In today’s digital world, it is more important than ever to ensure that your data is protected especially with the rise of machine learning also known as artificial intelligence (AI). Machine learning is a popular technology topic as it’s becoming a part of our daily lives and can potentially have powerful implications for good and evil. In case you are not familiar with the terms machine learning or artificial intelligence, it is having the ability to train a computer to do something and learn over time so down the road it can infer what to do when faced with a basic task.

Just a few examples of common consumer facing artificial intelligence machines are Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. With these machines learning our habits and likes/dislikes overtime, we are able to make our daily lives easier whether it’s getting an answer to a question, directions to a local store or restaurant recommendations. As machine learning becomes more common practice, it is going to have a major impact on security. The more information and data that is being collected by the Internet of Things, cell phones, cameras, etc. consumers are opening up their data to nefarious activity.

Some example scenarios include what if a hacker could train an artificial intelligence tool to interact with you like a spouse or a friend might? This could trick you into divulging private data such as a social security number or birth date. What if someone could hack into your home device system and unlock your door? Or what if a hacker could tap into your Nest camera to see inside your home? It is increasingly more important to ensure that you have secured your home network to keep the bad guys out!

The AI Firewall

When the Internet began you’d directly connect to it just like a big “home network” from a trust perspective. As more people started using the Internet and port scanners such as nmap became available the need for a firewall appeared. As basic services were guarded by firewalls, attackers moved to open services. This led to the creation of web application vulnerability scanners and web application firewalls (WAFs). Now, attackers are turning to social engineering led attacks which are very manual or unsophisticated today. Given this history and evolution in technology, I believe there will be a new security product category – The AI Firewall. With machine learning, we will see “social vulnerability scanners” appear en masse and with a high level of sophistication. Many IT organizations run “social scans” against their employees today to help with security awareness and defend their business from phishing. Through the use of artificial intelligence, hackers will be able to make more context and time relevant attacks in an automated manner. Content security systems will need AI to defend against these new attacks. Without an AI firewall organizations will find themselves needing to hire an increasing number of security analysts to use human judgement to allow or deny network traffic.

How Keep Your Data Safe from Nefarious Attacks

The bad guys always seem to be one step ahead so it’s important to practice good digital hygiene. There are some basic security precautions that consumers and business can take to protect their data whether its personal information, customer information, data collected from IoT devices or your cell phone. No matter what your level of technical expertise may be, there is a growing need for large scale education and awareness so that you are not on the wrong side of some output of a nefarious machine learning algorithm. Here are a few recommendations to follow:

  • Implement a basic monitoring service to watch your credit report and account access.
  • Use a different password and email address for each of your account logins.
  • Use two-factor authentication and authorization for transactions.

Artificial Intelligence is Not All Bad

We tend to focus on the negative security implications of machine learning. However, there is a lot of really positive things going on with machine learning to help with medical research, data mining/analytics and economic predictions. AI systems are already helping doctors diagnose certain types of cancerous tumors much more accurately than ever before; autonomous automobiles are much safer than human drivers in early testing; and AI is accelerating the pace of PhD level research in many areas helping us unlock the secrets of the universe faster than ever before.

Artificial intelligence aka. machine learning is going to continue to be a part of our daily lives and likely affects more aspects of our daily tasks as technology advances. With product companies eager to get to market early, it will be left to users in many cases to ensure that you have implemented the proper security precautions to keep your data safe from the bad guys. And remember AI is not all bad! If we all maintain a high level of digital awareness, we can hopefully minimize the nefarious security implications and increase the good coming from the data collection.

About the author

Bret Piatt , CEO at Jungle Disk . Before Jungle Disk he has successfully managed large teams at Rackspace and AT&T. Outside of the office Bret enjoys a good meal, live music, and spending time with his large family.