Since the late 80’s and early 90’s when the internet began to take shape and firms started to utilize it to advance business, there have been numerous recorded threats by viruses and worms, which cause devastating effects on businesses which sometimes shut down operations permanently. These threats known as cyber threats are generally spearheaded by programmers who create these viruses with the intention of gaining unauthorized access to computer networks and shutting down operations.
The first computer worm attack was the Morris Worm that was created by Robert Morris in 1988, which spread quickly and slowed down nearly all the 60,000 computers connected to the internet. Many worms and viruses have sprung up since then, with some of them causing serious damage. Common types of cyber-attacks include phishing, malware, SQL injection, man-in-the-middle attack, among others. Cybersecurity was introduced as a form of protection against these attacks and threats.
Since the internet went mainstream in the 90’s, many measures have been introduced to secure the personal and company data of internet users. Cybersecurity being a broad field is comprised of:
- Network Security:
- Application Security
- Internet of Things Security
- Cloud Security
- Critical Infrastructure.
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Since the birth of cyber threats, humans have always been the weakest link in cybersecurity programs. Besides not being 100% effective in tracking signatures of threats in a network system, one can be tricked through social engineering to reveal important information or to expose a pathway to the network; hence the need for machines to replace humans in the chain of command. Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes it easier to prevent, detect, and remedy cyber threats to a network system. Over the years, AI and machine learning have been able to improve the quality of cybersecurity. Viruses and worms are easily detected and stopped from getting into networks. Vijay Ganti, Head ML/AI research team for cybersecurity products at VMware lists two major roles of AI in cybersecurity viz:
- Enforcing Cyberhygeine: computers and networks are more prone to attacks if there is no form of boundary or limits to places they can access on the internet. Cyberhygeine is concerned with placing limits on computer systems in order to limit the possibility of attack.
- Monitoring and looking out for threats: By using machine learning, systems can easily detect a virus attack somewhere on the internet before it spreads and updates its virus definitions to detect, raise red flags and possibly eliminate it.
Ganti believes Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will improve cybersecurity by “shrinking the attack surface”. Looking at the marked improvements in cybersecurity and the potentials of machine learning, we can be certain of AI narrowing this surface to its barest minimum by next decade.
Although the use of AI in cybersecurity has great potential, it does not guarantee the removal of these threats entirely. It is estimated that organizations will spend hundreds of billions of dollars on cybersecurity by 2020. This shows how important protecting business data is, and also highlights the need for every firm to back up its data in a secure location, such as the cloud.