Why AI holds the key to cyber security this year
These days, emails laden with various threat levels are coming to inboxes looking so much like the real thing. It's time to get smarter to counter these. Image Credit: Supplied

When you first see it in your inbox, it looks almost exactly like all the other promotions that your favourite retailer sends you.

The e-mail address looks legitimate, the subject line is one that you have seen used before, and the attached image of the discount code for your next purchase has the right company branding and colours. It is only when you click the link at the bottom of the e-mail you realize that you have become the target of a malware attack – one so sophisticated that it was able to bypass all the usual digital vigilance.

Instances such as these are only growing in number. The usual indications of malicious activity many users are trained to be aware of such as shoddy grammar and poor spelling are now a thing of the past. The reason for this is simple – cybercriminals today are wielding AI to develop ever-evolving malware that is capable of bypassing traditional security measures and exploiting even the most robust defences.

These AI-powered attacks are proving to be a significant threat to individuals and organizations across all sectors because of their ability to learn and adapt from traditional defences, morphing their behavior to evade detection.

Constant alert

Attackers are also utilizing AI to automate large-scale cyberattacks by identifying potential targets, scanning for vulnerabilities in their systems, and launching coordinated assaults across multiple systems simultaneously. The sheer speed at which these attacks occur can easily overwhelm traditional security solutions; cybercriminals can launch attacks in milliseconds, while traditional cybersecurity defenses often take minutes or even hours to respond.

Experts have estimated that the increasingly sophisticated wave of cyberattacks will cost the global economy nearly $9.5 trillion this year, and with AI now added into the mix, the burden of cybercrime could hit a staggering $10.5 trillion by 2025. The potential of the technology in the hands of malicious actors is such that over 90 per cent of cybersecurity professionals are concerned that hackers will use AI in cyberattacks that are even harder for their companies to detect.

Faced with this rising tide of cybercrime, there is a critical need for defenders to work at nothing less than the speed of AI – to adopt and wield this powerful technology themselves to out-innovate cybercriminals.

AI has extraordinary potential to revolutionize the cybersecurity industry and help reverse the current rising tide of cyberattacks in the coming years. This is due to the technology’s ability to analyze vast amounts of data including network traffic logs and user activity to detect and respond to threats in milliseconds.

By analyzing historical data and threat intelligence feeds, AI can also predict future attacks and identify potential vulnerabilities, allowing security teams to take a more proactive approach to defense instead of reactive. In addition, AI-powered systems can help automate routine tasks such as quarantining infected systems and escalating suspicious incidents to free up valuable time for security analysts to focus on more complex and strategic tasks.

Recognizing the potential of AI in building cyber resilience, organizations across the UAE’s public and private sectors have been at the forefront of adopting innovative new security solutions such as Microsoft Copilot for Security to help them bolster their digital defenses.

Putting up AI-backed defences

In fact, UAE firms increased their cybersecurity budgets by as much as 35 per cent last year to better protect themselves against the threat posed by AI-powered attacks. The University of Sharjah, for example, has adopted an extremely intelligent AI-powered defense that is able to quickly sift through a large volume of security alerts and identify harmful threats, resulting in enhanced security for the campus’ research projects, student records, and online classes.

The UAE’s Cyber Security Council is working with various entities to build an enhanced cybersecurity framework that will protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from emerging threats such as those posed by AI-powered malware.

It is clear that the future of cybersecurity is intertwined with AI. By embracing the technology and working at the speed of attackers, security teams can turn the tide in the fight against cybercrime.

This commitment has to go beyond the deployment of AI-powered security systems; what is needed in tandem is a continuous culture of innovation, employee training, and regular risk assessments to ensure that every organization remains resilient in the face of ever-evolving cyber threats.