How to fight sophisticated cybercrime | Avast

Reuters Plus and Avast, 14 June 2018

Cyberattacks have evolved from personal problems to global emergencies, but AI and the cloud can protect us.


As all the pieces of our cyberworld — personal laptops, business desktops, smartphones, digital assistants, TVs, appliances — grow more connected, they also make us more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Both on the individual and corporate levels, cyberattacks have become big business, which in turn has made cybersecurity big business as well. The research firm Gartner  estimates that $96 billion will be spent on global information security in 2018, an 8% increase from 2017.

Cyberthreats used to be much more personal. Just one individual, or maybe a small group of people, would try to hack into a device, system, or service — sometimes to upload a virus or crash a website, but more often just to prove that it could be done.

These days, though, cyberthievery is highly lucrative, whether it involves selling stolen data or committing corporate or political espionage. “Hacking today is an industrialized operation, and — for some nation states — a big part of the espionage and cyberwarfare work they are doing,” explains Rajarshi Gupta, VP of Data Science at Avast.


The main target of cyberattacks used to be more predictable as well. The PC was the primary focus, as hackers tried to exploit weaknesses in the operating system to gain access. But now, with the rise of smartphones, internet of things (IoT) devices, and cloud-based services, there are multiple new ways that a cybercriminal can infiltrate a network.

Smart home products like Wi-Fi cameras, smart locks, refrigerators, and TVs are especially enticing to today’s hacker — and, as Gupta explains, especially troubling for cybersecurity experts, since most of them are built by product-focused companies, not network security experts. “The next big frontier in cybersecurity will be to protect the internet of things. With millions of connected devices on the internet, protecting them from hackers anywhere in the world is our challenge as an industry,” Gupta says.

Avast CEO Vince Steckler adds, “Cybersecurity threats are as big a problem as ever and are a constantly moving target, with smart hackers continually trying to outsmart the security industry.” That means security professionals must find better, more efficient ways to protect their clients.

For Avast, automation is one key to meeting any challenge that the cybercriminals throw down. “Cybersecurity is pretty much entirely automated today,” explains Gupta. “Cybersecurity has gone from most of the work being done by humans, to now where most of it is being done by machines.” Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, and the cloud work together to analyze and defend against threats on a massive scale.

“Our growth has been driven by our unique way of protecting consumers,” Steckler says. “It is in the cloud, using machine learning that allows us to scale to an incredible user base of hundreds of millions of users.”

By aggregating data in the cloud, Avast can analyze information much faster to find existing threats. Meanwhile, AI can examine the data to look for unusual trends and behaviors that might otherwise slip under the radar. Big data analytics helps Avast create baselines and benchmarks to define what’s normal and expected, which helps AI quickly detect abnormalities.

Every month, the Avast security cloud searches several hundred billion URLs and hundreds of millions of new files for anomalies. The faster these anomalies are detected, the faster the company can react to them.

“Today, cybersecurity is all about building very smart machines that can identify and block attacks really, really fast,” explains Gupta. “With the power of artificial intelligence, we can magnify our abilities and stay ahead of the cybercriminals.”

NOTE:  Article is based on two articles previously published on Reuters Plus website.