2023 was the buzziest year for Artificial Intelligence (AI), and 2024 promises to exceed that. Media articles have promised both that AI will take our jobs and revolutionize the way we work and no surprise – Large Language Models (LLM) and Generative AI (GenAI) suggests plenty of potential, both good and bad.
The reality, of course, is likely to be somewhere in between. Neither completely revolutionizing our world, but improving it, nor destroying all jobs, but certainly affecting some.
There is no perfect prediction, either –consider that AI is a science – and like all sciences can be misunderstood in the media and by laypeople and even by the scientists themselves. That’s why scientists build hypotheses and test them rigorously.
So, what is the good and bad potential?
In its current form, AI has the most potential to relieve the need to perform repetitive tasks which require rote decision making. It does, therefore, have the potential to relieve human capital burden in analyzing threat feeds for trends or potential incoming threats, identifying blind spots in security operations, and quickly sift through data sets and provide insight into vulnerability risks based on the combined organizational attack surface and the global threat landscape.
Prioritization may be simplified, enhancing existing risk calculations with a more dynamic and flexible calculation which considers factors malleable, changing based on threat modeling, organizational priorities, and current events.
With robot processing automation (RPA), there is the potential to automate response in the event of a breach or incident to quickly minimize the blast radius and impact to the organization’s resilience. Post Incident Reviews may be simplified through the auto summarization of incidents using GenAI.
GenAI may also be used to relieve the burden of creating outage emails and updates, automating the collation of updates to executives to allow your teams to focus on restoring functionality and responding the event, as opposed to providing updates thereof.
Like any technology, AI can be hacked, as evidenced by the ChatGPT hack which resulted in a data breach and allowed bad actors to access information. AI also poses a risk to organizations in the form of an emerging technology – one which without the proper governance can inadvertently expose information to an LLM that does not include adequate security controls commensurate with the sensitivity of the data – which is particularly true for non-corporate LLMs. Additionally, bad data can mistrain AI to look at the wrong things and ignore the right things, which if it is too thoroughly trusted could go unnoticed until it’s too late.
And what’s more, just as cybersecurity professionals can use AI to improve their ability to secure their company, we must imagine the bad actors are doing the same. Just as a company’s AI can analyze threat feeds to find most likely exposures, a bad actor’s AI can be examining it to find the most likely vulnerability to exploit. Bad actors can identify trends of blind spots within organizations and use those blind spots against them. AI can sift through stolen data for the most useful and sensitive information. And AI can be used to increase attack speed and increase the blast radius of an attack.
So, organizations must find the right balance – use AI to its fullest extent because its enemies will be doing the same but be careful to walk the line of overusing AI and accidentally exposing themselves by straining AIs capabilities. While AI can automate, it does not replace human intuition, nor can it at this point.
What to do about it
Organizations can take the following steps to approach their AI journey.
Prepare for the future
Even though some of AI is potential versus reality, it’s important to prepare to take the most advantage of AI as you can to make sure your organization is not left behind.
Looking at your data relationships and taxonomy company wide to create a common data model from which AI can learn. Use products and platforms which centralize your data rather than siloing it, and consider protects like ServiceNow which is investing heavily in AI is currently at the forefront of the wave.
Look past the hype and gain understanding
Skynet is not coming. At least not yet. But AI is real and it is here. It must be clearly understood and its capabilities and risks analyzed and measured, then aligned to the organization’s specific contexts. We must truly understand what we have to work with to use it effectively. The story of AI may be what gets you interested, but the reality of AI is what will pay your dividends.
Use AI to enhance your workforce but know where it cannot replace it
AI lacks social context, morality, and intuition. It makes errors in things we would not expect it to, including answering mathematical questions, software engineering questions, and its hallucinations. These errors can negatively impact your brand and reputation, as well as have costly mistakes if AI is over-used.
Build governance and security
Once there is an understanding of the products available, their risks and upsides, build an official use policy for AI – which products should be used? What level of data sensitivity can be entered? If your organization does not have deliberate governance over all emerging technologies, including AI, you will quickly find yourself on the bleeding edge of history, instead of the cutting edge. There is a reason that Gartner has declared AI Trust, Risk, and Security Management the number one technology trend in 2024 (it was number three in 2023).
Governance should include explicability and transparency of the use of AI, should include data protection, application security and content anomaly detection, and should have controls in place to protect privacy, ensure fairness and minimize bias in the data sets.
Much like the telephone, the car, the airplane, the computer, and the smartphone, AI has the potential to affect our lives for reasons both good and bad. It is, in fact, already doing so. For cybersecurity, it offers equal measures of help and hurt, both enabling cybersecurity teams to be more effective, and opening the potential for bad actors to perform harm.
How far AI will go in replacing humans at work and whether it can ever overcome its lack of consciousness, conscience, and intuition (and there are certainly scientists out there trying) remains at question. In the meantime – understand how AI can help and hurt your business today, use it to enhance and further enable your teams to work more efficiently, and build governance to minimize the potential pitfalls and risks.