In today’s AI-driven world, organisations face a landscape filled with challenges and opportunities.AI and cloud technologies hold the potential to boost the UK economy by over £550 billion by 2035, promising to increase productivity, enhance skills, reduce waste, accelerate scientific innovation and create new products and services. Written by Patricia Cullen.

AI enables companies to automate processes, improve efficiencies, and deliver personalized experiences, fueling growth and competitiveness in today’s market.

AI-driven cyber-attacks: The new standard
However there is another side to the coin. As technology progresses, malicious actors are also focusing on AI, and reaping its benefits. 

According to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the technology will “heighten the global ransomware threat” and “almost certainly increase the volume and impact of cyber-attacks in the next two years.”  

AI-driven cyber-attacks have become the new standard, leading to approximately 20 major breaches, and counting, across North America, Europe and Japan already this year, underscoring the urgent need for businesses to adopt robust cybersecurity measures. 

Furthermore, the 2024 report on Cybersecurity Trends, Obstacles, and Opportunities found that ransomware and AI-generated attacks are a huge concern for cybersecurity leaders. Almost 40% of those surveyed said they were spending more money on cyber defenses because of these problems. 

It’s vital for organizations to always be one step ahead of new threats by dedicating significant resources to strengthening their defenses, ensuring they remain resilient in the face of evolving cybersecurity challenges.

Addressing cyber vulnerabilities

The percentages don’t paint a pretty picture. A report from Microsoft and Goldsmiths, University of London, ‘Mission Critical: Unlocking the UK AI Opportunity Through Cybersecurity’, found that just 13% of UK businesses are resilient to cyberattacks, with 48% deemed vulnerable and the remaining 39% facing high risk. These are worrying percentages considering cybercrime will cost the global economy up to $10.5 trillion by 2025. 

The report also revealed that organisations that use AI-enabled cybersecurity are twice as resilient to attacks than those that don’t and suffer 20% less costs when attacked. By harnessing AI tools such as machine learning, businesses can defend against malicious threats, outmaneuvering attackers and outsmarting them.

The findings emphasize the urgent need for businesses to prioritize investment in AI-driven security solutions to bolster their defenses and mitigate the growing risks posed by cyber threats.

Leveraging AI against AI:
With the introduction of ChatGPT 4 last year, how will the increasing integration of AI in workplaces impact the ongoing battle against cybercrime?  

More and more companies are realizing the effectiveness of AI-driven solutions in safeguarding against cyber-attacks. Giants like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have already adopted these solutions, employing methods to automatically identify threats and respond to them through automated systems detecting suspicious network activity. 

In response to heightened danger, the government has also allocated £2.6 billion as part of its Cyber Security Strategy to bolster the UK’s defenses. Both the NCSC and private sector have embraced the integration of AI to bolster cyber security resilience by enhancing threat identification and implementing security measures.

AI isn’t solely fueling the proliferation of scams; it’s also empowering businesses with innovative tools to combat them.  To counter the threats posed by malicious actors, employing AI security tools such as the recently announced Microsoft Copilot for Security offers a solution.  With Microsoft Copilot for Security, businesses can leverage state-of-the-art AI technology to proactively detect and respond to cyber threats, ensuring robust protection against potential breaches.

Technology is a double-edged sword, unlocking fresh capabilities while simultaneously unveiling new risks and as AI technology progresses, cybercriminals are increasingly utilizing advanced tools such as deepfakes and autonomous malware. 

Expert Analysis: AI-driven cyber attacks on the rise
Kanishk Gaur CEO at Athenian Tech and cyber security expert says AI-driven cyber attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, leveraging AI based algorithms and machine learning to bypass traditional security measures like IDS, IPS, Web Application Firewalls and Honepot/Honeynet. And they are only going to get more polished. 

“In the future, we can expect more advanced forms of malware and phishing attacks that adapt in real-time. To mitigate these threats, businesses should invest in advanced AI-based security solutions that can detect and respond to anomalies instantly. Regularly updating security protocols and training employees on the latest threats are also crucial steps,” he advises. 

Like all technology, AI is no different, and will be used for offense and defense. As the technology progresses, it is increasingly reshaping the cybersecurity landscape, functioning both as an effective defense mechanism and, conversely, as a powerful tool for cybercriminals. AI can help create and implement cyber resilience plans, using strategies like defense in depth or zero trust architecture. 

Regarding leveraging AI for proactive cyber security, Gaur says that businesses can utilize AI for defence, proactive threat management and hunting.

“AI can be used to analyse vast amounts of data to identify potential vulnerabilities before they are exploited. By integrating AI with predictive analytics, businesses can forecast potential attack vectors and strengthen their defences accordingly. Additionally, AI can automate response strategies, reducing the time taken to neutralize threats and minimizing damage,” he advises. 

Staying ahead: The importance of AI in cyber defense
Implementing AI-driven cyber resilience plans and adopting concepts like defense in depth or zero trust architecture with the help of AI can be game-changers. Incorporating AI into security measures is crucial for keeping organizations ahead in the constantly changing cyber risk landscape.

Essentially, embracing AI within cybersecurity practices and ensuring ongoing training is essential. Without doing so, there’s a risk of lagging behind both hackers and competitors who are quick to adapt to this technological evolution.

As attackers increasingly turn to AI in the coming years, it’s clear that combating the scale of their activity will require businesses to also leverage AI and machine learning technologies.