Can Artificial Intelligence Carry Out Penetration Tests Without Human Intervention?

    Penetration testing, or pen testing, is part of any business’s cybersecurity arsenal. It helps organisations identify ways in which threat actors could exploit the weaknesses in their IT infrastructure.

    Once identified, these vulnerabilities can be patched or mitigation plans put in place.

    However, with artificial intelligence (AI) being used by cybercriminals to create malware, one might wonder if the reverse could be true as well.

    That is, could AI help bolster cybersecurity?

    The thing is, pen testing requires a human. But, we’ve seen how ChatGPT interacts with people. Could the chatbot also make decisions like a person to “attack” a system to find out how secure it is?

    What Is Pen Testing and How Is it Different From Vulnerability Scanning?

    A strong cybersecurity stance requires active as well as passive measures. Passive security is taken care of by firewalls and antivirus software. 

    Active security, on the other hand, requires the business to constantly assess its systems for weaknesses. Any that are found can then be fixed.

    Two of the active measures for cybersecurity are pen testing and vulnerability scanning.

    Pen testing is undertaken by a skilled ethical hacker. The person—actively and creatively—tests the organisation’s network, application, and endpoints. If they find any exploitable vulnerabilities, they carry out attacks to see how successful they are.

    In short, they simulate what an actual hacker would do if they were trying to attack the business.

    Vulnerability scans, on the other hand, are automated. They simply help the business identify potential issues. These scans don’t offer any insights into how the weaknesses could be exploited.

    It will, however, rank the identified vulnerabilities in terms of priority. However, because it cannot determine how a hacker would use the weakness, it is up to humans to decide whether a vulnerability needs remediation and mitigation.

    So, Can AI Be Used for Penetration Testing?

    The thing is, AI can be a handy tool in the quest for cybersecurity. It uses big data and machine learning (ML) to understand regular traffic patterns. 

    Then, armed with this information, it can identify “abnormal” behaviour.

    The best part is, AI can process vast quantities of incoming information in a matter of seconds. It would take a human several hours—even days—to go through such quantities of data.

    That makes AI perfect for adaptive cybersecurity, where it can block users based on their behaviour.

    What AI Can Do for Cybersecurity

    It can also be very effective at vulnerability scanning, where it can spot and flag problems in code, systems, and networks.

    It may also offer cybersecurity support. For example, it could be used for source code analysis. AI could scan the code and identify potential flaws that could be exploited.

    It may also be used for brute force attack testing by, say, generating potential passwords and entering them.

    It might also be possible to teach AI how to exploit a list of weaknesses and use them in a simulated cyber attack. Businesses could also use AI for quicker detection and response if they are attacked.

    What it might not be able to do is creatively identify vulnerabilities that it hasn’t been “taught”. Since penetration testing does require some creativity, AI might not be as effective at pen testing as a person…yet.

    For now, we need to rely on penetration testing services of reliable providers like DigitalXRAID.

    Having a strong cybersecurity posture is essential for any business. Without it, threat actors could have a field day with even the tiniest vulnerability. By being proactive, one can reduce the attack surface as well as the amount of damage threat actors could do.

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