Artificial intelligence is a buzzy topic in the tech industry right now. Many experts are looking to AI to help solve some of the complex challenges of our times. However, besides this technology’s helpful and practical applications, there are some concerns that AI can be used for malicious purposes. In this article, we review some of the top threats to email security posed by AI and what you can do to prevent them.
AI Threats to Email Security
In general, the biggest threat artificial intelligence poses to email is the ability to easily scale and increase the effectiveness of existing threats. The power of AI can be used to craft more effective phishing and business email compromise attacks and potentially cost businesses billions of dollars. Let’s review how artificial intelligence can increase the success of these types of cyberattacks.
AI and Phishing Attacks
In today’s world, phishing emails are often easy to identify. They are typically launched by criminals outside of the United States and use poor grammar, contain misspellings, or are poorly formatted in other ways. As a result, they are straightforward for the average email user to avoid. Artificial intelligence can help correct some of these common errors and make it easier for cybercriminals to create more convincing emails. As a result, we could see more phishing attacks succeed, wreaking havoc on our online security.
Let’s look at an example. Say a hacker from Russia wants to launch a ransomware attack on an American hospital. To do so, they need an email recipient to click on a link in the email that will install malware on their computer, enabling the hacker to gain access to restricted systems. The hacker does not speak English but has been able to launch attacks on other systems using an email drafted to resemble a password reset. Previously, he may have taken this email, ran it through an online translator, and then hit send on the email, unaware of any typos or strange translations that made it into the text. With AI, he can craft a much stronger email that will fool a busy hospital administrator into clicking on the link.
Some AI text generators have taken steps to prevent people from entering prompts that directly ask for prewritten phishing emails. However, artificial intelligence makes it incredibly easy to translate text from other languages in a grammatically correct manner. Scammers can create unique messages at scale that are more likely to fool email recipients.
AI and Business Email Compromise
Business email compromise attacks are one of the most effective email security threats. Still, because of the time and research they take to deploy, they don’t garner as much attention as phishing and ransomware. Artificial intelligence can help speed up essential research about a target to craft business email compromise attacks.
Let’s take another example. Say an individual wants to steal from a major corporation. The attacker decides to impersonate a company vendor and fool them into routing payments to the attacker instead of the legitimate contact. Artificial intelligence can reduce the time it takes to identify potential targets and possible attack vectors. Cybercriminals can use AI prompts to identify profitable companies, locate lists of vendors, and even research individuals in the roles that are likely to interact with the target.
AI can also use prompts like “generate an email asking for payment on a business invoice” to create legitimate seeming business emails. Using these technologies lowers the barriers to executing a successful business email compromise attack, meaning that more cybercriminals will likely attempt them more frequently.
How to Prevent AI Email Attacks
The good news is that the introduction of AI technology has not changed how we fend off these attacks. The first place to start is with policy and training. Business email compromise thefts are easily thwarted by having policies and procedures in place to prevent unusual cash transfers to unauthorized individuals. Ensuring your staff knows the types of threats and raising awareness of the risks can help protect your business.
Secondly, you can implement email filtering technology to help protect your inboxes from emails sent from suspicious sources. Although scammers can craft persuasive messages, they can’t hide their origin. Organizations can use email filtering software to quarantine or stop suspicious messages from reaching employee inboxes. This technology can prevent email domains without SPF or DKIM records from passing through your inboxes, alleviating a common spam tactic.
The threats to email security posed by artificial intelligence are quite serious. Nevertheless, organizations can take steps to protect themselves by implementing the proper defenses. Contact LuxSci today to learn more about our advanced email filtering solutions.