Generative AI's impact on the cybersecurity industry | HCLTech

Generative AI's impact on the cybersecurity industry

The emergence of generative AI has had a significant impact on cybersecurity, for both the attackers and defenders
9 minutes read
Nicholas Ismail
Nicholas Ismail
Global Head of Brand Journalism, HCLTech
9 minutes read
Generative AI's impact on the cybersecurity industry

Generative AI, often referred to as GenAI, has swiftly become a game-changer for various industries. Its impact is ubiquitous, affecting every industry vertical. GenAI's revolutionary capabilities have not only transformed the landscape for Cyber defenders but have also significantly amplified the adversarial threat situation.

Adversarial use of GenAI

Threat actors are exploiting the power of GenAI, utilizing it to create destructive tool like ransomware, malware and well-crafted phishing emails. This rapid creation of malicious content has reduced the time it takes to execute cyber-attacks from months to a few days, according to Srinivasan Sreekumar, VP and Global Practice Head, Cybersecurity at HCLTech. The ease with which adversaries can create and distribute these threats poses a significant challenge for cybersecurity professionals.

"It puts them in a very difficult situation, and they are struggling to keep pace in identifying such threats, containing them, remediating them and responding to them quickly,” says Sreekumar.

As cybercriminals leverage GenAI, they can create new variants of existing threats at an unprecedented speed. Machine learning algorithms within GenAI can analyze patterns in large datasets, enabling the automated generation of sophisticated and tailored attacks. For example, ransomware creators can generate multiple variations of their malware, making it harder for traditional security solutions to detect and mitigate them. The scale and speed at which these attacks can be deployed presents a major hurdle for cybersecurity teams.

The rise of AI-enhanced attacks

The sophistication of cyber-attacks has increased drastically due to the speed and ease with which GenAI enables the creation of new attack variants. Previously, it may have taken months to develop a single ransomware, but now, leveraging GenAI, adversaries can create multiple variants within a day. Consequently, organizations are facing a surge in the frequency and complexity of these attacks, especially through the common entry point of phishing emails.

“Phishing attacks, in particular, have become more convoluted and difficult to detect due to GenAI's involvement,” adds Sreekumar. 

Cybercriminals can use machine learning algorithms to analyze vast amounts of data, such as social media profiles and online behaviors, to create highly personalized phishing emails. These emails are crafted to fool recipients into believing they are genuine, increasing the likelihood of successful phishing attempts. This evolution in attack techniques calls for stronger defenses and more sophisticated measures to combat the rising threat landscape.

Leveraging AI in defense

To combat the ever escalating threat landscape, cybersecurity professionals are increasingly utilizing AI-embedded tools. These AI-enabled capabilities aid in detecting threats and expedite investigation and response processes. Machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics help identify patterns and anomalous behaviors, improving the accuracy and speed of threat detection.

Organizations are adopting AI-enhanced security solutions such as endpoint protection systems, network traffic analysis tools and security information and event management (SIEM/SOAR) platforms. These technologies leverage GenAI to analyze vast amounts of data, automatically identify suspicious activities, and generate actionable insights for incident response teams. For example, AI algorithms can detect anomalous user access patterns, identify potential insider threats and provide real-time alerts.

Moreover, organizations are exploring innovative solutions, such as Microsoft's Copilot for Security, to enhance their cybersecurity posture. “The Copilot for Security copilot combines the power of human intelligence and AI algorithms to investigate threats, providing human analysts with actionable insights for decision-making,” explains Sreekumar. 

This collaboration between human experts and GenAI enables more efficient and effective incident response, enhancing an organization's overall security capabilities.

"Ultimately, AI is increasingly being used in cyber security to quickly detect and respond to threats and also enhance the capabilities that already exist in current security tools,” adds Sreekumar.

Governance and compliance

As organizations embrace GenAI to drive innovation and achieve business goals, secure governance and compliance become critical factors. 

“Whichever geography an organization belongs to, it is essential to train personnel in the responsible use of GenAI, ensuring adherence to regulatory standards,” says Sreekumar. Transparency and explainability of AI algorithms are also crucial, as accountability and the ability to trace decision-making are necessary for addressing potential biases and ensuring ethical practices.

Data governance and privacy considerations play a pivotal role in maintaining ethical and legal standards while harnessing GenAI's potential. Organizations need to implement robust data management practices, ensuring the proper anonymization and masking of sensitive information. Additionally, strong safeguards must be in place to protect AI models and training data from unauthorized access or tampering.

“Governance and compliance should also be a key factor in monitoring technical aspects relating to the controls around data and applications. The applications that are developed to use GenAI should go through stringent security testing as part of the development process,” continues Sreekumar.

Regulatory bodies are also exploring ways to govern the use of GenAI in cybersecurity. Policymakers are working on frameworks that address the potential risks associated with AI-enhanced cyber-attacks and establish guidelines for responsible AI use. Government and industry collaboration are crucial to facilitate the development of standards and best practices that can adapt to the rapidly evolving landscape of GenAI.

HCLTech’s top 10 tech trends

Watch the video

Looking ahead: The impact of generative AI on cybersecurity

Looking ahead, the adoption rates of GenAI in various industries are expected to vary based on their receptiveness to change and regulatory constraints. According to Sreekumar, sectors such as finance, cloud computing and life sciences are anticipated to be early adopters, thanks to the value GenAI can bring in handling vast amounts of data and detecting complex threats. In contrast, more traditional industries, such as manufacturing, utilities and oil & gas, may take a cautious approach due to concerns over security risks and the need for specialized expertise.

However, it is evident that GenAI will become deeply ingrained in every business process, and this holds true for the cybersecurity industry as well. The creation and advancement of GenAI-powered offensive and defensive capabilities will continue to evolve, leading to new challenges and opportunities. 

“As a result, the demand for skilled professionals equipped to leverage GenAI as a strategic asset in cybersecurity operations will grow exponentially,” says Sreekumar.

GenAI's impact on the cybersecurity industry will be profound and multifaceted. From rapid threat creation by adversaries to the evolution of defense mechanisms, GenAI is reshaping the cybersecurity landscape and necessitating a paradigm shift in how organizations approach cyber defense.

As the cybersecurity industry continues to grapple with the implications of GenAI, it is imperative for stakeholders to proactively adapt to this new era of cyber threats and defense. Collaboration between technology providers, cybersecurity professionals and policymakers are vital in developing effective countermeasures to withstand and mitigate the adversarial use of GenAI. By leveraging the potential of GenAI for both offensive and defensive purposes responsibly, organizations can stay ahead in this ever-evolving threat landscape.

Artificial Intelligence
Share On