The role of AI in cyber security: safeguarding digital identity

The growing and evolving cyber security risk facing global businesses can be stemmed by the integration of AI into security systems.

In the ever-evolving cyber security landscape, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a potent defense against expanding threats.

Those threats are often focused on digital identities as businesses navigate the challenges of connected workplaces, cloud technologies and mobile advancements. The surge in connected devices offers a treasure trove of vulnerabilities for cybercriminals to exploit, often at insufficiently secured access points.

AI is increasingly the weapon of choice for those bad actors, and it’s high time we leverage its defensive capabilities.

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Identity at the heart of security

The concept of identity has transcended the confines of the physical realm, extending into the digital domain. That has prompted a shift in the security paradigm from protecting mere data to safeguarding the identities of those who access it.

With each mobile device and digital touchpoint representing a potential entry for cyber criminals, businesses are compelled to adopt innovative technologies such as AI to protect their customers’ identities while expanding their digital perimeters.

The core opportunity and challenge lies in harmonising AI with cyber security, creating an alliance that reinforces human expertise and machine capabilities.

The weaponisation of AI

Vast increases in computational power have made AI accessible to bad actors who are adapting it to thwart traditional defenses, probe digital systems for weaknesses and even create fake identities.

AI renderings of synthetic biometrics such as human faces, voices and behaviours can overwhelm traditional identity check systems. The technology also has enabled an increasing number of account takeovers that were impossible in the past.

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AI’s ascendance in cyber security

AI’s ascent in cyber security has been propelled by its proliferation with machine learning across applications. The technology’s hunger for data finds sustenance in the vast volumes generated by every move we make, whether it’s visiting websites, issuing voice commands or watching streaming entertainment.

On the bad side, the data forms a huge attack surface that informs bad actors where we are least protected and most vulnerable. If they get access to the data, they can use AI to craft attacks that are more likely to succeed.

On the other hand, data also empowers AI to swiftly detect emerging threats, vulnerabilities and trends. By processing and analysing information faster and more accurately than humans, AI plays a pivotal role in bolstering defenses against cyber attacks and reducing the strain on human security personnel.

Imagine AI as a composite of an organisation’s top security professionals – a defensive wingman. The more refined and diverse the training data, the more potent is AI’s response to emerging threats. That scaling effect equips enterprises with a competitive edge in the cyber battleground.

The limits and leverage of AI

AI is not impervious to defeat when directly pitted against a determined human – or even an advanced AI – adversary. That doesn’t diminish the significance of AI; it just underscores the importance of understanding its limitations.

AI requires human interaction and ongoing training to continually improve its efficacy. Through human expertise and machine learning, organisations can mitigate false positives and adapt to evolving cyber criminal tactics. That collaboration has found success in IT operations, liberating skilled professionals from mundane tasks and enabling them to focus on unraveling intricate threats.

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Predictive power and protecting identities

The combination of AI and predictive analytics is poised to revolutionise identity cyber security strategies.

When security teams have predictive insights, they can intercept potential threats before they morph into full-fledged attacks. That proactive approach not only optimises resource allocation, but also safeguards businesses from the financial and reputational repercussions of breaches.

Machine learning’s role in identity protection

In tandem with AI, machine learning assumes a pivotal role in the toolkit of modern threat hunters. The sophistication of machine learning techniques has surged, driven by compounded learnings and escalated computing power.

As businesses confront an avalanche of daily threats, machine learning assumes the mantle of analysis and categorisation. Machines dissect threats and accumulate knowledge that bolsters present defences and fuels predictive analytics, fortifying organisations against novel vulnerabilities.

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The value of identity-centric cyber security

As the security landscape evolves, it’s critical to establish a standardised foundation for data formats and communication.

Clear definitions in data flows and formats, coupled with the advancement of machine learning techniques, engender a more powerful surveillance mechanism. The delicate equilibrium between unsupervised and supervised machine learning offers a key to harnessing threat intelligence while staying agile against new attacks.

Yet, human involvement remains indispensable. Human researchers infuse context into anomalies unearthed by machines to discern if a suspected attack is genuine. The dynamic interplay between human intuition and machine precision is crucial for identifying threats that escape automated detection.

We must also consider the sensitive nature of accumulating and processing personally identifiable information (PII). Countries around the world regularly create new legislation to protect users from unauthorised use of PII. But that also can limit the use of such data for defensive purposes.

Biometrics, as a proxy for identity, also imposes some unique challenges. While biometrics on the surface seem like an ideal solution to securely identify people, imagine a scenario where face biometrics are compromised by an attacker and used to access a system without permission. Compromised passwords can be updated, but there’s not a clear answer to compromised biometric facial identity data.

A collaborative future

Organisations that leverage the strengths of machines and humans can unlock AI’s full potential. For example, AI could soon be used to analyse identity verification software applications for possible security vulnerabilities and alert developers before new applications are exploited by bad actors.

While AI furnishes threat hunters with innovative tools, human creativity remains indispensable in devising strategies to counter the relentless ingenuity of cyber criminals. In that collaborative vision, AI augments human intelligence, enabling experts to foresee attack vectors while bolstering their analytical prowess with machine-backed insights.

As AI evolves and adapts, it is vital to recognise that it is not a static solution but an evolving partner in the quest for cyber security. By embracing that dynamic relationship, organisations can forge a resilient defence against emerging threats while preserving digital identities in an interconnected world.

Hal Lonas is chief technology officer of Trulioo.


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