The Role of Machine Learning and AI in Cybersecurity

  • UserVal Tsanev
  • April 19, 2024
  • 4 min read
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Phishing emails, malware downloads, ransomware assaults, and other cyber attacks exploit vulnerabilities that security software cannot detect. These are just a few of the many ways that cyberattacks find their way to us, even with multiple cyber defenses in place. It is challenging for people to recognize threats and take appropriate action on their own due to the massive amount of data produced by networks and the sophistication of these attacks.

This is where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) come into play as strong partners, providing an additional layer of protection and resilience to already existing cybersecurity measures.

What is AI?

AI in cybersecurity leverages computers to create intelligent systems capable of mimicking human-like decision-making and problem-solving in the context of cyber defense.

AI is capable of carrying out activities that would normally need human intellect or assistance, either on its own or in conjunction with other technologies (such as sensors, geolocation, and robots). A few instances of AI in the news and our daily lives are digital assistants, GPS navigation, driverless cars, and more.

How is AI Used in Cybersecurity:

AI in cybersecurity is capable of real-time cyber threat detection, analysis, and response. AI can help with:

  • Detect Unusual Behaviors:

AI in cybersecurity can leverage algorithms and swift through a myriad of data to look for anomalies and unusual behavior from various sources including user behavior, endpoint security data, and network traffic logs, to find intricate and sophisticated cyberattacks that could avoid detection by conventional techniques.

  • Early Detection of Malware Attacks:

A method commonly used to detect malware attacks is malware analysis. Analysis of malware is the process of looking at and understanding the behavior and features of harmful software, such as viruses or ransomware. This is one way that AI assists in preventing cyberattacks.

AI in cybersecurity can delve deeper than simple detection. It can reverse engineer a malware attack, decompiling the malicious code to extract critical insights. This process unveils the virus's nature, its intended function, potential origin, and even the targeted systems or data.

  • Threat Analysis:

Artificial intelligence (AI) gathers, analyses, and distributes data about known and unknown dangers to help stop cyberattacks. It is able to recognize signs of threat, anticipate upcoming attacks, and automate the process of collecting and analyzing threat data from several sources.

  • Reduction in False Positives:

Leveraging AI in cybersecurity, behavioral analysis can identify unusual network activity that might indicate a potential cyberattack. Machine learning systems become more adept at differentiating between benign deviations from the norm and suspicious activity through continuous training and retraining, which reduces the amount of time and resources needed to investigate false alarms.

  • Security Innovation:

  • Because AI's primary goal is constant development, it may be a useful tool for innovation. According to an article by SOPHOS, the capabilities of a modern SOC must be able to swiftly change in response to shifting client demands and the constantly shifting threat landscape.

AI will be integrated into Security Operations Centre (SOC) processes soon to improve security and operator efficiency after being educated on large-scale user behavioral data. AI in cybersecurity will prove to be a priceless tool for security operations specialists, helping them to instantly recognize potential dangers.

What is Machine Learning?

Machine learning and deep learning are both powerful tools within the realm of Artificial Intelligence (AI). While often used interchangeably, there are key distinctions. Machine learning algorithms learn from data to make data-driven decisions, but they typically require pre-processed and structured data for optimal performance.

Deep learning, on the other hand, is a subfield of machine learning specifically designed to handle complex, raw, and unstructured data. This includes things like images, text, and audio. Deep learning models, inspired by the human brain's structure, can automatically extract features and categorize data, significantly reducing the need for manual data preparation.

How is Machine Learning Used in Cybersecurity:

  • Detect Network Vulnerabilities

Businesses are utilizing machine learning for software patching and penetration testing in order to solve security gaps and vulnerabilities. Based on a network's weaknesses, machine learning can also learn from past data to identify the greatest dangers the business can face in the future.

  • Fraud Detections:

According to IMB, machine learning can be used by banks and other financial organizations to identify transactions that appear suspicious. Supervised learning can be used to train a model with data from known fraudulent transactions and anomaly detection can be used to identify transactions that appear unusual and warrant more inquiry.

  • Decreased Workload:

Organizations may also reduce hiring expenses by using machine learning to fill positions that would otherwise require employing a new person. For smaller companies who cannot afford to hire more employees, this is incredibly helpful.

  • Task Automation:

Cybersecurity tasks like network log analysis, threat analysis, intelligence, and vulnerability assessment are time-consuming and prone to errors. These are precisely the kinds of operations that machine learning excels at automating.

  • Phishing Attacks:

Real-time data analysis and the detection and termination of phishing emails are both possible with machine learning. Machine learning models may be trained to distinguish between malicious and benign emails by analyzing patterns in email headers, body content, and punctuation. These models can then be used to identify and categorize potential phishing attempts.

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