AI and machine learning are the kind of buzzwords that generate a lot of interest; hence, they get thrown around all the time. But what do they actually mean? And are they as instrumental to the future of cybersecurity as many believe?
The terms go hand in hand
When a large set of data is involved, having to analyze it all by hand seems like a nightmare. It’s the kind of work that one would describe as boring and tedious. Not to mention the fact it would take a lot of staring at the screen to find what you’ve set out to discover.
The great thing about machines and technology is that – unlike humans – it never gets tired. It’s also better geared for being able to notice patterns. Machine learning is what you get when you reach the point of teaching your tools on how to spot patterns. The AI helps you interpret it all better and make the solution self-sufficient.
A looming opportunity for cybersecurity solutions
Cybersecurity solutions (antivirus scanners in particular) are all about spotting a pattern and planning the right response. These scanners rely on heuristic modeling. It gives them the ability to recognize a piece of code as malicious, even though it might be the case that no one has flagged it as such before. In essence, it has plenty to do with teaching the software to recognize and alert you when something is out of the ordinary.
As soon as something oversteps the threshold of tolerance, it triggers an alarm. From there on out, the rest is up to the user. For instance, the user may instruct the antivirus software to move the infected file to quarantine. It can do so with or without human intervention.
AI can learn by observing
Applying AI to cybersecurity solutions is taking things up a notch. Without it, the option of having the software learn on its own by observing would not be possible.
Imagine having an entity working in the background that knows you so well that it can predict your every move. It might be slight nuances. For example, the way you move your mouse or the parts of the web you’re browsing on a frequent basis. Even the order of the applications you launch upon logging in.
Without having to introduce yourself, the AI would get to know you and your habits pretty well. Thus, it would form a digital fingerprint of you. It sounds scary, but it could come in handy. For instance, it could raise the alarm if an unauthorized individual ever gets access to your PC.
Forming an identity of your normal computer activity
Of course, observing your behavior is not the end of what employment of AI and machine learning can do. Why not do the same thing for computer processes?
Imagine having to monitor what programs are running in the background yourself. Tracking how much resources they consume all day, every day, by hand. It doesn’t sound enjoyable now, does it? But it’s the work AI excels at.
Without lifting a finger, you’d have a powerful watchdog that would start barking as soon as something is out of the ordinary. For instance, it could alert you about malicious operating system behaviors. You would know right away about crypto mining malware or other types of threats affecting your computer.
The smart malware designers make it so that your system’s CPU usage gets off the charts only when you’re not using the PC. There’s no way to spot such a thing while you’re away from the keyboard. Unless you have AI-powered cybersecurity solutions to track it all for you 24/7.
You can fake an IP, but spoofing your activity is much harder
Webmasters keep trying to fend off bot traffic and automated scripts. These are used for automatic data scraping and similar activities. For instance, someone could write a script to harvest every bit of contact details on the website. They can then send unsolicited offers to all those contacts. Even when they don’t scrape contacts, no one wants bot traffic because it consumes valuable server resources and slows everything down for legitimate browsers. Thus, it harms the user experience.
The simple solution is to block a range of IP addresses. But by using a VPN (you can read more about it here) server or a proxy, a script can get around the obstacle. Now let’s introduce some AI into the equation. By observing every browser’s activity, it would be able to recognize repetitive behavior. It would associate it with an IP address that’s currently browsing, then flag it. Sure, a script may discard an IP address and try with a new one. But the fingerprint left by its activities would remain since it’s rather much pattern-based. In the end, the new IP could be flagged much faster by automated observation.
Since they came to be, AI and machine learning have changed the world of cybersecurity forever. As time goes on, they will keep getting more and more refined. It’s a matter of question when it will reach the point of becoming your cybersecurity watchdog, tailored to your needs.