Is Absolute Cybersecurity an Utopian Dream?

Cybersecurity
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A Cyber-attack is any type of offensive action that targets computer information systems, infrastructures, computer networks or personal computer devices, using various methods to steal, alter or destroy data or information systems. Over the past few years, cybersecurity has grown into a major concern for federal government and law enforcement. Two-thirds of federal CIOs and CISOs place cybersecurity as one of their top priorities, and FEMA listed it among its five core capabilities in the organization’s latest preparedness report. Although high-profile data breaches involve larger organizations, there is a growing concern that smaller agencies will be targeted with greater frequency in the future. Cyber-attack is one of the biggest threats to businesses, governments, and institutions today. Any organizations goal should be deterring and discouraging professional cyber criminals. This can be done by detecting attacks 24×7 and responding so quickly that the hacker never gains anything of value. The responsibility of security professionals is to make systems difficult to penetrate, but impenetrability should not be the end goal. Again, the goal is strong deterrence – and protecting data and the network as a result – not finding the ‘cure’ or the ‘solution’ that makes systems impossible to hack, since it is not achievable.
It seems that every other week, someone is touting a new solution to cyber security. They tell you that all we need to do is install their boldly colored box which leverages algorithms and machine learning. The best part is that YOU do not have to do any hard work at all. Once it is installed, you will be secure if you keep on paying the maintenance charges. However, it should be ingrained in our mind, that there is (and will not be in foreseeable future,) no one encompassing magic bullet cyber security solution, contrary to what every vendor in this space claims.
Unfortunately, like most things in life, there are no real shortcuts. Making your organization secure is not something, you can simply buy. At the very least, it certainly does not start with buying a product. Cyber security at a high level is just a never-ending exercise of risk management. Once the organization assess the risks, there is a need to use a combination of traditional approach to cyber security (for example signature based etc.) along with machine learning to predict attacks, when it initially starts. Unfortunately, most of the organizations still tends to rely on firewalls as their primary form of defense. But though still essential and effective, it will not stop a determined hacker.

Machine learning, a component of AI, applies existing data to constantly improve its functions and strategies over time. It learns and understands normal user behavior and can identify even the slightest variation from that pattern. But besides gathering information to detect and identify threats, AI can use this data to improve its own functions and strategies as well.

Still, loopholes exist and will continually remain so. In the age of digital transformation, the adoption of emerging technology constantly widens the target attack surface and creates new points of vulnerability. Organizations develop new customer-facing applications which also become subject to attack. Insider threats have not gone away either. Cyber Security is becoming more work overtime, not less. Cyber-attacks are inevitable. Hackers are trying to figure out ways to beat the machines, sneaking in through cracks we did not know existed. Presently, months go by before an organization detects a data breach. By then, the hacker is long gone, along with all the sensitive data.
AI has the luxury to sit back, collect data, and wait for a hacker to appear. AI looks for behavioral abnormalities that hackers display — for instance, the way a password is typed or where the user is logging in. AI can detect these small signs that otherwise might have gone unnoticed and halt the hacker in their tracks. This can also be useful in spotting user error or manual changes to system protections that could let a hacker gain access to the network.
Any system can be exploited. In the constant chess match of cybersecurity, human hackers will always probe the weaknesses in every system — including AI. Artificial intelligence is programmed by humans, and thus can still be defeated. While AI’s ability to process information is impressive, it can only work as well as it was programmed to. The nature of cyber threats changes over time. AI is presently being heralded as a magic bullet for protecting applications and networks – but AI is security problem as a well as a security solution. Almost any tool or technology used to protect against hackers can be used by hackers to perpetrate an attack.
So, in short, we need to put into place number of software’s and defense strategies with an AI based predictive mechanism as our first line of defense. The need for multiple software’s and strategy is needed as no single vendor is expert at everything.
Once we accept and are aware that full time data protection or complete cyber security is a myth, then we should put into place deception inside the organization as an essential second layer of defense.
Cyber deception is a deliberate and controlled act to conceal organizations networks, create uncertainty and confusion against the adversary’s efforts to establish situational awareness, and to influence and misdirect adversary perceptions and decision processes.
The aim of deception technology is to prevent malicious actor who has been able to infiltrate a network from doing any significant damage. The technology works by generating traps or deception decoys that mimic legitimate technology assets throughout the infrastructure. These decoys can run in a virtual or real operating system environment and are designed to trick the actor into thinking that they have discovered a way to escalate privileges and steal credentials. Once a trap is triggered, notifications are broadcast to a centralized deception server that records the affected decoy and the attack vectors that were used by the cybercriminal.
One issue with cyber security is the number of false alerts an organization gets. Dead ends, false positives and alert fatigue can all hamper security efforts and put a drain on resources if they are even analyzed at all. Too much noise can result in IT teams becoming complacent and ignoring what could potentially be a legitimate threat. Deception technology reduces the noise with fewer false positives and high-fidelity alerts packed full of useful data.
Deception technology is also low risk as it has no risk to data or impact on resources or operations. When a hacker accesses or attempts to use part of the deception layer, a real and accurate alert is generated that tells admins they need to act.
Presently, many deception security solutions have machine learning and AI built into their core. These features not only ensure deception techniques are kept dynamic but also help to reduce operational overheads and the impact on security teams by freeing them from constantly creating new deception campaigns.
As hackers adjust to AI systems, human programmers will have to deploy new countermeasures. The cat and mouse game will continue, but AI forms a welcome reinforcement in the war to protect organizations from malicious actors.

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