The Role of AI and Machine Learning in Data Protection 

Data is the lifeblood of any organization. A secure database is the most minor thing a company can do for itself and its customer base.  Data breaches pose significant threats to companies, ranging from reputation damages to legal penalties. A 2023 IBM report stated that, on average, a data breach costs $4.45M. Even more shocking is the fact that this price is 15% higher than what it was in 2020.  Several factors have come into play when looking at the cause of this surge in data breaches.

AI (Artificial intelligence), a blooming technology that seeks to provide a more efficient and easily accessible dataset for individual and organizational use, has come under heavy criticism. This is due to doubt over user data protection and copyright infringement, as seen in recent lawsuits filed by NFT artists and UMG music group. Amidst these severe challenges, AI and ML (Machine Learning) have also found unlikely use cases: data protection. This article explores AI and ML’s role in safeguarding individual and business data.

Significance of Data Protection

Today, businesses have to deal with several data types to stay relevant.  While this growth continues over the years, low-security practices keep making organizations fear data breaches.  In fact, a recent report from a public tracking that measures the breach-level index mentioned around 9,198,580,293 in a decade. These breaches come with severe consequences, which are:

  • Tarnished brand image and customer loss
  • Loss of crucial business data.
  • Loss of privacy and identity theft.
  • Hidden costs
  • Legal implication
  • Bankruptcy

Overview of AI and ML in Data Protection

Use of AI in Data Protection 

Recently, businesses have discovered that AI is an excellent tool for data protection. It possesses predictive analytics ability, i.e., it can analyze data in history. Exploring this strength, algorithms can predict what will happen in terms of security breaches before they happen. This initiative approach can keep organizations ahead of cyber threats.

In addition, with the help of neural languages, AI can determine the type of datasets and detect a missing data string. This can help protect against data loss due to human error. Also, with the help of data model generation, AI is useful in automating data preparation and cleaning. This ensures swift operation.

Use of ML in Data Protection 

Machine learning focuses on how to use data and algorithms to emulate how human beings learn, little by little increasing its accuracy. ML has found use cases in lots of business areas, which are:

  • Fraud detection
  • Real or fake image recognition
  • Processing natural language

When it comes to data security, machine learning can detect suspicious activity in many ways. ML can accept and examine data to detect threats, trends, and ways of cybercrime attacks. This helps security groups stay updated about potential risks and take necessary steps to defend against them before they worsen.

AI/ML Applications in Data Protection

Now, let’s take a broader look at some cases where AI and ML play an important role in protecting our data. These cases are as follows:

  • Detecting threats 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are continually protecting our data by being on the lookout for internet fraudsters trying to sneak into our online technology.

  • Behavioral Analysis 

Artificial intelligence can study the user’s behavior and bring out baseline patterns, removing deviations that may identify abnormal activities. An extra layer of protection was added to the behavioral analysis, which focuses on indicating threats based on action rather than predefined signatures.

  • Detecting Anomaly 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are great at identifying unusual stuff. However, suppose things don’t seem right in our online technology. In that case, either AI or ML will raise an alarm to protect our online technology.

  • Real-Time Monitoring 

Artificial intelligence allows the monitoring of network traffic, the user’s behavior, and the system’s activities. Detecting these suspicious activities will allow quick response and lower the impact of potential security threats.

  • Encryption  

AI and ML work together with encryption, using a secret code they both understand to communicate. They make sure this process is very powerful so that no one can understand or crack it.

  • Adaptive Security Measures 

Machine learning algorithms can improve threat detection by continuing to gain knowledge from new data. This improvement is very important in facing cyber threats that may change their way over time.

Challenges and Considerations

As mentioned earlier, the use of AI and ML has come under scrutiny for several reasons. This includes:

  • Growing Ethical Concerns 

The use of AI/ML in protecting data comes with ethical questions, specifically regarding privacy. Automated models may unavoidably intrude on individuals’ privacy rights. This necessitates careful consideration of ethical guidelines and regulations.

  • Adversarial Attacks Susceptibility 

Malicious actors can manipulate data to deceive AI/ML systems. This act poses a significant risk in data protection, as attackers may exploit vulnerabilities to bypass security measures.

  • Limited Knowledge of the Black-Box Models 

Many AI professional models work as “black boxes .” This makes it challenging to interpret their decision-making processes. Awareness of how these models arrive at certain conclusions is vital for trust and transparency. This is especially true in sensitive business fields like data protection.

  • Biases in Algorithms 

AI models can inherit preconceptions present in data training, potentially leading to biased results. Prejudices in data or choices made by algorithms could impact some groups more. This can lead to increased unfairness and promote inequalities.

  • Automation Abuse 

Excessive basing business decisions on AI without deep human scrutiny of the provided information can lead to unintended consequences. Despite the presumed accuracy of models, human judgment is essential for contextual understanding. This is particularly necessary in complex scenarios where ethical considerations are crucial.

  • Data Security and Associated Privacy Risks 

The storage and processing of extensive datasets for training AI has become a cornerstone of modern IT practice. However, it has introduced additional security and privacy risks. Therefore, safeguarding this data against unauthorized access is paramount to prevent potential breaches.

  • High Setup Costs 

While it looks cheap, implementing AI/ML solutions for data protection is costly. This is due to the need for investing in technology, skilled personnel, and ongoing maintenance. Smaller businesses may find this associated cost a significant constraint on their budget.

  • Lack of a Notable Framework 

One of the questions hanging around the use of AI models is the need for standardized frameworks for evaluation. This limitation can lead to inconsistencies in security measures and compliance.

  • Data Quality Limitations 

One sad truth about AI models is that they are garbage in, garbage out. They rely heavily on the quality of input data. So, any inaccuracies, incompleteness, or outdated information directly affect the model’s accuracy. These can lead to wrong conclusions. Dealing without these issues requires a detailed approach that combines technical solutions, ethical considerations, and regulatory compliance to ensure responsible and effective AI/ML implementation in data protection.

  • Legal and Regulatory Issues 

As the use of AI/ML for data protection grows, so do the regulatory hurdles to implementation. Ensuring strict compliance with various industry laws requires ongoing monitoring and adjustment of data protection strategies.

While generative AI models have become the talk of the recent technology industry, emerging trends significantly impact data protection. With time, the industry could witness a rage of technological advancements, including:

  • Explainable AI (XAI) 

The business world yearns for AI models that center on transparent explanations of their decisions to address the “black-box” challenge. So, AI developers’ ongoing research aims to improve the interpretability of complex models. Achieving this target will foster trust and understanding in critical applications such as data protection.

  • Privacy-Preserving Machine Learning 

Techniques that protect users’ privacy, such as homomorphic encryption and federated learning, allow model training on decentralized data. This ensures complete measures against exposing sensitive information. Privacy preservation will take center stage with continued advancements in cryptographic protocols and federated learning algorithms. This will allow organizations to make use of insights from distributed datasets securely.

  • Automated Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) 

The SOAR platforms are another growing area of AI/ML use in businesses. It helps to automate incident response, reducing response times and enhancing overall security posture. With the introduction of adaptive learning mechanisms in SOAR systems, response strategies will be continuously improved based on evolving threats. This will make incident response more dynamic and effective.

  • AI-Powered Threat Intelligence

With 2,200 daily threats, averaging 39 per second, cyber threats remain on the horizon. Having an Integrated AI threat intelligence for real-time analysis could be a remarkable evolution in managing cyber crimes and associated illicit activities online. Businesses look forward to advanced NLP and machine learning algorithms that will enhance the capability to sift through vast amounts of threat data. This would thereby improve the accuracy and timeliness of threat detection.

Other trends in AI/ML include:

  • Data normalization and de-identification
  • Ethical governance
  • Zero-trust security model

These technological advancements would significantly impact how far and fast businesses accept the concept of AI/ML in their organization.

Final Thought

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are evolving technologies that could help limit the growing data breaches. Despite the regulatory and privacy questions surrounding these technologies, their future use in business looks bright.

Paweł Mączka Photo

text written by:

Pawel Maczka, CTO at Storware