AI’s Impact on Cybersecurity: Beyond Silicon Valley

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88% of cybersecurity professionals believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will significantly impact their jobs, according to a survey by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2). With only 35% of the respondents having already witnessed AI’s effects on their jobs, there’s no question that there is a level of uncertainty regarding the future within the industry and how much of a role AI will play. From the negatives to the silver lining, AI has the potential to greatly transform the cybersecurity landscape in the coming years — a reality that can lead many Silicon Valley professionals to expand their horizons.

A Brief Outlook

AI is rapidly transforming the modern cybersecurity landscape, according to Station X. “It is enhancing the capabilities of bad actors to perform more sophisticated attacks while empowering cyber security professionals to elevate their defenses.” To highlight a few of many advantages, AI provides immediate access to an extensive knowledge base, serves as a reliable copilot for task execution, automates the protection of systems, and can even augment the workflow of professionals to increase efficiency, Station X points out.

Andrew Shikiar, executive director at FIDO Alliance, expands on the threat of AI going forward in 2024. “The threat posed by AI to cybersecurity is real, but there is certainly a ‘hype’ element in how big a share of highly sophisticated new AI attacks and data breaches are going to pose.” Phishing, deep fakes, and disinformation are all identified as threats that AI brings to the table. In regard to phishing, SecurityWeek notes that if AI-as-a-service does emerge in 2024, it will lead to an increase in phishing incidents. Ivan Novikov, founder and CEO at Wallarm warns: “These AI models can provide novice malicious actors with advanced capabilities… which were once the domain of more skilled hackers.”

The rise of AI can leave many feeling hopeless regarding the outlook of cybersecurity jobs, with the worry that technological advancements will eliminate valuable positions in the coming years. However, Station X goes on to point out that currently, there is a high demand for skilled cyber professionals in the job market, with an expectation that by 2025 there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs “due to a lack of skilled professionals and a growing need to secure more and more systems.”

A silver lining

AI will undoubtedly have a profound impact on sectors like cybersecurity, though there is a silver lining to keep in mind. Infosecurity Magazine dives deeper into the report by ISC2, which reveals that more than four in five respondents (82%) agree that AI will improve job efficiency for cyber professionals (it’s further noted that 42% strongly agree with this statement). Furthermore, the report found that more than half of respondents (54%) reported seeing a substantial increase in cyber-threats over the past six months — of those, 13% directly linked the increase to AI-generated threats. As a result, this effectively highlights the need for heightened security, an element in which cybersecurity professionals can be of great use.

The ISC2 report underlines valuable points, though it is imperative to keep in mind several others. Security Today makes note of the fact that while AI will likely eliminate certain positions (such as those that are entry-level), the technology “will add new jobs rather than reduce them,” thanks to several valuable factors. For starters, Security Today notes that AI will need humans in order to review, audit, and monitor several aspects of AI, from data behavior to decisions, processes, algorithms, etc. Furthermore, it’s pointed out that due to its nature, AI needs cybersecurity. “Adversaries can poison AI data, find ways to evade AI detection, take advantage of AI vulnerabilities, steal or attack the AI model, seek and find backdoors into systems, or compromise supply chain partners,” all of which will benefit from and require human intervention. Beyond these points, Security Today highlights the obvious — technology has its limits, and AI simply can’t do everything that a cybersecurity professional can.

While there are several ways in which AI will benefit from human cybersecurity professionals, it’s still necessary to take into account that the landscape of the cybersecurity sector will transform significantly. “We must accept that many jobs will disappear, many will change, and some will be created,” said Rohit Ghai, CEO of RSA Security, who expressed to RASC 2023 attendees his hopes that AI tools and human workers can coexist. Regarding RSA Security’s main business of verifying and controlling identity, PCMag highlights Ghai’s outline of a co-pilot model in which AI could handle simple day-to-day decisions. This would involve humans overseeing the AI and “handling exceptions that go beyond the AI’s purview.” From there, Ghai notes that humans would still have a valuable role in regard to “training, supervising, regulating, ethics, and monitoring the AI.” For example, these jobs could entail developing new AI algorithms.

Exploring Opportunities Elsewhere

It’s imperative to note that there are several examples of AI within the cybersecurity sector, particularly in regard to the silver linings involved. One LinkedIn article highlights several Silicon Valley startups that are already leveraging AI for cybersecurity. Cyble, founded in 2019, is just one example mentioned — the New York-based tech company delivers “AI-driven, actionable threat intelligence solutions that enable clients to handle cyber risks and safeguard their digital assets effectively.” While the value that AI can bring to the cybersecurity sector and examples of those already leveraging the technology can sound promising to some, others may wish to explore opportunities elsewhere.

Cybersecurity professionals looking to expand their job opportunities and outlook should consider how artificial intelligence will likely come into play in certain locations more than others. States like California are likely locations to face high exposure to AI in the future, with risk scores exceeding 1.0. Regarding the states that are the least at risk for AI job losses, Hawaii boasts the lowest risk score thanks to the economy’s reliance on tourism and service-oriented sectors. Indiana also ranks towards the bottom, with the economy possibly leaning towards manufacturing and agriculture (where AI’s current impact is less prevalent). North Dakota, New Jersey, and Nevada also possess relatively lower risk scores as well. A move to a less at-risk state can make a difference when it comes to job opportunities for cybersecurity professionals, whether the goal is to take on a new position in the field that doesn’t involve AI or to remain in the same role without an AI-heavy future.

The rise of artificial intelligence presents a variety of concerns for the future of the cybersecurity sector, with a level of uncertainty highlighting potential job losses. While there are significant silver linings to keep in mind, cybersecurity professionals may wish to venture out of Silicon Valley in search of opportunities in areas that are at a lower risk for an AI-laden future.

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