Having a strong cyber security solution in place needs to be a top priority for any business, no matter how large or small they are. Criminals are always coming up with new ways to gain access to valuable data, and no company is immune to these threats.

Whether it’s social engineering attempts like phishing, SQL injections or loading ransomware where the goal is extortion rather than theft, the range of threats facing businesses is huge, and it can be a challenge for cyber security professionals to keep up with all the latest techniques used by criminals.

However, they may have powerful new tools in their arsenal in the coming years, as artificial intelligence (AI) is set to play a growing role in the cyber security sector. These tools are already proving adept at spotting patterns and detecting and reacting to breaches that would have been untraceable to human operators, and are set to become more popular in the coming years.

But will businesses and end-users really feel comfortable entrusting the safety of their data to machines?

Work to be done to build trust

A new study by Palo Alto networks suggested that while there is still a lot of work to be done to get users comfortable with AI technology, some people are ready to accept the technology.

It found that in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, around a quarter of users (26 per cent) say they would prefer their cyber security defences to be managed by AI rather than a human. However, there was significant variation around the region, with respondents in the UK particularly wary of the technology.

While 38 per cent of people in Italy favoured AI over humans, this figure fell to just 21 per cent in the UK – the lowest proportion of the seven countries surveyed. Some 39 per cent of Brits said they would like to keep humans in charge of these processes.

Dr Jessica Barker, an expert in the human nature of cyber security, said it is not surprising to see so many people hesitant to adopt technology such as AI, as people have traditionally been reticent to embrace new innovations, with even technology such as telephones, televisions and trains causing fear when they were first introduced.

The need to improve familiarity

Dr Barker added: “Many people are unaware of the way in which AI and machine learning are already enabling our use of technology, protecting our data and preventing cyber attacks, largely because it is often non-invasive to the end-user. This can mean people feel hesitant about the concept of embracing AI, without realising that it is already a positive presence in their lives.”

Therefore, it will be important to demonstrate to users how tools such as AI are already improving areas such as data security, and the benefits won’t stop with better detection rates. The research indicates that those who are comfortable trusting AI technologies have a more positive outlook on the role cyber security plays in their day-to-day lives, so may be more likely to take essential steps to protect themselves.

Greg Day, vice-president and chief security officer for EMEA at Palo Alto Networks, said: “Building and maintaining trusted capabilities will only be achieved through prioritising cyber security and data privacy, and communicating openly and honestly. Through applying these new technologies responsibly and adopting them into our day to day lives, we can create a world where each day is safer and more secure than the one before.”

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