The future in the war against cybercrime — machine learning and AI

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As time goes by, more and more antiviruses will become useless, says Dr Stevenson (Image Creative Commons by

Antivirus programs just aren't cutting it any more, with developers finding it impossible to keep up with the rapidly changing threats. But there is a white knight on the horizon, says tech expert Dr Christian Stevenson, who explains how machine learning and artificial intelligence will drive cyber-security in the near future.

THE NUMBER of cyber-attacks reported this year alone shows a worrisome trend. Instead of going down, the number of these threats continues to go up. Malware exploits are becoming harder and harder to anticipate or even solve. Not even one of the most popular methods, which is the antivirus, seems to do any good anymore. No matter how much manufacturers work on providing the most powerful security solution, they don't seem to be able to keep up with malware threats.

Cyber-attacks are known to affect individual users as well as small, medium and large companies. They also do major damage to small or large parts of the electric grid in countries such as Australia and the United States, to name just two. The latter situation means that consumers risk having no more power. As a direct result of that, the chances are the economy may go down the drain over a very short period of time.


When cyber-attacks happen, finding someone to help get rid of the problem becomes vital. If you don't do that, you risk losing a lot of important data. Choosing the right people, however, is in itself a difficult task. Unfortunately, even working with the right team means using security methods that are simply outdated. Even if experts everywhere have long recommended device owners to install an antivirus on their smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer.

The way things are nowadays, security solutions just aren't enough anymore. Especially when cyber-attacks and the hackers behind them are becoming more inventive and efficient by the day. The old-fashioned security measures we take for our protection won't stand a chance against the latest techniques used by hackers. Here, we're talking about all sorts of automated tools. Like bots, for instance. They're more than enough to gnaw away at an antivirus and render it completely useless.

The people behind recent and upcoming cyber threats are sure to know all the vulnerable parts of an antivirus by now. If they don't, chances are they'll find them very soon. What will we, gadget users, do then? All the sensitive data on our devices will be lost sooner rather than later. If hackers ask for a ransom, we'll have to pay it to retrieve that data back — as was the case with the recent NotPetya or WannaCry attacks.


Traditional security methods are, as previously mentioned, less and less effective when faced with a cyber-attack. This is where we should start thinking about other ways to deal with security threats. Real-time response and quick detection are essential now more than ever. Without these two elements, many of the largest digital economies around the world will suffer important loss. Most of them rely on obsolete security packages. Hackers are aware of this and it makes them even more eager to work on new malicious techniques.

The cybersecurity environment needs to be very strong in order to promote the creation of healthy economic value. If that doesn't happen, hackers are more than happy to use obfuscation as a technique. Polymorphism is another new tool of theirs that can affect economies worldwide. These two methods are only some of the new technologies meant to take overburdened security teams by surprise.


No need to panic just yet. Cyber threats are a real problem, but they're not an insurmountable one. Experts in security methods turn more and more to AI and machine learning as two of the future tools that will prevent malware threats better than antiviruses can.

To make the most out of these useful technologies, one needs to keep in mind some important principles. By doing that, productivity will increase a lot. An estimation done by the McKinsey Global Institute shows an increase in the rate of productivity 0.8% to 1.4% for the next 50 years if antiviruses are kept out of the way.

How to use machine learning and artificial intelligence the right way? Easy.

First off, no need to complicate things; simplicity is always better than complexity. The latter is the reason why security gets to suffer in the bigger picture. It also costs companies and individual users money and a lot of time. Make sure you have the best tools that prevent, find and then eliminate problems.

Second, locate the root of the problem. Most of the time, the latter is in the cloud. That's the endpoint from where the majority of cyber-attacks start. It's also why the data center needs the strongest protection. There are lots of files and applications that leave no footprint while they run. Machine learning and AI will keep an eye on those two for you.

Last, but not least, automation is very important. Especially for whichever security platform you like to use. Through automation, security becomes essential for the growth of a business. Instead of letting people perform difficult security tasks, a machine does everything and keeps us safe from a cyber-threat.


As time goes by, more and more antiviruses will become useless. More often than not, they don't detect an attack fast enough, which results in compromised devices and lives. The fact an antivirus isn't able to detect fileless malware threats in time means that a network protected by that antivirus is in danger of being attacked.

Flying blind like this will mark the end of regular security solutions sooner rather than later. That's not the only issue, though.

Aside from memory threats, the number of false positives has also increased (and will do so in the near future). This is making security teams reply at a slower pace than normal. Which, in turn, means that lots of major dangers go unnoticed until it's too late. This is where machine learning and the AI prove essential. With their help, attacks will be prevented at a much faster rate.

The future of cyber security might appear bleak when thinking of our obsolete antiviruses. As threats become stronger and the people behind them more inventive, it's time to think of alternatives that will protect our devices. Machine learning and artificial intelligence look like the best candidates.

Christian Stevenson has a PhD in Technology Management and is the owner/editor of a number of technology websites.

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