AI seems to be everywhere these days. It has become one of the buzzwords found in every single press release. Any startup that wants to attract attention needs to be “powered by AI.” Every tech journal needs to supply an endless stream of articles touting the potential for Artificial Intelligence to “change everything.”
But in the rush to turn AI into an all-encompassing social and economic phenomenon, one important issue is often overlooked: security.
The truth is that AI can’t thrive without advanced cybersecurity to function alongside it. Public confidence needs to be strong enough to allow companies to experiment and introduce new AI-based products. The data used by machine-learning software has to be kept confidential. And critical AI-powered tools that provide public services need to be kept safe from digital attackers.
All of those reasons make it essential to understand how cybersecurity and AI relate to each other. So let’s take a closer look at how AI is stimulating a cybersecurity revolution.
AI is a threat as much as a potential ally
The first thing to comment on is the double-edged nature of Artificial Intelligence. On one hand, security suites and malware detection software is using AI to make detection more precise and efficient than ever. But on the other, hackers are using AI to mount more devastating attacks and breach authentication or encryption techniques.
Polymorphic malware is a great example of how this works. This type of threat constantly changes its code, making it much harder to detect and suppress. It’s not new, but the way hackers are using it is. Advanced techniques now use AI to accelerate and deepen the way polymorphic malware changes its nature. At the same time, AI is also reducing the cost of mounting complex attacks, making existing threats even more acute.
But there is a positive side to AI as well. The use of AI to make malware more dangerous is making it essential to use AI-based detection systems that monitor malware changes in real-time and adapt to mitigate the code that malware uses. Again, this could lower the cost of defending complex threat surfaces. Systems like ForAllSecure also offer new ways to diagnose bugs or exploits before they become a critical danger – something that took huge amounts of human labor before AI became mainstream.
AI has created totally new vulnerabilities
The second point to make is about the way AI is being used in the digital economy. AI has been integrated into countless mass-market devices. For example, it is used by Apple’s iPhones to detect facial features, optimize the focus and brightness of photos, and deliver complex apps dealing with everything from urban navigation to basketball technique.
This all sounds great from a basic user perspective, but it has some hidden dangers. As AI becomes integrated into our everyday lives, the very fabric of our bodies becomes part of data streams that can be captured and used by criminals. Our movements become logged, often without our knowledge, so that AI-powered apps can deliver better services.
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Again, this is all about the double-edged nature of AI. In many ways, it’s a transformative technology. But in others, it’s generating ways for malicious actors to steal information about us that gives them the power to cause havoc. That’s why locking down AI-related data streams has become a vital cybersecurity concern.
VPNs have emerged as an AI essential
The expansion of data flows related to AI has sparked another important development in the world of cybersecurity: the expansion of smartphone Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). These tools encrypt the data you send and receive, including any AI apps you use – keeping information concealed and secure.
VPNs have also become a go-to security ally for companies that use AI, protecting their local networks from external threats, and allowing them to deploy remote workers or devices outside their core locations without worrying too much about data breaches. They have also integrated AI in their own operations, using machine learning to route traffic as efficiently as possible.
From the vantage point of everyday users, it’s essential to use a VPN you can rely on, which has the processing power and adaptability to change as AI-related cyberattacks become more elaborate. ExpressVPN and NordVPN are good contenders, but PIA has a lot of reviews as well which stresses its ability to innovate. Any of them will deal with new threats as they develop, and help users benefit from the positives associated with AI, without worrying excessively about the negatives.
AI-powered authentication is becoming ever more effective
The final way that AI and cybersecurity interact relates to the way we protect ourselves against cyberattackers. Typically, devices are protected by passwords (whether they are strong or weak) or – less commonly – by forms of authentication such as MFA, fingerprint scanning, voice recognition, and biometric analysis.
AI is changing the way these authentication systems work. As we noted earlier, Apple’s phones now use AI routinely to “learn” the shape of the user’s face. That matters because faces are dynamic. They don’t have one set appearance and shift constantly depending on a host of factors. Actually detecting specific faces has been a massive technological challenge, at least until AI came along.
Now, iPhones and other devices can detect individuals with astonishing degrees of accuracy. It’s another area where AI is making us more secure while presenting potential risks in the future. And that’s the key takeaway from this quick survey. While AI is developing rapidly, and most of us are using it, it’s sparked a scramble for new cybersecurity solutions.
From VPNs to super-sensitive authentication, this new frontier of digital security is likely to make headlines in the future. So stay informed, and equip yourself with the tools you need to stay safe as the world around you grows smarter.
David Balaban is a computer security researcher with over 10 years of experience in malware analysis and antivirus software evaluation. David runs the Privacy-PC.com project which presents expert opinions on the contemporary information security matters, including social engineering, penetration testing, threat intelligence, online privacy and white hat hacking.