Cybercriminals are playing the old game, but much better

AI-powered cybercrime

July 1, 2024, 12:00 PM | Author: Darren Guccione / Editor: Diana Künstler

The rise of artificial intelligence has ushered in a new era of cyber threats, prompting IT leaders and managers to pay even greater attention to their corporate defense mechanisms. How consistent application of existing tools and best practices can help.

The following article addresses, among other things, the following questions:

  • What new threats does artificial intelligence (AI) bring to cybersecurity?
  • What are the most serious attack vectors for 2024?
  • How can companies strengthen their defenses against AI-driven cyberattacks?
  • Why is traditional employee training no longer sufficient?
  • What role does access and privilege management play in cyber protection?
  • How can you protect yourself from AI-powered phishing emails and deepfakes?

Security strategies, solutions and contingency plans must be able to withstand the new level of threat and protect the company from these dangers. The more cybercriminals use advanced AI tools, the more likely they are to make their attacks successful. The BSI confirms this assessment1: “So-called generative AI, especially large language models, lowers the barriers to entry for cyberattacks and increases the scale, speed and impact of malicious actions in the digital space.” Current incidents like this show that these assessments are much more than just theory £20m deepfake conference call scam2 in Hong Kong.

The good news: IT security experts are aware of the danger. In a current Research by Keeper Security3 AI-powered attacks and deepfake technologies are ranked as the top two cyberattack vectors for 2024. However, this awareness must now be followed by concrete actions to provide the necessary protection.

The arsenal of cybercriminals

The arsenal of AI-powered tools already available to cybercriminals enables seamless convergence to execute cyberattacks. For example, Generative AI technology enables the rapid creation of authentic-looking phishing emails and also offers a cost-effective solution for opportunistic hackers. AI-powered cyberattacks increase the credibility of social engineering tricks such as deepfakes and impersonations. This makes it increasingly difficult for companies and their employees to distinguish real from fake. In short, fraudulent material generated by AI is becoming increasingly ‘human’ and harder to identify, meaning that, for example, traditional employee training is becoming less and less effective against cybercrime.

Access and privilege management are key components of cyber protection

The fact that more than a third (35 percent) of IT leaders in the study consider AI-driven cyberattacks to be the most serious attack vector begs the question: how can businesses best strengthen their defenses? The answer: a critical component of any cybersecurity strategy is robust privileged access management. It ensures strict control over sensitive accounts and systems, including IT administrator accounts that contain critical information or user access to business-critical applications. By controlling least privileged access to these accounts, the risk of unauthorized access and potential data breaches is reduced, thwarting cybercriminals’ attempts to exploit vulnerabilities.

Organizations must now carefully define who has access to which networks and accounts – especially those that are the proverbial “keys to the kingdom” and those that contain sensitive corporate information. For example, a cyberattack involving a convincing deepfake impersonating an executive would be far less effective if the recipient employee did not have access to sensitive data or systems.

Adaptive Awareness Training

Because the tricks cybercriminals use – for example in deepfakes – hardly differ from real messages, it is not enough for employees to pay attention to unusual spellings, typos or strange requests in, for example, fake or phishing messages. The tactics of the criminals are so perfect that employee training should focus much more on basic awareness training in which everything can be questioned – very similar to the zero trust principle. By training on new cybercriminal tactics, including AI-powered attacks, employees can anticipate and, more importantly, report AI-powered activity.

Stay on the ball

When it comes to cybersecurity, there’s nothing worse than sitting still. Cybercriminals will find their way into your company in no time. The minimum level of ongoing cyber protection activities consists of regular software updates to close potential gaps. Consistently updating software and devices strengthens security by fixing vulnerabilities immediately. Timely patches shorten the window of time during which hackers can exploit vulnerabilities, and implementing secure backup protocols ensures data integrity and protects against potential data loss due to malware attacks. In addition, privilege access control strengthens cyber protection because it reflects the current status of employees and their actual required rights at all times.

protective measure Description
Privileged access management Strict control over sensitive accounts and systems
Consciousness training

Training on new cybercriminal tactics

Regular software updates Closing potential security gaps
Secure backup protocols

Protect against data loss due to malware attacks

Strong password policy Use complex and unique passwords
Encrypted communication channels

Ensure that information is only viewed by the intended person

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) Additional layer of security for user accounts

Be cautious with personal information

With the rise of AI-powered phishing emails, impersonations and deepfakes, vigilance when sharing personal or sensitive information online is paramount. For example, fraudsters can use AI algorithms to analyze large amounts of data to create a false identity, and use a technique called “synthesis” to realistically mimic a person’s voice. Such techniques allow cybercriminals to appear and act legitimate. Reliable verification of authenticity, use of encrypted communication channels and a careful approach can help mitigate this risk. Best practice is to request a second form of identification or verification before sharing sensitive information, and to use an encrypted service to ensure that the information sent can only be viewed by the intended person.

This is also where enforcing strong password guidelines and enterprise-wide access and password management come into play. Implementing strict password practices, including the use of complex and unique passwords, combined with a secure yet user-friendly password management solution, significantly reduces the likelihood of successful attacks.

Darren Guccione, Security Guard
Darren Guccione, CEO and Co-Founder of Keeper Security

While the threat landscape is rapidly evolving, core cybersecurity principles and strategies remain—when defending against both traditional and AI-driven cyberattacks. Essential measures like robust password management, multi-factor authentication (MFA), ongoing employee training, and software updates and security patches are essential defenses against AI-driven attacks. By prioritizing these effective practices, businesses can significantly strengthen their resilience to cyberthreats—even without a radical infrastructure overhaul or an entirely new cybersecurity strategy.


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