AI As A Standalone Cybersecurity Solution 

AI is a hot topic. Set to revolutionise the way we live, work and interact with technology, it is shaping our future extensively. In almost every industry sector AI is altering processes, driving innovation, and transforming business models, ushering in a new era of efficiency and opportunity. And the world of cybersecurity is no exception. 

Presenting somewhat of a double-edged sword, AI is tipped to make cybersecurity more challenging by empowering threat actors to be more sophisticated, effective and believable on the one hand, whilst also offering improvements in defence mechanisms, leading to huge accelerations in the capability of threat detection.

There’s a lot of noise about how we can leverage AI in security and, whilst I agree its use will be beneficial, what concerns me is the inference that AI, like some of the security products and services hailed before it, could become a standalone solution which will somehow negate the requirement for an effective Security Operations Center (SOC). 

In my opinion, this is what the threat actors want. For us to absolve ourselves of responsibility, accountability and judgement and put our trust in a tech solution. 

The reality is that the same reasons that make AI a compelling threat are the very reasons that should make us pause and proceed with a good deal of caution and scepticism when considering AI as a security solution.  
AI models are fed by data and their reliability is dependent on the quality of the data they ingest.  If the data is contaminated or unreliable, the results can be biased and can even create a new attack surface for threat actors to exploit. AI models also make decisions in ways that humans can't easily understand and are readily open to manipulation.

A potential attacker for example, could trick the machine learning model into misclassifying threats to enable them to make breaches undetected thus posing a significant risk to cybersecurity.  

Whilst not a cybersecurity issue, Amazon’s attempt to lead the world in AI driven recruitment is a great example of this. Trained to find applicants by following patterns in resumes/CVs that had been received over the preceding decade, the high numbers of men in tech meant that the AI ‘learned’ that males were a preference for the company and started to penalise any reference to women or female. Amazon thought it was giving the AI the responsibility, but it didn’t, it gave it the authority to act on its behalf. The result almost managed to set the company’s diversity objectives back decades and was a huge problem to fix.

AI’s inability to contextualise is another reason why it shouldn’t be relied upon as a sole cybersecurity solution. It doesn’t have human-like situational awareness, judgment, or prioritisation abilities. It doesn’t understand the nuances of the wider environment it’s being used in, the industry or market context. Human intuition is essential in cybersecurity, enabling threat levels to be assessed in context, prioritised based on risk, and adjusted accordingly. Without it, AI may misinterpret situations, leading to ineffective responses and increased vulnerability to evolving threats.

Behind every cyber attack is a human ready to adapt; to change their method and evolve their approach. Relying solely on AI tools and removing the human element risks facing adversaries that outpace the machine's capabilities.

That human expertise is also the reason why a SOC centre is essential. Yes, an AI security model may well be able to process massive amounts of data and flag threats with amazing speed. But then what? Most IT teams are already drowning in alarms and alerts, they need guidance and support from other human experts, not another data source without direction.

Just as threat actors try to rush, distract and manipulate their victims, we shouldn’t be distracted from our security goals by the shiny thing that is AI. The risk hasn’t changed. The threat is just faster, stronger and harder and a standalone AI cybersecurity solution won’t suffice in beating it.

Image: Ideogram

Chris Stouff is Chief Security Officer at Armor

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