Attacks/Breaches

11/1/2017
10:30 AM
Rick Grinnell
Rick Grinnell
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

How AI Can Help Prevent Data Breaches in 2018 and Beyond

Artificial intelligence startups are tackling four key areas that will help companies avoid becoming the next Equifax.

Equifax's stunning data breach is a major headache for some 145 million Americans who could face identity theft for the rest of their lives. The breach has forever tarnished Equifax's business and brand, and it has prompted the company to replace its CEO, CIO, and CSO. However, as we look at the coming year and as new technologies continue to evolve, it's clear that artificial intelligence (AI) can have a powerful role in helping prevent future data breaches.

If we look at how the Equifax breach occurred, there's a lot to learn — and even cause for optimism. As we know, it all came down to patching. Patching vulnerable, out-of-date software should be straightforward, but in reality, it never is. Although Equifax could have prevented this disaster, it's hardly the first company to neglect a critical software patch. A 2016 survey found that 80% of companies that suffered a breach could have avoided it if they had used an available update. So why don't organizations apply patches?

Sometimes, the delay in patching is simply due to inadequate resources or a lack of solid internal processes that require immediate identification of the vulnerable software, testing of the new patch, and deployment of the fix. Often, firms delay so they can test a patch before applying it — to make sure they aren't fixing one problem but creating others. Sometimes companies don't realize they are running software that is vulnerable. Because of the complexity of sprawling applications, popular vulnerability scanning products miss important pieces of the puzzle, leaving holes for attackers to exploit. It appears that a combination of factors played a role in Equifax's situation. (Here's another great read on the barriers of patching for reference.)

The bright side? AI is driving exciting advancements in information security. Security professionals must get plugged into new technologies and not rely only on old-school solutions or methods, because traditional tech solutions won't cut it (e.g., antivirus software). AI will fuel next-generation solutions — whether they're focused on endpoints, analytics, or behavioral analysis. With the amount and velocity of data, and the sheer number of connections to monitor and manage accelerating at an exponential rate, AI will be a critical component in preventing breaches like the one at Equifax.

How AI Could Help
Problems largely caused by human error specifically lend themselves to AI. Here are four areas that AI startups are investigating — and in some cases, are in the early stages of development:

1. Code development: Whether the software is from open source communities or from companies like Apple or Microsoft, one could ask why these vulnerabilities aren't being found while the code is being put into production. Why would the Apache Foundation distribute software that has an obvious vulnerability? The reason is, when you're talking about millions of lines of code and lots of new functionality, sometimes things get lost in the shuffle. There probably was rigorous testing in Equifax's case, but people tend to look for things they've seen before. The existing tools to check for such vulnerabilities are also hard-wired by humans. AI would allow you to think of things a human couldn't.

2. In-market testing: Once software is released to the market, there are products and service providers that find vulnerabilities in public-facing applications. Clearly, someone caught Equifax's problem, but it took a long time and the damage was already done. AI would make testing and vulnerability-scanning tools more useful and close the gap between putting something into production that's unsafe and knowing it's unsafe.

3. Checking the patches: One reason that organizations (and people) are reluctant to download patches is that they often render old apps inoperable or cause them to lose functionality. Wouldn't it be great if there was intelligence to look at the code and provide higher confidence that downloading the patch wasn't going to break your application?

4. Benchmarking: Being a CISO isn't a very attractive proposition if you're likely to get fired if and when a major breach occurs. Because no one can prevent attacks 100% of the time, how can you hold security officers accountable in a fair way? One idea is to use AI to look at your industry category (such as banking or retail) and examine the firewalls, endpoint and other security products you're using and how they are configured in your overall security stack. When you look at this list of complex configurations, you get an inter- and intra-company set of metrics. With AI monitoring and analyzing of this data, you can see how you stack up against your peer group. Even if there were to be a security incident, you could let your board of directors know that you had gone above and beyond what your peers are doing by every other measure, perhaps saving your job.

There are other applications, too. AI could be used to find a personalized way to remind you to install a patch that makes it impossible to ignore, or more precisely find all of the application instances that need to be fixed. The bottom line is that AI is a powerful tool at our disposal to help avoid becoming the next big breach target.

Related Content:

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two days of practical cyber defense discussions. Learn from the industry's most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the INsecurity agenda here.

 

Rick Grinnell is Managing Partner at Glasswing Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm dedicated to building the next generation of AI technology companies that connect consumers and enterprises and secure the ecosystem. As a venture capitalist and seasoned operator, ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
WSJ Report: Facebook Breach the Work of Spammers, Not Nation-State Actors
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  10/19/2018
6 Security Trends for 2018/2019
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  10/15/2018
6 Reasons Why Employees Violate Security Policies
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading,  10/16/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
The Risk Management Struggle
The Risk Management Struggle
The majority of organizations are struggling to implement a risk-based approach to security even though risk reduction has become the primary metric for measuring the effectiveness of enterprise security strategies. Read the report and get more details today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-10839
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Qemu emulator <= 3.0.0 built with the NE2000 NIC emulation support is vulnerable to an integer overflow, which could lead to buffer overflow issue. It could occur when receiving packets over the network. A user inside guest could use this flaw to crash the Qemu process resulting in DoS.
CVE-2018-13399
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
The Microsoft Windows Installer for Atlassian Fisheye and Crucible before version 4.6.1 allows local attackers to escalate privileges because of weak permissions on the installation directory.
CVE-2018-18381
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Z-BlogPHP 1.5.2.1935 (Zero) has a stored XSS Vulnerability in zb_system/function/c_system_admin.php via the Content-Type header during the uploading of image attachments.
CVE-2018-18382
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Advanced HRM 1.6 allows Remote Code Execution via PHP code in a .php file to the user/update-user-avatar URI, which can be accessed through an "Update Profile" "Change Picture" (aka user/edit-profile) action.
CVE-2018-18374
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
XSS exists in the MetInfo 6.1.2 admin/index.php page via the anyid parameter.