The value of Artificial Intelligence in Cybersecurity

Larry Ponemon

Ponemon Institute is pleased to present The Value of Artificial Intelligence in Cybersecurity sponsored by IBM Security. The purpose of this research is to understand trends in the use of artificial intelligence and how to overcome barriers to full adoption.

Ponemon Institute surveyed 603 IT and IT security practitioners in US organizations that have either deployed or plan to deploy AI as part of their cybersecurity program or infrastructure. According to the findings, these participants strongly believe in the importance and value of AI but admit that being able to get the maximum value from technologies is a challenge.

The adoption of AI can have a very positive impact on an organization’s security posture and bottom line. The biggest benefit is the increase in speed of analyzing threats (69 percent of respondents) followed by an acceleration in the containment of infected endpoints/devices and hosts (64 percent of respondents). Because AI reduces the time to respond to cyber exploits organizations can potentially save an average of more than $2.5 million in operating costs.

In addition to greater efficiencies in analyzing and containing threats, 60 percent of respondents say AI identifies application security vulnerabilities. In fact, 59 percent of respondents say that AI increases the effectiveness of their organizations’ application security activities.

To improve the effectiveness of AI technologies, organizations should focus on the following three activities.

 Attract and retain IT security practitioners with expertise in AI technologies. AI may improve productivity but it will increase the need for talented IT security personnel. Fifty-two percent of respondents say AI will increase the need for in-house expertise and dedicated headcount.

Simplify and streamline security architecture. While some complexity in an IT security architecture is expected in order to deal with the many threats facing organizations, too much complexity can impact the effectiveness of AI. Fifty-six percent of respondents say their organizations need to simplify and streamline security architecture to obtain maximum value from AI-based security technologies. Sixty-one percent say it is difficult to integrate AI-based security technologies with legacy systems.

Supplement IT security personnel with outside expertise. Fifty percent of respondents say it requires too much staff to implement and maintain AI-based technologies and 57 percent of respondents say outside expertise is necessary to maximize the value of AI-based security technologies.

As the adoption of AI technologies matures, the more committed organizations become to investing in these technologies.

In this research, 139 respondents of the total sample of 603 respondents self-reported that their organizations have either fully deployed AI (55) or partially deployed AI (84). We refer to these respondents as AI users. We conducted a deeper analysis of how these respondents perceive the benefits and value of AI. Following are some of the most interesting differences between AI users and the overall sample of respondents who are in the planning stages of their deployment of AI. 

  • AI users are more likely to appreciate the benefits of AI technology. Seventy-one percent of AI users vs. 60 percent of the overall sample say an important benefit is the ability of AI to deliver deeper security than if organizations relied exclusively on their IT security staff.
  • AI users are more likely to believe these technologies simplify the process of detecting and responding to application security threats. As a result, AI users are more committed to AI technologies.
  • While AI users are more likely to believe AI will increase the need for in-house expertise and dedicated headcount (60 percent of AI users vs. 52 percent in the overall sample), these respondents are more aware than the overall sample that AI benefits their organization because it increases the productivity of security personnel.
  • AI has reduced application security risk in organizations that have achieved greater deployment of these technologies. When asked about the effectiveness of AI in reducing application security risk, 69 percent of respondents say these technologies have significantly increased or increased the effectiveness of their application security activities vs. 59 percent of respondents in the overall sample who say their effectiveness increased in reducing application security risk.
  • AI technologies tend to decrease the complexity of organizations’ security architecture. Fifty-six percent of respondents in organizations that have more fully deployed AI report that instead of adding complexity AI actually decreases complexity. Only 24 percent of AI users say it increases complexity.
  • As the use of AI increases, the more knowledgeable the IT security staff becomes in identifying areas where the use of advanced technologies would be most beneficial. Fifty-six percent of AI users rate their organizations’ ability to accurately identify areas in their security infrastructure where AI and machine learning would create the most value as very high.
  • AI improves the ability to detect previously “undetectable” zero-day exploits. On average, AI users are able to detect 63 percent of previously “undetectable” zero-day exploits. In contrast, respondents in the overall sample say AI can increase detection by an average of 41 percent.

Download the entire report from IBM here. 

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