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Can AI Help Fight Cybercrime?

The increase in people using digital banking and conducting other financial transactions online has, unsurprisingly, led to an increase in cyber-attacks. But can another emerging technology help financial institutions and businesses fight them off? Yes, says one Barbadian cybersecurity expert.

Speaking during “Not If, But When: Managing Cyber Risk in Barbados' Financial Sector,” an online seminar hosted by the Central Bank of Barbados and the Financial Services Commission (FSC), Anthony Harris, President of the Barbados Chapter of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) said that deploying artificial intelligence (AI) tools can allow IT teams to more quickly recognise and react to cyber breaches.

“Self-learning AI promotes what we call proactive cyber resilience whereby it can intercede in a situation that it believes is not correct, that breaches a behavioural model. This self-learning AI would sit on your network and learn what the objects do – and from the AI’s perspective, you are an object, your email or computer is an object… When it sees these behaviours change… the AI would isolate that object. It acts autonomously to interrupt cyberattacks with precise and targeted action without disrupting regular business operations.”

He acknowledged these AI tools were costly but believes that they are a worthwhile investment for banks, credit unions, and other large businesses given the prevalence of and financial fallout caused by cybercrime. In 2023, there were approximately 24,000 reported data breaches that impacted around 344 million people across the globe. The average data breach costs about US $4.5 million to address.

The cybersecurity expert offered a key reason that large organisations should consider AI to fight cyber-attacks: AI is also being used to perpetrate these attacks. “Traditional methods of detecting phishing attempts relied upon the attackers not being native English speakers, but an AI can generate a perfectly crafted English email… So, you can’t rely on those tell-tale signs that the email is not real.”

While advocating for the use of AI to combat cyber threats, Harris cautioned, however, that businesses should not rely exclusively on these tools. “You still need human resources to facilitate and assist the AI. You still need to balance that hybrid approach of AI automation plus human skill and know-how.” 

Not If, But When: Managing Cyber Risk in Barbados' Financial Sector