In an age where cyber hacks are targeting small businesses, AI-enabled cybersecurity solutions will give organizations a significant competitive edge.

By 2021, it’s predicted that cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion, according to new research.

New tech powers sophisticated cyber attacks

Worse still, is that SMEs - perceived as easier targets - are caught in the crosshairs.

Now hackers are using AI technology to put a new spin on old scams like phishing emails and URLs. Analysis, however, predicts that this is only the beginning.

Researchers from Darktrace said that criminals could soon use AI to deploy malware with the capability to exploit every network vulnerability. If certain vulnerabilities are patched, the AI could ‘decide’ to use a different technique which had success in similar target environments in the past.

In one example from cloud security firm Cyxtera, it built a machine-learning based phishing attack generator, training the system on 100 million effective historical attacks. An average phishing attack could bypass the AI-detection system 0.3 percent of the time, but the new attacker got around the system more than 15 percent of the time.

The rise of AI-powered cybersecurity

The advantages of artificial intelligence are countless when paired with humansBut, as AI powers new scams, it can help small businesses fight back against cybercriminals.

The findings of an IBM and Ponemon Institute study investigating AI and cybersecurity found that about half of the surveyed companies are deploying some kind of security automation; a further 38 percent are set to deploy a system within the next year.

An article from the Boston Consulting Group examined the evolution of AI in cybersecurity, suggesting areas where AI can assist with strengthening cybersecurity measures.

The development of automated systems can prevent hacks as AI techniques start using machine learning to harden defenses and deploy protection in real-time.  AI-based technologies are also being trained on large datasets, and taught what normal system activity looks like so that it can raise the alarm on suspicious incidents.

AI cybersecurity firm, Darktrace, uses technology powered by machine learning and AI algorithms to protect the data of half a million students across Texas. The AI cybersecurity solution works by learning the “pattern of life” for each system user and device, and then detecting known and unknown threats.

Ventures like INKY, an email protection startup, are coming to the market with AI cybersecurity solutions that use “anomaly detection algorithms” to identify and block phishing attempts and extortion attacks.

Chatbots and artificial intelligence for the insurance industryThat said, solely relying on AI isn’t an effective cybersecurity solution... for now. Companies find the most success in situations where AI work alongside humans. The Danske Bank uses an AI-based system to improve its fraud detection rate by 50%. The solution sees the machines working closely with human investigators.

Companies are also encouraged to keep an eye on threats closer to home. Forcepoint uses AI technology to detect tone in employee emails and to flag employees with low-performance scores, suggesting this might alert companies to potential breaches. While this might feel like an intrusive approach for your business, it further demonstrates the types of AI tools which small businesses can use to enhance cybersecurity protection, as well as, ultimately, customer satisfaction. Keeping the focus on internal employees, business owners and security teams should educate themselves and employees on good cybersecurity practices.

Stay ahead of cybercriminals to secure your business’s future

Companies that invest in AI can protect themselves against sophisticated attacks and reduce operational costs. Many analysts refer to the evolution of AI in cybersecurity and cybercrime as a security arms race. To stay ahead of cybercriminals, you need to stay informed. Our article on the latest cybersecurity threats discusses the threat landscape.

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