It’s no secret that cyber-crime is on the rise, and with the global Cybersecurity market forecast to grow to $248.26 billion by 2023, it’s very much here to stay.

With the recent shift in remote working there’s been a huge surge in malicious cyber activity. Phishing attacks based around COVID-19 are not just targeting corporations but consumers too, with the WHO reporting a staggering 30,000% increase in phishing, malicious websites, and malware targeting remote users since January 2020. As homeworking is likely to continue while this pandemic runs its course, cybercrime is also likely to be one of the biggest emerging threats to the working world of the future.

There are a number of factors that all come into play:

  • Developing technologies such as the internet of things (IoT)
  • Mobile devices ( such as autonomous vehicles and mobile phones)
  • the cloud
  • A belligerent global cyber war
  • Increasingly targeted and profitable ransomware attacks
  • Issues with personal data privacy
  • Uncertainties of how to handle identity/authentication
  • The proliferation of other emerging threats.

These factors all contribute to the need to evolve our understanding of how we see and deal with the new digital age.

Robert Y. Bigman, former CISO of the CIA recently said “In 2020, we will begin to see the first (of potentially many) attacks against commercial cloud infrastructure by exploiting virtual machines and corrupting hypervisors to gain access to other clients’ sensitive data”.  There are suggestions that as many as 95% of organisations globally have been breached in some way, with some of the largest companies (who many would assume to be the most secure) facing financial repercussions in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In the last few years alone we have seen some of the world’s biggest organisations suffering eye-watering financial consequences from such breaches; Epsilon (roughly $4 billion), Equifax ($700million), Yahoo ($470million), Marriott ($200million), Uber ($148million), Sony PlayStation ($171 million) and even the US Office of Personnel Management ($500million). Any organisation can be a target, and every organisation needs to defend itself.

Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly more creative in their means of bypassing traditional cyber security, and capitalising on entry points of the network which have not been secured. The imminent explosion of cybercrime during this era of digital transformation is not to be taken lightly, and the phrase ‘a network is only as strong as its weakest link’ has never been more compelling…

The Future Of AI

The building blocks are already in place for the rise of AI-powered cyber-attacks in 2020, as more sophisticated defences and access to open-source AI tools incentivise adversaries to supercharge their attacks. AI will not only enable malware to move stealthily across businesses without the need for a human touch on the keyboard, but attackers will also use AI in other malicious ways, from determining their targets, to conducting reconnaissance, and scaling their attacks. Marcus Fowler, Director of Strategic Threat, Darktrace recently recognised this reality, stating “Security experts recognize that defensive AI is the only force capable of combating offensive AI attacks and that the battle must be fought by matching – or exceeding – the speed with which attackers innovate”.

A chink in the armour of today’s attackers is that most still need human judgement – people making guesses about the sorts of methods that will be most effective in their target network. It’s this human element that often enables defenders to neutralise attacks.

But offensive AI is increasing, and this will make detecting and responding to attacks far more difficult. Open-source research and projects can now be leveraged to augment every phase of the attack lifecycle. This means that the speed, scale, and contextualisation of attacks will exponentially increase. Traditional security controls are already struggling to detect attacks not yet seen “in the wild” – be it malware without known signatures, new command and control domains, or individualised spear-phishing emails. We are facing a reality where traditional tools will no longer be able to cope with the AI driven attacks of the future.

To stay ahead of this next wave of attacks, AI is becoming a necessary part of the defender’s stack. No matter how well-trained or how well-staffed, humans alone will no longer be able to keep up. Hundreds of organisations are already using Autonomous Response to fight back against new strains of ransomware, insider threats and previously unknown techniques, tools and procedures. Cyber AI technology allows human responders to take stock and strategise from behind the front line. A new age in cyber defence is just beginning, and the effect of AI on this battleground is already proving fundamental.

What’s the Industry’s Answer

Darktrace is renowned for their industry-leading true AI monitoring solution to an increasingly hostile digital landscape. Founded in 2013 by mathematicians from the University of Cambridge, Darktrace was the first company to develop the AI system for cyber security.

Darktrace’s pioneering technology, the ‘Enterprise Immune System’, applies AI to the cyber defence challenge for the first time, detecting cyber-threats that existing, legacy systems cannot. The technology has already proven to be powerful enough to identify a diverse range of threats at their earliest stages – including insider attacks, latent vulnerabilities, cloud-based threats and even state-sponsored espionage.

In 2016, Darktrace’s leadership in AI was reinforced with the launch of the first-ever autonomous response technology, Darktrace Antigena. This innovation allowed the ‘Enterprise Immune System’ to react to in-progress cyber attacks in a highly precise way, releasing much needed time for the security teams to catch up. When WannaCry ransomware attacks hit hundreds of organizations in 2017, Darktrace Antigena reacted in seconds, protecting customer networks from the inestimable damage.

Government agencies of the world have recognised Darktrace’s capabilities; and for good reason! Working closely with members of the CIA and MI5, Darktrace offers a promising weapon to combat the formidable war against cybercrime. We’ve no doubt it will continue to dominate the struggle in subduing the alarming threats we must face tomorrow.