Using Artificial Intelligence to Take Down Cyber Criminals

September 2, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

AI Brain
Photo credit: Credit: Colin/Wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Artificial intelligence may be the only solution to keep-up with cyber criminals.

The rise of technology opened a world of opportunities in the realms of communication, education, and industrial science. However, it simultaneously created a new era of corruption: cybercrime. From professional hacking and virus writing to identity theft and fraud, cyber criminals are rapidly discovering new ways to threaten the internet— so rapidly that it’s hard for the good guys to keep up with them.  

Intel Security Group estimates that cybercrime costs the global economy more than a whopping $400 billion annually, possibly even maxing out at $575 billion. That’s more than the national income of most countries and governments. To make things even more unsettling, over 390,000 malicious programs are released every day in attempts to infiltrate computer networks and steal trade secrets and personal data.

Interestingly enough, the solution may be too advanced for humans but doable for something created by humans: Artificial Intelligence (AI). The rate at which digital crime occurs leaves little hope for human intervention to prevail without human error. AI has a much better chance at detecting and analyzing appropriate defenses against cybercrime because it, too, is a product of technology.

In a recent study about applications of AI techniques to combat cyber crimes, scholars specializing in computer engineering and cyber defense concluded that AI can detect and respond to attacks in a timely and efficient manner, and most importantly, that AI can prioritize and prevent secondary attacks.

Credit: frankieleon/Flickr CC BY 2.0

With the expansion of the internet, access to the knowledge and tools for committing cyber crimes has spread. To combat these dynamically evolving attacks, conventional fixed algorithms simply don’t cut it anymore. AI equips cybercrime fighters with innovation and unanticipated defense techniques.

In fact, AI is already being used to take down cybercriminals in some capacities. IBM’s widely known AI computer “Watson” has proven AI’s usefulness by teaming up with SparkCognition, a cognitive security analytics company. SparkCognition’s President and CEO Amir Husain told Forbes that they’re using Watson to apply their algorithms to a massive body of information, what they call a cognitive security depository. He said that this approach led them to Shellshock, the Unix Bash shell vulnerability that attracted a lot of media attention, before it even had a name.

There are a number of different methods in which computer engineers are proving AI’s ability to be an effective defense tool. Through their research, they’ve highlighted Artificial Neural Network applications as one of the more effective ways. ANN is a computational mechanism that mimics the functionality of neural networks existing in biological nervous systems. For situations that require prediction, classification, or control in a complex computer environment, ANN is ideal.

Another trustworthy method researchers have tested is Intelligent Agent applications. Intelligent Agents are autonomous computer-generated forces that communicate with each other. By cooperating and sharing data, intelligent agents plan and implement appropriate responses in case of unexpected events. Intelligent agent technology is collaborative by nature and able to adapt to the environments in which it is deployed, making it a powerful weapon against cybercrime.

Other methods used in cyber security research and defense are Artificial Immune System applications, Genetic Algorithms, and various hybrid applications. Each AI method applies unique characteristics of artificial intelligence to combat cybercrime, but these approaches require a lot of future research and testing. The best methods of defense may very well be a combination of these approaches by implementing a number of the extraordinary AI capabilities systematically.

AI functions with a number of characteristics existent in the human brain, like problem-solving, deduction, reasoning, social intelligence, and creativity. These skills, along with its ability to analyze data at a rate far beyond human capacity, illuminate the potential of AI to quickly assert itself as cybercrime’s biggest opponent.


Cybercrime is becoming more and more common as the internet becomes more immersive. While it used to be something only highly-equipped computer engineers could pull off, cyber crime can now occur virtually anywhere around the globe through the work of experts and apprentices alike. Ross Ulbricht, the notorious creator of the massive online black market called the Silk Road, taught himself how to code. Mastering the dark web or contributing to online crime is now accessible to anyone with the will to learn how.

As we are living in an interconnected online world, a significant amount of our personal information is accessible through the internet or stored in our computers. Although AI provides hope with promising solutions to protect the ever-growing cyber infrastructure, we mustn’t underestimate the intelligence of worms, viruses and hackers. All technological related endeavors are in a state of perpetual growth, and either side of the online war is able to unleash more advanced methods of attack or defense at any given moment.

Click here to find out more about cyber crime and prevention tips.

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