Seriously, the end is nigh.
Normally we reserve our discussions for SSL, encryption and how you can personally stay safe online. But sometimes I like to update you on emerging technology, too. So today we’re going to talk about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to alter the cyber security landscape very soon.
In fact it’s already beginning to.
When I say Artificial Intelligence, your mind probably goes right to the Terminator movies and SkyNet. When I first saw that movie I ruined a good pair of pants and spent the next few months in adult diapers while I waited for the flashbacks to stop. So you can probably imagine how many Tide pods it took to rectify my reaction when I saw AI and Machine Learning (ML) in the news recently.
Granted, AI isn’t designed to turn murderous – just like cell phones aren’t designed to eradicate our social skills – it starts as a tool that humans design with the noblest of intentions. It’s just that at the end you wind up with an entire generation of fidgety kids that don’t know how to hold a conversation, much less make eye contact—in the case of cell phones. Or just mass human extinction in the case of AI.
But Carl, what does AI have to do with cyber security?
Sorry, started to go off on a tangent there, let’s get back on track. In the years before an AI wipes out humanity, we will be able to apply the technology to cyber security and use it to help make our networks safer. You see, at the heart of cyber security is a constant game of cat and mouse between cybercriminals and the brave men and women who protect our networks.
The problem is, if you’re a hacker all you’re looking for is a vulnerability to exploit. Whereas, for a cyber security professional, you’re attempting to holistically secure an entire network—a much broader task. Have you ever seen Star Wars? The very first one—there’s like ten of them now. The Death Star is a perfect metaphor for cyber defense. You built this whole big death star, and spent copious amounts of time on its defenses, but you totally forgot to cover that one hole in the trench over there and now the other guys have used it to blow you up.
At least they knew they had been breached right away at the Death Star. Notice came in the form of hot, fiery death. It takes the average organization 226 days to even detect a breach, and then 69 more days to contain it. That’s due to the human element being incapable of processing large amounts of data rapidly.
Enter AI and Machine Learning.
Currently, new products like Cognetyx , that use AI and ML to monitor your network 24/7/365, are emerging.
How is that different from other products that do the same thing? Well, over time these products get smarter. The Machine Learning aspect means that they analyze all of your network data and start to identify patterns of use. What employees are using what logins from what access points, what areas they typically access, what times they typically log on—everything.
Then it looks for deviations from those trends and notifies administrators when something is off.
You can probably see how that would help to mitigate threats. Suddenly, if Ivan the Russian hacker – or it could be China or some guy in his home in New Jersey – tries to breach your network, the AI will see an unfamiliar location, or that the compromised login is behaving differently than normal (for instance, trying to access new parts of your network). At that point it will work to mitigate the issue. This happens in real time, as opposed to the way things have typically be done—which takes much longer.
It’s an exciting development and one that promises to make us all much safer, but it’s worth noting that AIs are not going to be exclusively used for defense, either. No, eventually cyber security will shift from man vs. man to AI vs. AI as cybercriminals unleash AI technology that will help advance their own nefarious objectives.
So how does an AI that monitors network activity end humanity, Carl?
If the prospect of an AI vs. AI cyber war doesn’t send a shiver down your spine, what inevitably comes next definitely will. Eventually, one of the AIs tasked with defending a large network will postulate that the only surefire way to keep its network completely safe from being breached by humans is to simply eliminate humans entirely. How it goes about carrying out that task is something I’ll leave almost entirely up to your imagination, though I picture it liquefying us.
Anyway, it’s just a matter of time before we go completely extinct.
But in the interim, we should enjoy vastly improved cyber security. And hey, the eradication of our entire species is a small price to pay so that Target can avoid another data breach. Totally worth it.
Stay cautious, my friends.