How AI-based Malware will change the threat landscape, and what you need to know!
By Dennis Shelly
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a ubiquitous topic these days and it has already caused radical changes in multiple sectors, including cybersecurity. Enhanced scanning engines, faster detection speeds, and increased capacity to identify abnormalities all are factors that contributed to a higher degree of security and protection for companies and businesses, particularly against new and emerging threats as well as advanced persistent threats (APTs). Unfortunately, not only do defenders have access to this technology, but black hats, hackers, cybercriminals, and other malicious actors are also well aware of the benefits of “AI” and they practically try to incorporate it into their activities in some way or another. AI can assist security teams in detecting and mitigating threats more rapidly. whereas, weaponized AI may help attackers with a variety of attacks, including deep fakes, data poisoning, and reverse engineering. Targeted attacks on businesses, monetary institutions, or critical data heists may become increasingly difficult to detect, track, and mitigate.
This article discusses an overview of “AI-powered Malware” and how it will change the cybersecurity and threat landscape.
AI-based Malware and other AI attacks
AI-based attacks occur when a threat actor uses artificial intelligence to aid in an attack. For instance, social engineering attacks may use deep fake technology, a form of AI that generates false but convincing visuals, sounds, and videos. In many cases, AI serves as a tool to carry out an attack rather than design it. AI-powered malware, on the other hand, is trained through machine learning to be sneakier, quicker, and more successful than ordinary malware. In contrast to malware that targets a vast number of people with the intention to successfully attack a small percentage of them, AI-powered malware is trained to think for itself, to change its activities based on the circumstance, and to specifically target its victims and its systems.
At the 2018 Black Hat Conference, IBM researchers revealed the DeepLocker malware as a proof-of-concept for this new type of threat. The WannaCry ransomware was concealed in video conference software and did not start acting up until a specific face was recognized by AI facial recognition software.
The following are some potential uses cases of AI-based malware:
- Malware that adapts social engineering attacks based on data it gathers, such as data scraped from social media sites.
- Computer worms can modify their behavior to fit the next system they are trying to infect.
- Polymorphic malware changes its code to avoid detection or malware with the ability to change its behavior.
AI-based Malware for advanced Cyberattacks
AI could be used by malware developers to create new, difficult-to-detect malware variants. For example, some older malware families (such as Swizzor) were leveraging automation to manufacture new variants of themselves every minute. By utilizing machine-learning algorithms, this method might be reinvented and enhanced. These algorithms would discover which of the recently developed variants are the least likely to be identified and build new strains with similar properties. Similarly, malware can track the activities of network nodes and endpoints and create patterns that resemble normal network traffic.
A combination of different attack techniques can be used to locate the most effective solutions that are difficult to detect and prioritize them over less successful versions. Moreover, depending on the situation, an attacker can change the malware’s features and end target. For example, if an attacker wants to target web browsers, instead of including a comprehensive list of browsers and scenarios in the virus, they simply need to include only a few of the most commonly used browsers. The AI system takes advantage of this training and learns immediately on the endpoint how to infiltrate less popular and previously unspecified browsers. They can also include a self-destructive mechanism inside the malware that is activated when unusual behavior is noticed.
If the algorithm recognizes a virtual machine, sandbox, or other tools used by malware researchers, it can modify the malware’s behavior or temporarily halt its operation to prevent detection. The pace of an attack can also be critical, particularly in cases of data theft. Algorithms can extract data faster than humans, making it difficult to detect and almost impossible to block – because the machine can replicate the data out of the secured perimeter before the defenders can respond. Learning and sharing knowledge over numerous nodes can benefit attackers because each enslaved bot can test alternative intrusion strategies and report back the findings.
How to prepare against the attacks involving AI
Where offensive AI lacks critical thinking and logic, it makes up for it in attack volume, speed, and overall reach. In terms of the human aspect of cybersecurity, it is essential to establish and enforce acceptable use policies. Finally, limit employee access to the assets required to do their tasks. If attackers manage to breach your system, this zero-trust method to network access will be your savior. AI can help security teams with threat hunting, malware detection, and phishing identification. AI can also be used to contain threats through automated responses. AI-powered responses have the added benefit of assisting businesses in managing burnout and the cybersecurity skills gap.
Organizations should adopt traditional malware detection approaches, techniques, and procedures since they also aid in the detection of AI-driven malware and, eventually, AI-powered malware. Security teams have long studied the techniques employed by threat actors to design and conduct attacks in order to detect malware based on behaviors and trends, rather than needing to keep track of every new version. As the prevalence of cyber-attacks grows and the threat of AI-powered malware persists, this two-in-one solution offers extra security in the present and future.
Have more questions about securing your devices against Malware? Or perhaps have some general technology questions? We can help! Our Eggsperts are eggcellent in the newest security technologies and are standing by. Please contact us by visiting our website at www.eggheadit.com, by calling (760) 205-0105, or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or suggestions for our next article.
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