Jan 4, 2022
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What’s Ahead for AI and Cybersecurity in 2022

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There was no shortage of cybersecurity headlines in 2021. From REvil’s attacks, disappearance and resurgence to a brewing “cyber cold war” sweeping the world, 2021 was one of the most hectic years yet for the cybersecurity industry. And 2022 looks like it is going to be just as challenging, if not more so.
A complex mix of people-centric training and awareness campaigns will be required in addition to collaboration between the global public and private sectors. This highlights the reality that addressing today’s cybersecurity challenges is easier said than done. And as cybercriminals become more sophisticated, successfully defending ourselves and our companies is only going to become more demanding. More organizations are considering adopting AI as a way to optimize their cybersecurity operations, make them more agile and bolster their proactive threat detection and response capabilities.
The power of AI is truly incredible. However, with such power also comes a huge responsibility to act ethically. Unfortunately, as evidenced by Facebook’s recent backtracking on its facial recognition software, very real ethical questions swirl in the technology and business worlds when it comes to AI. 
It is incumbent upon businesses to protect every bit of consumer information to the best of their ability with an emphasis on privacy. That is why it is essential that cybersecurity’s application of AI does not cross that line—either unwittingly or deliberately. So what has to be done to ensure this?
Here are a few safeguards that businesses and their cybersecurity teams can put in place to make sure their cybersecurity tools are striking the right balance between process transparency, employee experience and safety protocols as we move into 2022.
It is true that the regulatory landscape around AI is still nascent and unclear. Not to mention that legislation varies greatly at the state and local levels. That said, any gray areas should be viewed not as a potential loophole to exploit but should serve instead as a benchmark for companies to exceed. All too often, businesses choose to operate in gray areas in hopes that they might not be found out or will be grandfathered in if stricter rules are put in place. This inherently breeds distrust among consumers and can result in irreparable damage if companies are forced to walk products back if they run afoul of oversight. Fortunately, the answer to this is simple: If you are unsure of what or where the guidelines are, exceed them.
AI technology can tackle virtually any cybersecurity task much more rapidly than a human operator alone. However, that doesn’t mean that these tools should be left to their own devices and set free to run on their own without supervision. Even if tools are built with incredibly high ethical standards in mind, they still have the potential to stray outside ethical boundaries. Therefore, businesses need to make sure they are adopting tools that work with human oversight and can be tweaked should they begin to deviate from their defined ethical frameworks. If this is not possible, organizations need to look elsewhere for tools that offer quick and easy adaptability. Organizations also need to look into tools that have digital fairness and equity built into their DNA already—without alterations—as these tools provide an ethical bedrock that organizations can fall back on from day one of their ethical journey.
Fixing ethical issues with AI technologies will only be as successful as the humans performing the fixes. Therefore, organizations need to make sure that their employees are not just well-versed in the organization’s ethical standards but that they keep those standards top-of-mind when making corrections. Driving widespread engagement has always been a challenge for organizations; thus, it is imperative that organizations eschew outdated engagement methods and invest in new, progressive tactics for establishing ethical decision-making before they launch any new products. This means leveraging innovations in behavioral science and using gamification, among other techniques, to deliver actionable strategies for driving ethical decision-making. It has been proven time and again that the other option—hoping it will happen on its own—is unlikely.
The future for AI and cybersecurity is incredibly bright—if the technology industry can get ethics right. And unfortunately, that is a pretty big if. However, by keeping these few fundamentals in mind, cybersecurity professionals can make better AI decisions and build long-lasting trust with their users.
Sagar Shah is a client partner with Fractal Analytics.
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