The biggest threat to digital security is weaponized artificial intelligence (AI), which is ubiquitous and damaging. AI is neither good nor bad, but the people behind it can distinguish between AI being an asset or a threat.
Cyber-attacks have grown in frequency and sophistication and have become more difficult to detect and stop. The profitability of hacking into data systems in the black market has propelled this threat, causing security experts to lag.
Connected systems and hybrid teams working in different parts of the globe with varying levels of security make fortifying against ransomware, automated attacks, and phishing an ongoing challenge. How can digital security step up and safeguard networks to prevent data loss, manipulation, reputation damage, and plummeting revenue from unauthorized digital access?
Methods hackers use to weaponize AI and solutions
Over the years, AI has enabled a better understanding of customer behavior, changed how businesses operate and predicted cyber threats. Cybersecurity experts use AI for malware detection, malicious IP blocking, and website classification. Another way to protect against attacks, especially with a business with numerous workstations, is to ensure secure file transfer.
Secure file transfer solutions like secure file transfer protocol (SFTP), file transfer protocol secure (FTPS), and Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) provide encryption and authentication, making it difficult for hackers to gain access. Additionally, AI-powered intrusion detection systems can detect anomalous behavior, alerting security teams to suspicious activity.
A study among US and Japanese cybersecurity experts showed that 91% acknowledged the real threat that hackers can weaponize AI. They do so by doing the following:
1. Domain Name System (DNS) tunneling: Divert and steal data
When a computer wants to communicate with a remote server like Google, the query redirects to an IP address associated with Google. In an ideal world, this secure connection is faster thanks to multiple requests to Google’s DNS system and cache without breach.
However, this is far from the truth. Research shows that cyber-attacks exposed 15M data records during the last quarter of 2022. Another appalling finding is that the rate of increase was 37% over the previous quarter. On average, companies lost USD$ 3.9 M globally, and the impact was USD$ 400B.
Enterprising hackers have found a way to interrupt this pathway and divert that tunnel to another site, with the searcher unaware that they’re not accessing Google. What happens next is that the hacker’s server, now the authoritative server, can gain control of the victim’s server remotely, infecting it and its application with malware.
This compromised system is vulnerable to downloading malicious traffic, data theft, and spreading malware through file sharing within the network’s computer system. Remember that all these are undetected.
How to fortify the system against DNS tunneling
DNS Tunnelling attacks are unsafe because of leaks from stolen data and using DNS to connect and control the compromised server through remote access trojan. Here’s how you can strengthen your system:
- Prevent hacker intrusion by setting up a DNS firewall.
- Be aware of unfamiliar sources of IP addresses or domain names.
- Use an internal DNS server for the queries of internal clients to filter out malicious domains.
- Move to more secure cloud services
- DNS Solution that can detect threats in real-time.
Implementing these measures is critical to safeguard your digital assets.
2. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks
In a DDoS attack, a cybercriminal floods an exposed network with requests that overwhelm its bandwidth. The whole system, from the server to the networks, slows or completely shuts down when exhausted by bad traffic; it can’t take any incoming queries.
As fake traffic overwhelms the bandwidth of the hosted website, it won’t receive legitimate requests. This means that email, chat, or anything connected to the internet suffers. In a sense, this is similar to adrenal exhaustion in humans.
DDoS attacks are a real threat because of how easy it is for criminals to pull this off. Experts believe that by 2023, DDoS attacks will exceed 15M, double its rate in 2018. The projected cost per attack is USD$2M for big businesses and USD$120K for small to medium enterprises.
How To Fortify the System Against DDoS Attacks
Cybercriminals can quickly attack a network, but you can keep your assets safe with these measures:
- Periodically run a traffic analysis.
- Increase bandwidth (not a standalone solution and must be paired with other solutions).
- Use one or more Content Delivery Network (CDN) solutions to filter malicious requests and distribute incoming traffic to different servers across many locations.
- Offer a network of points of presence (POPs).
- Choose a web host that includes server-level DDoS tools to mitigate any attack.
- Use a cloud-based or hybrid solution.
- Outsource DDoS prevention.
- Ensure your team is prepared to deal with the attack. Your incident plan should include contacting your internet provider and prioritizing essentials to retain online.
- Be vigilant about early warning signs of an attack on your business.
- Optimize your firewall and router configuration to block volume attacks.
These measures are your first line of defense. Still, you can ensure you keep your network safe by working with a reliable service provider.
3. Man-in-the-middle (MiTM) Attacks
This technique puts the attacker between two parties. Once cybercriminals breach the session between the client and host (or user and application), they can steal your data. In addition, the client remains unaware that the communication is going through the hacker.
The usual targets are e-commerce sites, financial institutions, and other applications requiring a login. Once an attacker acquires the login details, they can steal personal information, including your customers’ credit card numbers. The consequences are dire, with identity theft enabling fund transfers and other transactions.
The attack itself proceeds in two stages:
This stage can happen with the use of free public Wi-Fi. Once the unsuspecting victim logs in and does work-related tasks using the free Wi-Fi hotspot offered by the attacker, this can result in sensitive information leaking.
Here are ways cyber threats use to intercept your information:
- IP spoofing: The attacker changes packet headers in the IP address. Once disguised as an application, users are led to a bogus website.
- ARP spoofing: The attacker’s MAC address is linked to a user on a local area network and leads to data transmitted to the attacker instead of the host.
- DNS spoofing: This is called DNS cache poisoning. Users wanting to access the site are sent to the attacker’s site.
Decryption happens through the following:
- HTTP spoofing: A type of cyber-attack where a malicious actor sends a forged HTTP request to a web server to make it think the request came from a trusted source.
- SSL hijacking: An attacker intercepts secure communications between two parties and alters the transmitted data.
- SSL stripping: Attackers downgrade an HTTPS connection to an unencrypted HTTP connection. The attacker can view, modify, and capture any data sent over the connection.
Remember that a cyber-attack isn’t just a single attack. Usually, it’s a concerted attack using different methods. Knowing these stages means knowing what happens next and how you can best fortify your system.
How to fortify the system against MiTM attacks
Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks when sensitive information, especially login information, is exposed. After you finish your business, disconnect from the network immediately. But most importantly, ensure that the sites you visit are secure.
Other ways to secure enterprise digital security
With offices becoming mobile, enterprise systems have become more vulnerable. Though weaponized AI can inflict much damage, doing the following can increase the level of security of your server and network:
- Use defensive cybersecurity solutions (firewall, antivirus software, and other security measures).
- Use threat and detection solutions.
- Ensure that all employees using the system are trained and vigilant about cyberattacks. For instance, they should open emails from reliable sources.
- Change passwords often, and don’t use one password many times.
- Update network OS, applications, and devices to the latest version.
- Use a secure workspace solution with secure file sharing.
- Use a VPN even when accessing through a public WIFI.
- Use NAS and backup data regularly.
- Outsource network protection.
- Consider a Single Sign On (SSO) system and two-factor authentication company-wide.
- Use Content Delivery Network (CDN) solution.
Employ one or more security measures to protect your business from cybersecurity attacks.
Weaponized AI is prevalent globally and affects small and large firms alike. Cybercriminals can use AI to enter a loophole in your network and impersonate you so they can steal data, direct your clients to their website and modify commands.
But you can protect your system by securing it with a firewall and using VPNs, secure file transfer solutions, and CDN solutions. There’s always the human factor, so everyone in the enterprise should be aware of the signs of an impending attack and with it.