Nearly half of users still don’t know what ransomware is – but AI promises a workaround

Companies, government ramping up focus on artificial intelligence defences as user education stagnates

With many users still clueless about the existence of ransomware and companies struggling to change their behaviour, artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly gaining currency as a solution to user indifference and a driver for more proactive defences in the future.

More than 90 percent of AI adopters believe that the technology has improved the effectiveness of their cybersecurity operations, according to a recent Widmeyer-Logrhythm global survey of IT decision makers that warned security professionals are wasting 40 hours per month due to inefficient systems.

Fully 34 percent of Asia-Pacific respondents said members of their team spend at least 3 hours daily on tasks that could be better handled by software, with 47 percent saying their team spends 5 to 10 hours every week manually searching for network security threats.

Improving those inefficiencies will be a core driver for significant investment in AI research and applications in coming years, according to a newly-released Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science whitepaper that noted Australia already “punches above its weight in AI research”.

That paper recommended the prioritisation of AI development in the forthcoming Digital Economy Strategy, warning that future AI capabilities would require that “we nurture the skilled workforce and high fixed-cost research and knowledge infrastructure required for Australia to be a leader in the next wave of the internet revolution based on cyber-physical systems.”

That term – ‘cyber-physical’ – reflects the convergence of AI and real-world scenarios around production, process automation, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, and more. Each of these requires security of the environment and the data they produce – but many CSOs already face a big enough challenge around everyday issues with user security.

AI promises to help close this gap – as AI pioneer Cylance recently demonstrated, noting that it had passed the $US100m ($A125m) revenue mark just 39 months after shipping its flagship CylancePROTECT product – this, just a year after the company bolstered its ANZ team to tap into latent demand here.

“After we switched from our legacy antivirus solution and started using Cylance, we could reduce the workload on our security team considerably,” said Stephen Frank, of the National Hockey League Players Association in a statement.

“We used to require three people to manage the old solution and, since moving to Cylance, we can have just one person spending half of his day managing our endpoint protection. The best part is that we almost forget that it’s even working in the background – we just know Cylance is there, protecting our endpoints silently and efficiently.”

Tapping into AI to bolster security protection is becoming increasingly important as companies wrestle with ongoing user recalcitrance when it comes to improving security practices.

A recent Acronis survey about attitudes towards ransomware highlighted the extent of the problem, with 27.2 percent of Australian respondents saying they didn’t know how they protected their data, photos, videos, and valuable files and 15.3 percent saying they choose to do nothing to protect this data.

Fully 46.6 percent said they had never heard of ransomware – which, incredibly, is a better result than the 56 percent globally – while 47.4 percent of Australian respondents said they didn’t know ransomware can wipe files and disable their computer. And, even if free anti-ransomware software were available, 44.5 percent said they would not use it.

Lax attitudes of consumers at home translate into lax attitudes at work, with security executives still struggling to make a difference even as the looming Notifiable Data Breach (NDB) scheme looks set to dramatically increase the profile of potential data breaches.

AI may prove to be an increasingly important tool for closing the perception gap: Asia-Pacific respondents to the LogRhythm survey were far more positive about AI’s role in security operations than those in other regions, with 44 percent saying that the technology had made a significant improvement to those operations. This compared with 28 percent of US respondents and just 20 percent of those in the UK.

“Applying AI throughout the threat lifecycle will eventually automate and enhance entire categories of SOC activity and enable increasingly effective detection of real threats,” the company’s vice president of products Chris Brazdziunas said in a statement.

“AI can continuously learn what is normal and evolve to register even the subtlest changes in behaviour models that suggest a breach might be occurring. By eliminating the noise and accurately detecting true threats, AI enables organisations to minimise false positives and be more productive.”

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Tags cyber securityartificial intelligencemachine learningInternet of Things (IoT)

More about AcronisANZAustraliaCylanceDepartment of IndustryLogRhythmNational Hockey League

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