Every company in this modern environment shares one common concern: cyber-attacks. The concern reduces when companies have cyber security to avoid cyber risks. Cyber security should be one of the first things to invest in when starting your business online. Cyber-attacks can spring out of nowhere for various reasons; you don’t have to be a big brand to be a victim of an attack. As a matter of fact, small companies are more likely to be a target of cybercriminals.
One of the fastest-growing technologies now used in cyber-attack is artificial intelligence (AI). Ironically, experts first created AI software for cyber security to detect cyber risks and attacks. Artificial intelligence security helps detect malware, cyber threats and take automated actions. However, in the past few years, hackers have also learned how to implement AI in their attacks. It is a battle of AI these days, with no confirmation of who will win.
One of the first steps any business or individual can take is understanding what AI attacks are. Understanding the topic can help you and your business detect a possible attack. The article does not intend to create fear or stop you from trusting the internet; instead to help you take the right actions.
What is Artificial intelligence (AI)?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is programmed technology in computers or robots tasked to do jobs usually done by humans. Experts train AI programs to do jobs as quick as possible and with almost no human effort. Instead, they use detail codes to input and output data and provide an efficient outcome.
We all use AI more than we think; for example, voice recognition is the most widely used AI technology, like Siri, Alexa, etc. In addition, individuals and businesses use AI due to its quick and intelligent actions.
Unfortunately, the technology is not smart enough to understand that it is being used for AI attacks and can be easily programmed to join the dark side.
Types of AI Attacks
Phishing attacks are one of the oldest and most common types of cyber-attacks. A phishing attack is when a hacker sends a convincing email from a reputable source. The emails contain various malicious links that can release multiple viruses if clicked. Various research shows that phishing attacks are responsible for around 90% of data breaches.
At this point, we bet you are thinking, ‘I know which email is phishing, and I would never click on them’. Unfortunately, phishing AI attacks are much more convincing and personal. A phishing AI attack learns about you before you even open the email. They are personalised to you, with your name, characteristics, email contacts and more convincing structure.
An AI email can be disguised like it’s from your employees or managers- asking you for urgent work or if you are free for some tasks. AI is capable of exchanging emails to gain trust and credibility. Then eventually, learn enough about you and provide you with a link that opens doors to viruses. So next time you see an email from a co-worker, manager or even a friend, it might be better to double-check it’s them or an AI attack.
AI has begun to be implemented in growing malware attacks too. It starts when the virus enters the system through phishing emails, malicious sites, or unsecure Wi-Fi. Then, the virus (malicious software) begins unauthorised actions on the victim’s system. In 2020, 61% of organisations worldwide experienced malware activity; in 2021, that number jumped to 74%.
When malware uses AI, it becomes much stronger and more dangerous. As soon as the AI hacks into the system, it keeps learning about the user and the business. The malicious software can keep growing and storing confidential information, including login, face ID and anything you use. After learning about the system, it can impersonate the system, so you might not even know the data you are inputting is to the AI attacker.
AI-driven malware is used to steal data, ransom data (ransomware), or sell the data on the dark market. These AI Attacks can be highly harmful to the business as the data can include customer details and bank information. One undetected malware virus can cost companies millions and reputation loss.
Deepfakes are one of the creepiest AI attacks out there. A deepfake is when an AI program uses thousands of data to impersonate brands or people. The AI software can learn to create fake audio calls and even video calls through the data. These fake calls include the same voice, face, expressions and talking style as the person they attend.
That sounds too sci-fi to be true, right? But unfortunately, there have been confirmed cases. For example, in March 2019, a deepfake attack occurred when a CEO of a British energy company got a convincing call from the manager of the German parent company. The CEO heard the manager’s voice, which had exactly the right tone and a subtle German accent. The German manager asked him to transfer $243,000 into the account of a Hungarian supplier. The CEO did as he was asked and later found out that an attacker had tricked him.
In today’s world, attackers can manipulate anything. An AI attack like this can be terrifying, especially with the increased use of zoom calls and working from home. Attackers are getting smarter, and deepfakes could trick almost anyone.
Data poisoning is one of the unusual AI attacks-not as common as the above but as damaging. An AI attack is when the attacker corrupts the machine learning training data to produce undesirable outcomes. The corruption starts when the attacker inserts incorrect or misleading information into the database. Therefore, the algorithm learns from this corrupted data; it will draw unintended and even harmful conclusions.
For example, there are countless attempts of data poisoning on Google’s Gmail spam filter. Attackers send millions of emails specifically designed to trick the classifier and change its definition of a spam email. Unfortunately, the corrupted algorithm allows attackers to send malicious emails without being detected.
A data poisoning AI attack can throw off the entire website and corrupt all your effort. The poisoning attacks can cause considerable damage with minimal effort by the attacker. On the other hand, they are complicated to fix and recover from for the attacked business.
How To Prevent and Recover from AI Attacks?
These AI attacks are unpredictable and terrifying but you can prevent and recover with quick actions. Understanding and training employees about the possible AI attacks is a step closer to being cyber safe and protecting the business.
One of the best things a business can do is, invest in high-quality cyber security software. A good cyber security program will identify the cyber-attack as soon as possible and take action to eliminate it. Hence, businesses should download it on every device connected to the company server. However, do not just buy the first software you see or hear about. Conduct research to understand which software is the best and up to date because it will be worth the cost in the long run.
Unfortunately, AI attacks may be too smart and pass through poor cyber security or outsmart the software. You can lose all your data at this point, which can be very expensive to recover. The best solution to such cases is cyber insurance. In addition, the insurance will quickly connect your business with cyber security experts and cover all costs to recover data, inform clients, and eliminate the harmful virus. It can save your company- financially and fight the attack.
Therefore, you should have both- to be protected from AI attacks and be cyber secure.