Artificial Intelligence (AI): A tool to increase cyber security or a new threat?

AI is rapidly changing the way businesses operate and shaping more aspects of our daily lives. But new technology also brings new threats because bad actors will be quick to exploit security weaknesses. However, if used to reinforce cyber defences, AI can boost security as well as undermine it. Let’s look at the AI balance sheet and examine the strengths and weaknesses.

AI defined

AI is not a single technology and definitions vary. It is best understood as a collection of evolving technologies that work harmoniously to duplicate different characteristics of human intelligence, meaning it has many facets, but there are two broad categories: narrow AI and general AI. Narrow AI performs a dedicated task or a number of closely related tasks, while general AI can handle a range of complex tasks and is more like the interpretation we see in science-fiction films.

Lack of regulation

Because AI is complex and fast developing, there is little regulation. Although there are no specific regulations in the UK, the Government recently published proposals for an AI rulebook , while the EU has drafted an AI Act, the first law on AI by any major regulator, but it is yet to be implemented. Governance and control is fragmentary in the US, and only China among the leading powers has taken a firm stand with new rules published in 2022.

AI in everyday life

We experience AI in many ways that we don’t realise. Common uses include virtual assistants, image recognition on mobile phones, and chatbots to answer customer questions. AI can also be embedded in hardware to support the internet of things and to power innovations such as autonomous cars. The use cases are growing by the day, which underlines the need for greater control.

One recent development is ChatGPT, an advanced chatbot that has huge potential to change everyday life but also poses many risks if innovation is not matched by the right protection and controls. One danger is that it will lead to more cyberattacks because, among other things, ChatGPT can create malware and help to craft more convincing phishing emails.

Cybersecurity: AI to the defence

To counteract the risks from new technology, AI can also strengthen defences in many ways. Examples include:

  • Identifying and analysing cyber threats, and providing immediate alerts so that appropriate action can be taken to neutralise a threat
  • Powering cybersecurity tools that can expose weaknesses in defence systems
  • AI-powered systems to support post-cyberattack investigations into why and how a security breach occurred
  • Behavioural analysis of hackers to assess attack patterns and modus operandi
  • Automation of manual tasks to eliminate the risk of human error.

Increase protection with the right insurance

AI can be a friend or a foe. In the wrong hands, it can facilitate cybercrime and have many unintended consequences. Regulations need to catch up with innovations, and AI must become a key weapon in cyber defence systems rather than a point of vulnerability. Insurance should also be part of the mix, to provide protection should a cyberattack succeed. Whether caused by an AI weakness or another system vulnerability, a cyber incident can be hugely damaging to any business. Elmore is an expert in assessing technology threats and providing the right level of cover. Contact us to discuss your needs.

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