The jury is still out on the future of artificial intelligence (AI). Some leaders have rose-colored glasses for emerging uses of the technology and are celebrating how AI can revolutionize cybersecurity. Others are taking a hyper-cautious, risk-averse approach, shying away in fear of the unknown. But one thing is for certain: AI’s impact on data security will transform the way business and technology leaders shape cybersecurity strategy for years to come. 

With AI innovations happening daily, here are three key considerations security leaders should keep in mind. 

The AI explosion has just begun

While AI has been “up-and-coming” for years, it’s still in the early stages of understanding the full spectrum of what this technology can do, including long-term implications if technologists are not responsible. With new learnings about AI emerging every day, experts and amateurs alike will be testing boundaries. As a result, leaders must be continue to educate themselves on AI innovation to effectively guide decision making in a time of rapid change. 

Leaders should also encourage their teams, especially those in the security and data protection space, to learn as much as they can about AI to keep pace with the ways that hackers will undoubtedly use it to their advantage. An all-hands-on deck approach will be required to face incoming threats in an evolving AI-driven threat landscape. 

The democratization of AI gives bad actors an advantage  

A key organizational challenge as AI evolves is effective development and enforcement of AI ethics policies and responsible use guidelines. For example, employees must understand when generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT are allowed and when the data sharing required to use this technology could lead to detrimental outcomes, like confidential information being exposed. 

Unfortunately, hackers do not have the same obligation to abide by ethical guidelines. As a result, easy access to AI tools could helps hackers gain the upper hand in an attack. For example, bad actors can now use generative AI to create more efficient ransomware or leverage unfettered LLMs like WormGPT to create more sophisticated phishing attacks. 

AI allows attacks to fly under the radar longer 

Without AI, ransomware attacks require in-depth knowledge from the attacker to manually enumerate a network, find additional targets and spread. Oftentimes, the bad actor is a professional, but can be slowed down by human error. Human-generated threats are much more recognizable to an IT professional and pre-programmed autonomous solutions can identify the warning signs to stall or prevent an incoming attack. 

However, an AI-run attack can more easily evade detection, allowing an attack to move through a network with greater speed and precision. Chatbots can also create phishing schemes that appear more human-like, thus tricking employees with the best intentions into inadvertently providing hackers access to their networks. 

CISOs can use AI to build a safer future 

There is no question that AI is changing the threat landscape. While bad actors will use emerging technology to their advantage, AI can also revolutionize IT and security practices for the better. For example, data security leaders can guide their teams to implement AI and autonomous solutions to monitor for indications of a cyberattack and begin intelligently responding to a threat even before a human has time to engage. Engineers can also use generative AI to develop code that automatically checks for vulnerabilities, resulting in an added layer of security that is guarded against human error. 

Any emerging technology, including AI, requires caution and guardrails. When leaders prioritize ongoing education, understand how to protect against an evolving set of threats and leverage technology for stronger cybersecurity and data protection solutions, they can contribute to a positive version of the future.