Thursday 29 November 2018 6:20 am

Wake up to AI Cyber Defence

From self-adjusting thermostats and email spam filters, to Netflix’s recommendation algorithms and Alexa virtual assistants, AI (artificial intelligence) is fast emerging out of its infancy, and the only way is up. Due to a recent wave of tech innovations, our day-to-day lives are now looking to be enhanced even further by AI.

A typical automated day may start with the smart coffee machine making my morning latte just before I wake up. Using AI, it can interact with other connected devices around the home including my FitBit, which has been busy tracking my sleep patterns overnight. Based on this and my calendar, my coffee might then be ‘snoozed’ by half an hour after five hours’ patchy sleep, or have an extra espresso shot added, ahead of that unmissable morning meeting.

As the mornings become darker, I need to watch my step, but smart street lighting can predict likely walking paths at certain times to optimise energy spend. Tomorrow, AI could help process data from people’s footsteps and conduct the kinetic energy to power street lights exactly where they are needed.

Arriving at the underground station, I am whisked to work on an AI-powered train. In fact, the UK government plans for fully driverless services to run on mainline routes in and out of London by as early as 2019, promising a more punctual, safer and reliable commute.

Next, smart traffic lights analysing real-time traffic patterns help me navigate the maze of traffic and people to reach the office, working with autonomous vehicles to ease traffic flow and reduce pollution.

It is this capacity to learn and make informed decisions that has driven innovators to pursue the seemingly boundless possibilities of AI. While the power of AI is set to make our daily routines more efficient, it is also a potential supertool in the toolkit of the modern cyber attacker.

For example, spear phishing, the practice of infecting systems with malware via email, is a technique that will likely become harder to combat. By using social media, cyber criminals are already gaining enough information about us to successfully induce the click or double click needed to infiltrate a computer. But the cyber-attacker of the future will be able to take this one step further, as a machine can do much more damage in a much more efficient way.

It will not only learn your writing style, but how it differs depending on who you email or message. With these learnings, it will then mimic conversations and deceive others into believing that they are interacting with us. Using private nicknames and referencing niche in-jokes, future phishing emails will be practically indistinguishable from genuine communication.

With AI now in their arsenal, it might seem that there’s no way to get ahead of the modern cyber attacker. However, there is a silver lining. As attacks have increased in sophistication, the standards of cyber defence have kept pace. Cyber AI gathers network data and harnesses it to detect and fight back against threats in real-time, before irreparable damage has been done. This allows networks to stay protected in the wake of the most sophisticated attacks – even those that have already crossed the border.

Although we can theorise as much as we like, the future impact of AI on our lives is as of yet unknown. That said, one thing is certain; when AI is a common tool in a hacker’s digital arsenal, AI powered cyber defence will make us the stronger side.

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