TROY, MI, AUGUST 15, 2019 - GK's director of technology and security, Rick Bertoncin, spoke with the Wall Street Journal regarding the initiatives Gallagher-Kaiser (GK) takes to protect our organization from cyber threats.
As companies and municipalities struggle to deal with ransomware attacks that lock down computers and hold data hostage, many organizations are turning to artificial intelligence to quickly detect the malware and stop it from spreading.
Michael Sherwood, the director of innovation and technology for the city of Las Vegas, has augmented the city’s cyber defenses with AI over the past three years to detect and respond to threats around the clock. Hackers, like casinos, never sleep. Ransomware incidents, in which hackers encrypt data on computers and other digital equipment until a demand is paid, are one of Mr. Sherwood’s top concerns after other cities and towns have fallen victim in recent months.
AI tools can detect irregular network behavior and automatically quarantine an infected device before the malware has a chance to compromise other equipment, Mr. Sherwood said.
“Ransomware can spread across your network rapidly, so you need tools that can prevent that from occurring,” he said. “AI can autonomously take control and provide split-second reactions, which is very useful for preventing damage.”
Two separate ransomware attacks hobbled public services in Baltimore and Atlanta, which refused to pay the hackers. The incidents cost the cities millions of dollars for repairs. In June, two Florida cities—Lake City and Riviera Beach—paid cybercriminals hundreds of thousands of dollars after their systems were infected. Though the use of AI in corporate cyber defenses is relatively new, many companies are exploring it. Seventy-three percent of organizations polled by technology consulting company Capgemini SE said they are testing the use of AI for cybersecurity, according to a July report. The report was based on a survey conducted early this year of 850 cybersecurity executives from a range of industries and countries. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said AI reduces the time it takes to detect threats, and 64% said AI lowers the cost of responding to a breach, according to the study. AI can save organizations money in part by replacing costly manual work with automated processes, said Geert van der Linden, executive vice president for cybersecurity at Capgemini.
Gallagher-Kaiser Corp., which builds car-painting facilities for auto makers including General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. , has deployed AI for cybersecurity over the past 18 months, said Rick Bertoncin, the company’s director of technology and security. The company decided to adopt AI tools partly to show the multinational firms it does business with that it takes cybersecurity seriously, he said.
AI can help prevent ransomware attacks by blocking unusual downloads that employees may unwittingly click on, Mr. Bertoncin said.
Gallagher-Kaiser hasn’t experienced ransomware infections since it started using the AI technology, he said. In a prior attack the infection was limited, he said, adding that he wants to avoid a repeat.
Ransomware is especially challenging because it can be easily launched through phishing emails, Mr. Bertoncin said. AI can act as an extra layer of defense in these cases, he said.
“We can block 99.9% of emails, but there’s always going to be somebody that clicks on a malicious link,” he said. “AI lets you recognize that and block it immediately.”