyber attacks are much more stealthy, so we need to rely on algorithms that detect abnormal activity within the network.” In order to detect aberrant behavior on a network, security technologies are incorporating artificial intelligence programs that utilize deep learning to discover similarities and differences within a data set.3 These learning capabilities enable security programs to learn the way each end user normally interacts with the network.2 When anomalies are detected, the security program notifies a technician who can further assess the problem.

“These days, cyber attacks happen too fast for effective human response,” Crosby added. “Artificial intelligence is needed to quickly and cost-effectively sort through the massive amount of data generated on a network in order to identify what doesn’t belong.” About half of the 2016 Defcon survey respondents claimed that they change their method of attack on each target, which limits the effectiveness of traditional security defenses based on known files and attacks.2 Investment in artificial intelligence is crucial in responding to ever-changing threats and evolving hacker technology.2

Furthermore, businesses that fail to communicate to their employees the potential risks (and how to defend against them) are likely to experience non-malicious threats to security due to human error. According to a 2015 Cyber Security Intelligence Index published by IBM, 95 percent of cyber security breaches are due to accidental human error.4 Experts suggest providing education on risks such as possible phishing attacks. “Information sharing is key to creating a secure cyber environment,” Crosby said. “For example, reminding staff not to click on suspicious links may prevent a hacker from installing malware which could devastate your network.”

According to a survey published by Harvey Nash/KPMG, nearly one-third (32 percent) of businesses have been victims of major cyber attacks over the past year.5 The corporate world loses $388 billion remediating—and recovering from—cyber breaches each year.6 The amount spent on remediating computer viruses alone has reached about $55 billion per year.7 By 2019, cyber crime is expected to cost businesses over $2 trillion annually.3

About Spohn Consulting:

Spohn Consulting, Inc., an Austin, Texas-based privately held company established in 1998 by Darren L. Spohn, is an authority in navigating Fortune 500 companies and medium to small businesses through the business security challenges of the 21st century. Spohn Consulting works with organizations to assess their information security posture (the security status of an enterprise’s networks, information and systems based on Identification and Authorization resources, e.g., people, hardware, software, policies and capabilities in place to manage the defense of the enterprise and to react as the situation changes), offer customized instructor-led training, and sell telecom services. Utilizing varied scopes of engagement, they deliver recommendations which can be measured against best practice or compliance standards. For more information on cyber security, visit https://spohnsolutions.com/.

1.    Petersen, Scot. “Artificial Intelligence Taking a Bigger Role in Antimalware Technology.” EWeek. N.p., 2 Aug. 2017. Web. 14 August 2017.

2.    Choudhury, Saheli Roy. “Artificial Intelligence Could Be Key to Tackling Cyber-Threats, Here’s Why.” CNBC. CNBC, 17 Apr. 2017. Web. 14 August 2017.

3.    Vena, Danny. “How IBM Is Using Artificial Intelligence to Provide Cybersecurity.” The Motley Fool. The Motley Fool, 13 Jan. 2017. Web. 14 August 2017.

4.    “IBM 2015 Cyber Security Intelligence Index.” IBM, 24 July 2015. Web. 14 August 2017.

5.    Verbree, Martijn. “Cyber Security: Why You Should Fear Insider Threats.” Management Today. N.p., 23 May 2017. Web. 14 August 2017.

6.    Albanesius, Chloe. “Cyber Crime Costs $114B Per Year, Mobile Attacks on the Rise.” PCMAG. N.p., 07 Sept. 2011. Web. 14 August 2017.

7.    WebpageFX Team on January 13, 2015. “What Is the Real Cost of Computer Viruses? [Infographic].” WebpageFX Blog. N.p., 12 Jan. 2015. Web. 14 August 2017.

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Karla Jo Helms
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