Since Reaper (the first antivirus software) chased and deleted Creeper (the first virus on the ARPANET) in the 1970s, digital protection has never stopped evolving and threats multiplying. A total of 2,784 Australian data breaches have been recorded since the start of 2020. Although the number seems to have slightly decreased in 2023, the magnitude of these attacks grows bigger year on year with up to 69 million individuals affected. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) now plays a major role in the cyber war. The evolution of AI might be making it harder to stay protected against attacks but it is also opening new possibilities for innovation and creativity in cyber defence.

Here’s what you need to know about AI and its role in cyber security:


1. AI Has Been Developing for Decades Now

Artificial intelligence or AI is a field of computer science that started years ago, aiming to create machines that can think and learn like humans. The origin of AI dates back from the 1950s when Alan Turing proposed a test to measure machine intelligence. Then a few events marked the evolution of AI:

  • Deep Blue (computer) won against world chess champion Garry Kasparov in the 1990s;
  • OpenAI launched ChatGPT in late 2022;
  • Microsoft launched Copilot in November 2023.

If AI has been around for that long, then why does it sound so new? Well, there have been recent major advancements that enabled a wide scope of AI applications, such as:

  • Generative AI, which involves machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing (NLP), so computers can learn based on available data
  • Exponential growth in and availability of large amounts of data to learn from
  • Computers with much faster and more powerful processing and computation capacity, so they can handle more complex problems quicker than ever before

2. AI is Being Used by Cyber Criminals

Like any other technology, AI is available to all, whatever their motives. It is being used by those who fight cyber threats as well as by cyber attackers. Some of the ways cyber actors use AI in cyber-attacks are:

  • By creating and spreading disinformation: AI can be used to generate realistic and convincing fake content, such as deepfakes, that can manipulate public opinion, undermine trust, and cause social and political unrest.
  • By enhancing phishing and social engineering: AI can help cyber actors to craft personalised and contextualised phishing emails or messages, by learning from the stolen or scraped data of the victims, then inserting them into existing conversations. AI can also be used to impersonate trusted users or quietly get into a digital environment.
  • By automating and scaling attacks: AI can enable cybercriminals to launch more sophisticated and under-the-radar attacks, by adapting to the environment, evading detection, and exploiting vulnerabilities at a faster pace than human defenders. Cyber actors also use AI to crack passwords or hack organisations.

3. How You Can Use AI for Cyber Defence

Governments and private entities are using AI also to defend against cyber threats, including in:

  • Threat Detection: AI can monitor, analyse, detect, and respond to cyber threats in real time. It can analyse massive amounts of data more accurately to detect patterns that indicate a cyber threat.
  • Threat Prevention: AI systems help prevent phishing, malware, and other malicious activities, ensuring a high security posture. AI also helps shift to a more proactive approach to preventing threats and identifying vulnerabilities.
  • Network Scanning: AI can scan the entire network for weaknesses to prevent common kinds of cyber-attacks.
  • Incident Management: AI results in faster data collection, making incident management response more dynamic and efficient.
  • Automating Cyber Security: Tasks such as system monitoring can be automated through AI. This increases organisations’ threat intelligence capabilities and saves them time discovering new threats. AI tools can now also automatically make decisions in mitigating threats.
  • Behaviour Analysis: AI can monitor and analyse behaviour patterns. This helps to identify any abnormal behaviour that could indicate a potential security threat. For example, supervised machine learning can be used to recognise malware by learning from its characteristics and identifying them in new data.
  • Improving Security Approaches: Automating cyber security helps organisations identify and correct potential deficiencies in their security strategy.
  • Removing Human Error: A common weakness of traditional security defences is the need for human intervention in repetitive tasks, which can lead to costly human error. AI in cyber security removes the human element from most security processes.

These advancements have made AI an integral part of modern cyber security strategies, providing a more automated and intelligent defence against cyber threats.

Examples of How AI is Revolutionising Cyber Security

Some software have integrated artificial intelligence for cyber security. Both Microsoft Defender and Microsoft Sentinel use AI to analyse data and identify patterns, thereby predicting and preventing future threats.

AI is also used by Microsoft Security Copilot, taking advantage of speed and scale to help increase efficiency. It provides “guidance informed by 65 trillion daily signals.” It helps to spot what can be missed by other tools and enables you to respond in minutes (not hours or days).

Ultra Protected Business with Cyber Security x AI

AI and cyber security are now inseparable. It can detect and prevent threats radically faster and more accurately than traditional security methods. AI can also learn from data and adapt to new challenges, making it more resilient and effective.

AI-driven digital protection can also further enhance your use of Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Copilot in your business. For details on this and related topics, register your interest to join our next free Microsoft and Copilot intro session.