The swift evolution of the digital landscape is ushering in a new era accompanied by escalating cybersecurity challenges. As we approach 2024, KnowBe4’s content strategy vice president, Anna Collard, joins TechCentral’s TCS+ technology show to unpack reflections drawn from the world’s leading security events, as well as dialogues with industry leaders, academics and government representatives.
Weaponising deepfakes for political gain
The impending storm fuelled by advancements in deepfake technology is cause for concern, Collard said. Artificial intelligence and large language models (LLMs) have democratised deepfake creation, allowing for the deceptive manipulation of audio, video or image content.
This poses a significant threat to public opinion, with the potential to influence elections, polarise societies and incite geopolitical tensions.
The ability to convincingly alter videos and audio to make it appear as though individuals are saying or doing things they never did opens up a Pandora’s box of malicious possibilities. In the realm of politics, deepfakes are exploited to spread misinformation, tarnish reputations and influence public opinion.
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The use of deepfakes in political contexts raises serious concerns about the integrity of information and the potential for undermining the foundations of a transparent democratic system. As technology advances, addressing the challenges posed by deepfakes becomes crucial to safeguard the integrity of democratic processes.
Sophisticated social engineering
Collard says while AI promises many benefits, it is also being used increasingly for malicious purposes. In 2024, we can expect AI’s abuse to extend beyond cybercriminal activities and lead to more advanced social engineering attacks.
Bad actors are exploiting its ability to analyse vast amounts of data and simulate human-like interactions. And by leveraging machine learning algorithms, malefactors can tailor persuasive messages and mimic human behaviour to deceive individuals into divulging sensitive information or taking certain actions.
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AI-driven social engineering attacks often involve the creation of highly realistic phishing emails, chatbots or social media profiles that can engage with users in a convincing manner, making it challenging for individuals to discern between genuine and malicious communication.
The use of AI this way not only automates the process but also enables attackers to customise their tactics based on the preferences, behaviour and vulnerabilities of their targets.
As AI technology continues to advance, the potential increases for more sophisticated social engineering attacks grows, defensive tactics and tools must evolve in tandem with these sophisticated threats.
In response to escalating cyber threats, AI will play a crucial role in defence mechanisms too. Organisations will leverage AI for enhanced detection and incident response, addressing skill shortages through automation. Cyber resilience will transition from an isolated IT concern to a strategic priority embedded in all business operations.
A foundation of mental wellbeing
According to Collard, the psychological safety of cybersecurity professionals will also be paramount in 2024, as this is key to maintaining the effectiveness and resilience of digital defence mechanisms. These experts operate in an environment characterised by constant threats, high stakes and the need for rapid decision-making. Ensuring their psychological well-being is essential for sustaining optimal job performance and fostering a culture of collaboration.
Cybersecurity professionals often encounter stressors such as the pressure to safeguard sensitive data, the constant evolution of cyber threats and the potential impact of breaches on organisations and individuals.
Establishing an environment where these professionals feel psychologically safe encourages open communication, proactive problem-solving and knowledge sharing. It allows them to voice concerns, report incidents and seek help without fear of retribution, fostering a culture that promotes continuous learning and improvement.
Ultimately, prioritising the psychological safety of cybersecurity professionals is not only a matter of individual well-being but also a strategic investment in enhancing the overall effectiveness of cybersecurity defences. Organisations need to prioritise mental health, address burnout, supporting neurodiverse team members and foster a security culture that recognises and responds to signs of stress with empathy.
The pace of technological evolution necessitates agile and responsive governance to address emerging cyber threats. Collard said legislators have to swiftly adapt, crafting legislation that balances innovation with protection. As threats evolve, regulatory approaches must emphasise risk-based policymaking and international cooperation.
Collard says tackling tomorrow’s cyber threats requires increased collaboration across governments, private sectors, and civil society. Multilateral platforms and public-private partnerships are crucial for sharing knowledge and setting standards.
Africa’s cybersecurity landscape
Collard believes the cybersecurity landscape in Africa will draw more attention with the continent’s digitisation. Next year will highlight the geopolitical significance of cybersecurity and as digitisation accelerates, so too will the continent’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks.
This is why investment in capacity building and cyber defence will become critical across the region; and she hopes for an increase in digital skills training and public awareness campaigns, driven by both local and international efforts.
Collard the cybersecurity landscape of 2024 will witness intensified AI-fuelled threats and increased integration of AI in defence strategies. International collaborative efforts, especially in emerging markets like Africa, will be crucial. Collaboration, adaptability, resilience and a collective effort will define successful cybersecurity strategies in 2024 and beyond. KnowBe4 stands as a trusted platform, enabling organisations worldwide to fortify their security culture and reduce human risk.
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