21 Predictions for 2021: How Machine Learning and AI Will Change Cybersecurity

With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, organizations across the globe are leveraging technology to flatten the curve on their financial recession—many of them are experiencing a paradigm shift. In addition to flexibility and sustainability through cutting-edge technologies, organizations are also adopting a remote working culture to continue to persist. At the same time, cybercriminals have increased their efforts to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in your cybersecurity system. Cyberattacks are one of the biggest threats to every organization. According to predictions for 2021, cybersecurity is going to be a major concern for everyone. 

Government organizations, social networking sites, online marketplaces, and IT companies are all cybercriminal targets. Even high-profile organizations, including the Government of Quebec, Canada, and the Brazilian government, have suffered data breaches. Though multiple firewalls are used to stop hackers, it is not always enough to prevent an attack or predict the next step of a determined hacker. Some think that only humans can anticipate what other humans might do before they do it. However, both artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are more efficient. Here are the 21 top predictions for 2021, and beyond, for how AI and machine learning will improve cybersecurity.

21 Cybersecurity Predictions for 2021

1. AI will aid the cybersecurity skills shortage.

A shortage of professionals with cybersecurity skills, along with a remote working culture, has opened up more opportunities for cybercriminals to penetrate your system. To combat this, AI has become a common and effective way to improve defence mechanisms. AI helps to recognize patterns of attack and suspicious email activity, contributing to threat protection. 

To proactively detect and solve potential cyber risks, 80% of telecom companies rely on AI technologies. About 73% of organizations benefit from the use of AI to counter possible cyber threats and improve their cybersecurity.

2. By 2030, AI will replace the need for humans in cybersecurity.

As AI becomes more pervasive, a new research report conducted by cloud security firm Trend Micro predicts that technology will likely replace humans in the cybersecurity field in the near future. As hackers are continuously upgrading their sophisticated tools, the implementation of AI will be the most effective way to reduce the cybersecurity skills shortage. The report states that 41% of IT leaders believe artificial intelligence (AI) will replace humans by 2030. However, 32% of IT directors, managers, CIOs, and CTOs believe that this technology will eventually completely automate all cybersecurity-related tasks with minimal human intervention.

AI in cybersecurity

Source: NTT Application Security, Inc.

3. Countries will invest heavily in AI to improve cybersecurity.

Considering recent trends, the importance of AI in improving cybersecurity is continually increasing. Therefore, countries like the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada, have already started investing heavily in AI to improve cybersecurity measures to fight against cybersecurity risks, including hacking, data breaching, phishing, ransomware, and more. The Australian government is leading the financial investment in improving cybersecurity through AI.   

A premier cybersecurity company’s, Secure Anchor’s, predictions for 2021 anticipate that global spending on cybersecurity products and services will exceed $1 trillion over the five-year period, starting in 2017. According to Gartner Inc., global spending on information security and risk management will reach $170.4 billion in 2022

4. AI will become a significant part of companies’ data protection strategies. 

Regardless of size, companies are adopting artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their data protection strategies. In the near future, companies will be highly dependent on AI to protect their crucial business data from cybercriminals, like hackers, scammers, and identity thieves. According to a prediction by Gartner in 2019, by 2023 over 40% of privacy compliance technology will be dependent on AI.

5. AI will keep your remote workers secure.

Remote workers are a comparatively easy target for cybercriminals. As remote working is no longer just an option, companies are looking for better security. They will need to adopt AI concepts in their cybersecurity policies to improve the security infrastructure to protect their remote workforce. 

6. AI will be essential to solving cloud adoption entitlement challenges.

A survey, across regions and industries, shows that 49% of companies report that keeping up with security is more challenging than it was two years ago—especially in a multi-cloud world. Effective implementation of AI will influence the performance of cloud security services and help to resolve cloud security challenges. With the advancement of AI implementation, companies can easily use AI tools to safely integrate, store, and manage their sensitive business information on different cloud services without difficulty. Gartner's research showed a 41% growth in end-user spending on cloud security between 2020 and 2021.

7. AI will become more involved in the authentication framework.

Risk-based authentication will continue to improve with better implementation of AI. Using cross-reference multiple machine learning algorithms, AI-based pattern recognition, and time-series based predictive algorithms, the accuracy and scope of the AI-based authentication framework will improve. Therefore, companies can use AI notions in authentication processes to enhance web application logins and other aspects of cybersecurity, like botnet detection and network intrusion.

8. Use of AI and ML will be a catalyst to remove various malicious intentions.

With machine learning, cybersecurity systems will be able to analyze patterns and learn how to prevent similar attacks as well as respond to changing behaviors. This will help your cybersecurity team be more proactive in early threat detection and enable you to prevent active attacks in real-time.

9. AI will reduce the importance of passwords within corporate IT business networks.

Predictions for 2021 indicate that organizations of any size can get rid of insecure passwords. The combination of AI concepts and improved biometric mechanisms allows companies to establish a better login system without passwords within their systems. Sophisticated AI-powered identification systems ensure secured access.

10. AI will contribute to improving the performance of IT and security departments.

There are multiple advantages of using AI in cybersecurity initiatives—the best is the easy integration of AI in IT and security operations. As a result, you can safeguard your business infrastructures and crucial resources, including business data, official communications, business devices, and other related assets, with updated AI-based security measures.

machine learning in cybersecurity

Source: Wavestone

11. The bond between AI and cybersecurity will become stronger.

A survey, conducted by Capgemini Research Institute, shows that 69% of senior executives won’t be able to respond to a cyberattack without AI. The same survey also reveals that two-thirds of organizations are planning to incorporate AI as soon as possible. Several large companies, like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, are incorporating AI into their internet-based services.

12. VPNs will be replaced by ZTNA to fight back new ransomware challenges.

Ransomware attacks are costlier than data breaches—on average, a ransomware attack costs $2 million. Organizations are phasing out VPNs to implement better security. A Gartner survey reports that 80% of new digital business applications opened up to ecosystem partners will be accessed through zero-trust network access (ZTNA) by 2022. On the other hand, 60% of enterprises will replace their remote access virtual private networks (VPN) with ZTNA by 2023.

13. There will be rapid implementation of patch management services.

Patch management is one of the profound cybersecurity predictions for 2021. Patch management is an efficient process of identifying, prioritizing, remediating, and reporting security issues to prevent cyberattacks. A Ponemon Institute study found that 57% of cyberattack victims feel that the attack would have been prevented by applying a patch. The aim of patch management services is to ensure careful implementation of patches companywide to enhance security.  

14. Implementation of AI to manage insider threats.

According to a Stealth Labs survey report, insiders cause about 30% of data breaches. In the last 2 years, there was an increase of 47% in insider threat incidents. Forrester’s predictions for 2021 show that insider data breaches will likely increase by 8%. To combat this, large companies are implementing ML and AI in threat management; for instance, Microsoft Insider Risk Management is using AI and ML to provide a better user solution.

15. Advanced machine learning algorithms will contribute to XDR service.

84% of current users opt for full-function XDR (extended detection and response), designed for highly skilled analysts. Advanced machine learning algorithms are essential for detecting threat and then automating a response. Full-function XDR provides AI-based analytics to help you detect stealthy threats. With AI-based analytics, you will gain comprehensive visibility to speed threat investigation and response. 

16. AI/ML will help mitigate mobile security risks.

Several organizations are turning to Al/ML to boost their cybersecurity systems. AI and ML play a crucial role in developing mobile security services. With the implementation of AI and ML, you can enjoy a more remarkable ability to identify and predict potential attacks. It also improves application development to better prevent potentially vulnerable applications.

17. Cryptocurrencies will play new roles.

The crypto economy experienced a significant boost and record surge of digital assets over the past six months. The industry is expected to continue to grow and exhibit noteworthy developments in the field of cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrency will play a crucial role in the future, as this is an electronic form of a digital asset used as an exchange medium. The use of cryptography provides additional transaction security.

18. 5G will offer a new approach to cybersecurity.

Almost 90% of organizations consider that business ARPU will grow with 5G. 5G technology is not only a faster mobile network but also comes with a few vital privacy and security wins, including: 

  • It encrypts identifiers.
  • It offers security and privacy features like spoofing and anti-tracking features.

5G can provide essential benefits, such as protecting users from manipulation and other online network threats, with these capabilities. 

19. Digital transformation will include more AI in the security operations center (SOC).

AI and ML are two potent digital transformation factors, and they enable the most efficient digital tools developed today. With AI and ML, you can enjoy innovative and effective solutions that directly influence the market’s acceleration, competitiveness, and customer experience. 

20. There will be an increase in the number of security unicorns.

2020 recorded 6 new cybersecurity unicorns, a record for a single year at the time. However, it was not long-lasting. Within the first half of 2021, 9 new cybersecurity unicorns have already emerged. Last year was a record-breaking year with 6 new cybersecurity unicorns, but that has been topped by the first half of 2021. As cyberattacks continue to threaten businesses, personal privacy, professionals, and end-users, cybersecurity has become a major concern for any company, government, or organization. This fuels the increasing number of security unicorns.

21. Domain-Based Message Authentication (DMARC) will flourish.

A survey shows that 70% of all global emails are malicious, and 30% of phishing emails are opened. It is essential to incorporate authentication processes like DMARC to protect users and organizations. With the establishment of DMARC, security and risk management leaders can add a layer of trust and verification through an email authentication policy. This will help to mitigate the risk of domain spoofing.

The 21 predictions for 2021 are based on statistical data and experiences in cybersecurity as well as interactions with organizations and professionals. Along with cybersecurity developments, cybercriminals are also leveraging AI and other cutting-edge technologies for malicious use to find and exploit vulnerabilities in your system. To assure optimum cybersecurity, worldwide organizations are investing in AI and ML. Cybersecurity enables organizations to accelerate their business development, pivot to the cloud, and flourish.

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Chayanika Sen