Key AI Cybersecurity Trends For 2021: Is AI A Boon or Bane For Cybersecurity?

One of the great advantages of modern technology is the evolving nature of it’s capabilities. Year on year, changes occur that fundamentally affect the way we interact, the way we view the world, and the way businesses operate. From emerging technologies such as cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT), there have been a slew of previously unprecedented opportunities for businesses to incorporate that offers definitive value.

2021 will be no different, however the emphasis may be now pushed in a different direction as businesses look to understand just how AI will affect cybersecurity, alongside other AI related cybersecurity trends that are on the horizon. Vendors will likely accelerate AI and machine learning app development to combine human and machine insights to prevent attackers who are intent on escalating their cyber activities. When we ask how is AI changing cybersecurity, it’s important to first look at how the previous year altered everything.

Lockdowns, bankruptcies, pandemics, business closures, and general confusion has led to a golden age for cyber-attackers to capitalize on the situation. Unfortunately, 2020 has been rife with tragedies since the outbreak of the Coronavirus crisis, with businesses being forced to embrace concepts like remote working, which has only led to a number of new problems.

As people have turned to remote working in huge numbers and hackers use new AI attacks against them, they are more vulnerable to different cyberthreats than ever before. In 2021, these cybersecurity issues will continue to rise as businesses will need to recognize that AI, and AI related cybersecurity trends are going to be pivotal when it comes to solving these challenges.

How AI Benefits and Challenges Cybersecurity

As technology evolves, so too does the capacity of the cyber threat landscape that organizations have to deal with on a daily basis. In fact, it doesn’t just slow advancement, it inhibits its development in the first place. It is estimated that cyber threats globally affect the pace of technological innovation by as much as $3 trillion in lost economic value, just in 2020 alone.

Coupled with the very real shortage of skilled security personnel, complex compliance requirements, perpetually evolving nature of cyberattacks, and threat of data loss or insider threats, combating these cybersecurity challenges can seem like an impossible task.

However, first and foremost, the Coronavirus pandemic remains the biggest challenge for global security organizations in the year to come based on what we have already seen. Data breaches have grown in volume and complexity in 2020, with the number of breaches increasing 273% in just the first quarter alone when compared with the year before 2019. It doesn’t even need to be a large team of incredibly skilled hackers to make an impact, in one incident that took place, one lone hacker was able to steal 34 million user records from seventeen companies in 2020.

With threats everywhere and now more difficult to stop than ever before, in particular as it relates to cybersecurity for SMBs, it seems immediately obvious as to why AI is the future of cybersecurity.

How Can Businesses Be More Cautious in the Future?

Cybercriminals are continuously looking for ways to work around security barriers. This means that attackers are becoming creative and finding new methods to exploit technology users by accessing valuable data, networks, and passwords that evades current security setups businesses may have.

Attackers and cybercriminals have capitalized on the chaotic year by attempting to breach a record number of enterprise systems in eCommerce, financial services, healthcare and pretty much any other industry you can think of. This will lead to many industries looking to be more cautious in the year to come, but it will also likely lead to the widespread adoption of AI cybersecurity to allay any concerns. AI and machine learning-based cybersecurity apps and platforms when combined with human expertise, creativity, and insights will make it more challenging for attackers to succeed in their efforts. With this in mind, understanding the key AI related cybersecurity trends that will be available in 2021 is likely to be linked with the overall success of your business.

AI and Cybersecurity Trends for 2021

Recognizing emerging risks and threats is critical for defeating cyber attackers. One of the best ways organizations can spot early trends is to know what’s happening across the industry in general, while staying up-to-date with how emerging technologies are being used by attackers, and how in turn you can use them to stop them. Here are some of the key cybersecurity trends 2021 will see:

Cloud Threats – As remote work and online collaboration remains the new normal, cloud adoption has emerged as a key ally for enterprises to help ensure business continuity. Though global businesses had already been migrating to the cloud before the crisis, the pandemic has supercharged this movement. However, this accelerated migration to the cloud is only set to introduce a host of new security threats and challenges. Cloud-based security threats, including misconfigured cloud storage, reduced visibility and control, incomplete data deletion, and the vulnerability of cloud-apps themselves, will continue to disrupt businesses in the future ahead. There will also likely be an increase in cloud breaches due to poor security practices in cloud configurations that create vulnerabilities meaning that partnering with trusted, experienced vendors needs to be your first port of call for the year ahead.

Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) – Previously, IT departments have relied on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to facilitate access to the corporate network for a remote workforce. COVID-19 pushed almost all employees globally into a remote working situation, however, while some VPNs have been effective, many have proved woefully inadequate. ZTNA has emerged as a more secure, robust option for organizations looking to control remote access to key or specific applications they need to protect. Basically, this provides highly controlled access to resources, in turn reducing the overall surface area for an attack to place. The isolation ZTNA offers improves connectivity, removing the need to directly expose any applications to the dangers of the internet. Studies from Gartner show that 80% of new digital business applications will be accessed through ZTNA, and 60% of enterprises will move from remote-access VPNs to ZTNA by 2023 because of this improved security.

AI Integration – As cyberattacks continue to grow in both sophistication and frequency, AI will offer support to under-resourced security teams to better protect themselves. By analyzing massive quantities of risk data from structured and unstructured resources quickly, AI provides threat intelligence helping inform critical decisions alongside response to threats in real time. Software engineers and security professionals are all now under immense pressure to achieve more with less security. It’s an impossible ask that leads to exploitation meaning that automation and integration are essential for businesses to function safely. Businesses need to integrate security into agile processes to enhance their overall security and maintain the quality of developments without the risk of damaging cyberattacks.

Social Media Threats – One trend that emerged last year, but is likely to remain, are threats coming through social media platforms. This is because it has proven to be a medium of choice for everything from election tampering to fake news spreading along with other forms of cyber attack. In 2021, expect attackers to move beyond just targeting individuals to targeting businesses as well. This is due to the poor authentication and verification practices that social media platforms currently have in place. With more people on these platforms in the COVID world, there is a wealth of opportunities for cyberattackers and hackers to utilize. Something as simple as a URL line can lead to a malicious website to perform a drive by attack, collect personally identifiable information, or even request credentials. This now extends to elements such as malicious QR codes or abbreviated URLs which can now be employed. What’s particularly worrying is that these attacks could occur on a legitimate page of the business itself, or through rogue accounts using similar names due to the social media controls around posting, verification, and URL redirection being so poorly managed. If you are not prepared to tackle this trend of social media threats, then expect new attacks to flourish regularly against your business.

Final Thoughts

As cybersecurity trends continue to emerge, organizations must adapt with attackers and develop a proactive IT security strategy which incorporates AI to keep a business secure. The need is to become more nimble, more flexible, and more collaborative when it comes to securing any and all critical assets. After all, just one small gap in your security is all many cybercriminals now need to put your whole organization at risk. However, the far-reaching, ever evolving threats will make it hard for organizations to effectively focus on their core business objectives while ensuring security, which is why focusing on AI technologies and the emerging trends in 2021 will be definitively linked to protecting your business from the many threats out there.

About Author:

Hannah O’Brien is a content writer for Aumcore, a digital marketing agency that specializes in enterprise web development and creating digital marketing strategy. She dabbles in social media marketing and writes about everything, from web development to emerging marketing trends.