AI & Cybersecurity | 404 | Ep. 1

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Summarised Transcript

Simran Basra: Welcome, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. I’m Simran Basra, and today we’re joined by the infamous Dr David Day.

Dr. David Day: Hey!

Simran Basra: Today, we’re discussing how artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning, is challenging the face of the cybersecurity world. Can you explain how attacks are using AI to develop more sophisticated cyber threats?

Dr. David Day: Yes, let me start by explaining a bit about how AI and machine learning work. Imagine you want to learn something new, like playing the guitar. You might buy some books, visit websites, or watch videos, but eventually, you have actually to play the guitar. Reading about it isn’t the same as doing it. I play the guitar, so you learn by practising. You learn the theory and then put it into practice. There’s a saying that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. AI has a significant advantage over us with its incredible ability to process data rapidly, using techniques like supervised learning to do incredible parallel processing. It can assimilate massive amounts of data very quickly. Therefore, it learns much faster than we do and can apply that learning more effectively. Once you pick up your guitar, the first chord you try to play will probably sound wrong. You might not have your fingers correctly on the frets or might not apply the right amount of pressure on the strings. But you adjust and learn from doing. AI, however, already knows what to do because it’s been programmed with that knowledge. In cybersecurity, this means both hackers and those defending against hacks need to be experts. AI can replicate some level of that expertise, which is concerning because it’s like handing a loaded gun to someone unprepared—it’s dangerous. You don’t have to fully understand AI’s complexities to use it, which makes it even more worrying. This technology can easily be misused, and that’s where my concern about cyber threats using AI lies.

Simran Basra: What specific examples of AI-driven cyberattacks should organisations be wary of?

Dr. David Day: One key concern is how AI can be used to enhance traditional hacking techniques. For instance, imagine a hacker wanting to enter a secure facility. Traditionally, a thief might try a few lock-picking techniques and give up if they don’t work. An AI-powered approach, however, would be different. An AI algorithm could be programmed with data from thousands of successful breaches, enabling it to identify common vulnerabilities across different security systems. It would know the most effective methods to try first and quickly adapt its approach based on what has been successful in the past. This capability allows AI to attempt a variety of sophisticated attacks at a speed and precision that a human hacker could never match. It’s like having a master key crafted from the combined knowledge of every successful entry ever made.

Simran Basra: That sounds quite alarming. How is AI being utilised to enhance cybersecurity defences and respond to these threats?

Dr David Day: AI is incredibly effective at bolstering our defences, and for the same reasons, it’s effective in attacks. It can analyse vast amounts of data from past intrusions to learn what abnormal network behaviour looks like. This enables systems to detect anomalies that could indicate a breach more quickly and accurately. For example, AI can improve intrusion detection systems by learning normal traffic patterns and immediately flagging deviations. This reduces false positives and helps security professionals focus on real threats. AI systems are also continuously updated with new data, so they adapt over time, becoming more adept at recognising and responding to the latest hacking techniques.

Simran Basra: How do AI-driven systems differ from traditional security measures in detecting and neutralising threats?

Dr. David Day: Traditional security measures often rely on predefined rules and parameters to identify threats. While effective against known threats, they can struggle with new or evolving tactics. AI-driven systems, on the other hand, learn from ongoing data. They’re looking for known threats and anomalies that could indicate new types of attacks. This continuous learning and adaptation make AI-driven security systems more dynamic and proactive in responding to threats. They’re capable of understanding the context of each situation, which enhances their decision-making processes and makes them more effective at securing environments against the most cunning and novel attacks.

Simran Basra: What emerging AI technologies do you see playing a pivotal role in shaping cybersecurity strategies?

Dr. David Day: Predictive analysis is a technology that’s really starting to come into its own. AI’s ability to analyse past data and predict future events based on that data is particularly valuable. It can identify patterns and predict potential cyberattacks before they happen, allowing organisations to pre-emptively strengthen their defences. This aspect of AI can transform reactive security measures into proactive strategies. Predicting where vulnerabilities will likely be exploited allows cybersecurity professionals to fix them before they can be targeted.

Simran Basra: How should organisations prepare for the integration of these technologies to protect against future cyber threats?

Dr. David Day: Organisations need to adopt a mindset of continuous improvement and learning. Integrating AI into cybersecurity isn’t just a one-time upgrade—it’s an ongoing process. As AI technologies evolve, so must the strategies and frameworks organisations use to protect themselves. This means investing in training for cybersecurity teams, ensuring they understand how to work effectively with AI. Additionally, it’s crucial to stay informed about the latest AI developments and threats, as this technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace. Preparing for AI integration also involves robust testing and evaluation to ensure that the AI systems are effective and secure before they’re deployed.

Simran Basra: Absolutely. Thank you for joining us on this journey. And, as always, stay curious.