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Can machine learning provide some protection against malware?

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February 13, 2017

The internet security industry is investing heavily in machine learning technologies in the hope of providing an improved defence mechanism against malware and computer viruses.

The advantage of this is that the delegates to the RSA Conference next week are likely to hear more about artificial intelligence (AI) in next-generation anti-virus (NGAV) technology, even though neither term is particularly well defined for now.

The obvious need for improved defences is clearly evident, driven both by the volume of malware variants pushed out by hackers and the stratospheric rise in ransomware in the past twelve months.

File-encrypting ransomware, such as Locky, has become a lucrative money generator for cybercriminals, particularly since 2015's Q4.

Cybercrooks have used malware of various types such as banking trojans, spyware, viruses, etc to run various scams since 1998-1999.

The for-profit motive means that hackers have spent a good deal of cash testing their software prior to their release in a bid to outpace potential user defences.

Worse, malware authors don't even have to do this themselves, thanks to the availability of so-called crypting services that promise fully undetectable malware.

Releasing multiple variants of their 'creations' has also become standard practice among hackers of various experience in the matter.

The security industry's response to this was to utilize automation and cloud-based technologies in various implementatons.

Anti-malware is long past its reliance on signature detection alone. Whitelisting, heuristics, generic detection and various behaviour-based detection software have all come into play as part of a multi-layered defence system, internet security experts assert.

To be sure, cybersecurity vendors have recently talked about their use of the cloud as a differentiator from competitors. More recently, there has been a huge change in marketing messages and talking about artificial intelligence has become more and more popular.

Next week's RSA Conference is expected to become a sort of battleground for contrasting marketing claims about artificial intelligence and anti-malware as it relates to cyber security.

Additionally, self described next-generation anti-virus companies, exemplified by Cylance Inc and a few others, will argue that they are the first to apply AI against malware risks.

But in the real world, AI technology as it applies to internet security is probably better described as pattern recognition and data analytics software rather than what's generally understood to be artificial intelligence per se.

Such an approach brings some benefits such as a smaller footprint on client machines, a lower attack vector and a reduction in the number of security updates needed.

Sentinel One LLC, another next generation AI contender, also talks about delivering realtime protection powered by machine learning and dynamic behaviour analysis, laying its own claim to applying AI to the security issue.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of the rapidly approaching RSA Conference will be, and the ideas that will be generated there, both as it relates to Artificial Intelligence as well as security in general. We'll keep you updated.

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Read the latest IT news. Visit ItDirection.net. Updated several times daily.

If you need reliability when it comes to SMTP servers, get the best, get Port 587.

Get a powerful Linux Dual-Core dedicated server for less than $2.67 a day!

Share on Twitter.


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