Cybercriminals increasingly employ sophisticated tactics in their online disruptions, costing organizations $2.9 million every single minute.
Research from RiskIQ also found that major businesses lose an average of $25 per minute because of data breaches alone.
According to IBM, it takes 280 days to discover and contain the average cyber-attack, which costs an average of $3.86 million.
Nefarious characters behind a keyboard are not the only source of threats complicating cyber security efforts.
Cyber-criminals have artificial intelligence at their disposal, and they aren’t afraid to use it.
Experts predict that hackers will continue to harness the power of machine learning to purvey stealthier and even more harmful cyber-attacks on business, organizations and governments.
You cannot anticipate tomorrow’s attack incrementally by looking at yesterday’s threat landscape,” cybersecurity firm Darktrace’s Director of Threat Hunting Max Heinemeyer told Wired in 2019.
“Because the industry had been looking at gradual ways to fix the next patch-level, the next zero-day, the next security awareness campaign, or the next spam phishing campaign, everybody was taken by surprise when two very powerful exploits—worming malware and ransomware—came together with cryptocurrency.”
The best solution, of course, is to fight fire with fire and deploy more machine learning and AI in cybersecurity efforts.
AI systems now are being developed to use sophisticated algorithms that can detect malware and ransomware attacks before they can enter a system, among other cybersecurity efforts.
For example, Google employs AI machine learning to block over 100 million spam messages, including phishing attempts and other threats, every day.
Likewise, organizations like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have used AI in a cybersecurity system that screens body gestures and facial expressions to identify potentially dangerous individuals.
Cyber Threats Facing Small Business
While cyber-attacks against enterprise-level organizations gain the most attention, even small business is susceptible to cyber threats.
These cyber threats include malware, viruses, ransomware and phishing – all of which can be designed and aided by AI.
Malicious software is any designed to damage computers, servers, clients or entire computer networks.
Malware is an umbrella term that also applies to viruses, ransomware and any malicious code hackers use to access networks, steal data and cause damage to computers.
Malware can enter computers and networks through website downloads, spam emails or connections to infected machines.
Device damage caused by malware potentially can cripple a small business by putting important devices out of commission, requiring costly repairs and blocking access to vital data.
Each year thousands of businesses are attacked by ransomware, and the number is only growing as ransomware is a lucrative attack for hackers.
The cyber-attack occurs when a company’s data is encrypted in a way it cannot be accessed or used, thereby forcing a company to pay a ransom to unlock its systems.
Businesses end up between a rock and a hard place, faced with a choice of extensive business loss or paying a costly ransom.
Many people are familiar with phishing attempts, having received emails from senders fraudulently impersonating a bank, phone company, healthcare center or even the Social Security Administration.
If the recipient believes the fraudulent claims, they often will provide sensitive data to what they believe is a trusted organization.
Phishing accounts for an overwhelming plurality of cyber-attacks faced by organizations, and phishing incidents more than doubled in frequency from 2019 to 2020.
In fact, the 241,324 incidents cited by the FBI in 2020 was 11 times the phishing complaints in 2016.
According to Tessian’s 2021 phishing statistics, 75% of organizations around the world experienced a phishing attack in 2020.
Internal Data Breaches
Some of the most common sources of data breaches aren’t entirely external. Whether it’s insider attacks or weak passwords, internal sources remain a significant risk to computer, network and data security.
In fact, a Verizon report found 34% of cyber-attacks in 2019 resulted from internal employees’ behavior, both intentional and unintentional.
The number of workers telecommuting has skyrocketed in 2020 and 2021 as a result of the global pandemic, and these remote workplaces have led to increased network vulnerabilities.
When global software creator Nulab surveyed 1,000 full-time employees, one-third said cybersecurity was a moderate to major problem for their employers, while an equal number were expressed cybersecurity concerns for themselves.
Some of their specific concerns were over phishing, malware, hacking, compromised email and social media accounts, as well as data breaches.
Cybersecurity Tools for Small Business
Cybersecurity is such a significant issue for businesses of all sizes, the Federal Communications Commission has issued guidance for companies to protect themselves online.
Many of these tools and strategies can be enhanced through the use of AI.
We all know there aren’t enough cyber security staff in the market, so AI can help to fill the gap,” Palo Alto Networks chief security officer Greg Day told Information Age.
“Machine learning, a form of AI, can read the input from SoC analysts and transpose it into a database, which becomes ever expanding.”
Knowing continues to be half the battle, and the first step in protecting your business from cyber-criminals is assessing your risk.
A variety of tools are available to assist in cyber risk assessment, including the FCC’s cybersecurity planning tool, which helps small businesses create a strategy based on their unique business needs.
Likewise, the Department of Homeland Security offers complimentary cyber hygiene vulnerability scanning for small businesses, which helps them secure their internet-facing systems from known vulnerabilities such as weak configurations.
Employees are one of the leading causes of data breaches, even if dangers such as ineffective passwords and insecure links are often unintentional.
Training employees in cybersecurity best practices is an investment that can save companies money in the long haul.
Employers can train their workers in strategies such as:
- identifying phishing attempts
- safe web browsing practices
- effective passwords
- safeguarding company, client and partner information
- avoiding suspicious downloads.
The Department of Homeland Security offers training and other materials through its Stop.Think.Connect campaign.
Detection of Cyber Threats
Thanks to AI, some cyber threats can be detected before malicious activity occurs. Traditional software such as antiviral programs no longer can keep pace with the massive amount of new malware constantly introduced.
However, sophisticated algorithms allow for constant improvement in the detection of malware threats.
Thanks to AI, even the minutest action taken by malware and ransomware attacks can be detected before it enters a network, and attempted malicious activity can be modeled before it ever becomes a reality.
Preventable cyber-attacks resulting from a failure to update a system or follow a policy continue to be a problem for many small businesses.
Cyber-criminals can easily exploit any lapse in keeping sites updated. It is way too easy for changes and updates to fall through the cracks if you aren’t vigilant.
Fortunately, many cybersecurity vendors now employ AI to manage updates.
Malicious bots are all over the internet and account for a significant portion of all web traffic, taking over accounts using stolen credentials, creating bogus profiles and proliferating fraudulent data.
Organizations around the world are fighting these automated bots with automated AI-based tools.
Thanks to machine learning, AI can learn to recognize different types of web traffic and distinguish between benign and harmless bots like Google’s web crawler, malicious bots and humans.
Businesses can’t fight automated threats with human responses alone. They must employ AI and machine learning if they’re serious about tackling the ‘bot problem,’” Netacea head of data science Mark Greenwood Told Information Age.
“To truly differentiate between good bots (such as search engine scrapers), bad bots and humans, businesses must use AI and machine learning to build a comprehensive understanding of their website traffic.”
“It’s necessary to ingest and analyze a vast amount of data and AI makes that possible, while taking a machine learning approach allows cyber security teams to adapt their technology to a constantly shifting landscape,” Greenwood added.
“By looking at behavioral patterns, businesses will get answers to the questions ‘what does an average user journey look like’ and ‘what does a risky unusual journey look like’.
From here, we can unpick the intent of their website traffic, getting and staying ahead of the bad bots.”
Image source: Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/artificial-intelligence-robot-ai-ki-2167835/
Latest posts by Samantha Lile (see all)
- Small Business Battles Cyber Threats with AI - October 11, 2021
- Driving for Uber Between Gigs Pads Freelancers’ Wallets – And Occupies Their Free Time - August 22, 2018