How Significant Should AI’s Role In Cybersecurity Be?

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In this special guest feature, Max Emelianov, CEO for HostForWeb, takes a look at how significant should AI’s role In cybersecurity be. Cybersecurity is immeasurably more complex than it used to be – so much so that there are many who suggest humans are no longer up to the task of handling it. AI, they argue, is a far better candidate. But are they putting too much stock in machine learning and automation? Max started HostForWeb in 2001. In his role as HostForWeb’s CEO, he focuses on teamwork and providing the best support for his customers while delivering cutting-edge web hosting services.

Comparing modern cybersecurity to how it looked a decade or two ago is like comparing an SUV to a horse-drawn carriage. The level of complexity in our networks, ecosystems, and supply chain is quickly reaching critical mass. Never before have we dealt with threat surfaces this large, and never before have we had to defend against such a vast array of different threats.

To make matters worse, we’re seeing this increase in complexity amidst a growing talent shortage in the IT space. Not only are cybersecurity professionals faced with tougher, more complicated work than in the past, there are also fewer of them than there used to be. It’s a grim outlook, to be sure – but there’s a silver lining here.

Because although the challenges facing security professionals are tougher, the tools they’re equipped with are also more sophisticated than ever. Machine learning and automation stand to revolutionize how we protect our networks and data, while innovations in monitoring, deception technology, and file-level security continue to put up walls against even advanced attackers. To say there’s something of an arms race going on would be a rather accurate assessment.

Amidst this landscape, there are a few who believe that the time of man in the security space may be coming to an end.

Keeping our networks secure from hackers is becoming too big a job for humans,” writes Design News’s Chris Wiltz. “Attacks and security breaches will only get more severe as more devices and data are brought online…as AI technologies become more widely accessible and affordable for benevolent and malicious parties alike, humans aren’t going to be able to win the battle alone.”

Wiltz isn’t exactly wrong. Our brains simply aren’t equipped to process the immense flows of data that are now common in even smaller business networks. Tailor-made, automated systems capable of learning to proactively recognize and respond to threats are inarguably the future of cybersecurity.

At the same time, machine learning is far from perfect. An AI can be compromised – it can be targeted by attackers the same as any enterprise system. More importantly, human beings have something that even the most sophisticated of systems still lack – abstract thought.

A cybersecurity AI can only think and react in terms of the context it’s been given. It works with the concrete and corporeal. It can recognize that Tim in accounting is behaving irregularly based on his past behavior, but it cannot extrapolate beyond what it can see – it has no understanding of why Tim is doing what he’s doing.

For the moment, the best way forward for businesses is to augment human expertise with machine intelligence. To craft an approach to cyber security which embraces the differences between IT professionals and artificial intelligence, allowing each to account for the weaknesses of the other.  The day that changes may well be the day that AI becomes as close to human as it will ever be.


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