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Digital Defense Gets Smart

Protecting IT systems against attacks is an enormous task that just keeps on getting bigger. More powerful computers are giving hackers and spammers a helping hand. Fortunately, a new strong ally is joining the battle against cybercrime: artificial intelligence.

15 Mar. 2017
Unterstuetzung aus der Dose
How Artificial Intelligence helps defend against Cyber attacks. (Source: iStock)

The IT world is under siege. Hackers, malware, and spamming are on the rise every year – and the types of threat are diversifying. Early last year, security companies reported one ransomware attack against businesses every two minutes. By autumn, this figure had risen to an attack every 40 seconds, while for consumers it was even higher at an average rate of one ransomware attack every ten seconds. Extortion through ransomware seems to be an extremely lucrative business for criminals. And even amateurs looking to quickly launch a cyberattack can find the necessary guides and services on the dark web.

In addition, the Internet of Things presents attackers with a wealth of new targets that are often unsecured or poorly protected – for example with passwords such as "1234" or "password". Cybercriminals can hijack Internet-connected devices like baby monitors, webcams, or door phones and use them to build a gigantic botnet. This can be used to relentlessly bombard servers with requests, causing websites and servers to crash.

For hackers, the size of the target company barely matters. "Criminals are especially interested in data from small and medium-sized enterprises because these companies usually possess unique knowledge within their market segment," says Tim Berghoff, Security Evangelist at G Data. Usually, these smaller businesses are also less prepared for attacks.

Forewarned, Forearmed?

Being aware of potential vulnerabilities is an important first step towards defense. "Human nature is the fundamental problem in cyber security," says Anton Shingarev, Vice President for Public Affairs at Kasperksy. "As long as nothing happens, we do nothing." However, for small companies in particular, it is vital to analyze and assess the risks to be able to take the appropriate countermeasures.

To do this, companies must understand the individual risks. Only then can they determine how serious the risks are – and prioritize them accordingly.

Artificial Intelligence Provides Support

For this task, security teams in companies are enlisting help from a new source. Artificial intelligence can not only help them identify potential targets of attacks, but also develop countermeasures and distinguish between real attacks and false alarms. According to IBM , IT security teams process an average of over 200,000 events daily, which are discovered by cyber-security systems such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems.

The time invested in this process would be better spent in defending against real attacks. That is one of the reasons why IBM is deploying its cognitive system Watson in the fight for cyber security. In collaboration with 40 organizations, the American tech giant has launched the IBM Watson for Cyber Security beta program. By analyzing huge volumes of data and comparing it with databases, the supercomputer can identify attack patterns and recommend countermeasures.

The Voice of Cyber Security

IBM Managed Security Services customers can currently use a chatbot tool to connect to the X-Force Command Centers – IBM’s global network of digital defense experts. What’s more, the company is developing a voice assistant, code-named Havyn, that provides security-relevant information – similar to Siri but for cybersecurity questions.

Technologies like machine learning, adaptive intelligence, and large-scale data models can make systems such as spam filters and antivirus programs more intelligent, helping them detect cybercrime. "There are some groundbreaking AI solutions built around cyber security analytics," says George Avetisov , CEO and cofounder of biometric security company HYPR. "AI is transforming the speed at which threats are identified and attacks are mitigated."

This could transform the role of IT security experts. In the future, instead of detecting and defending against attacks, they might only be required to develop learning models that further improve artificial intelligence.

With hackers, BYOD policies, and the NSA, cybercrime and data theft could affect any business. And in the age of digitization and the Internet of Things, the risks are rising. That’s why CeBIT has dedicated the Business Security exhibition to this topic. Experts will be giving presentations at the Business Security Stage , the Security Plaza forum, and the International Cyber Security Conference .