Here is an excerpt from this week’s CIO newsletter. To receive it in your inbox, register here.
It’s no secret that the threat environment has changed in recent years, with more sophisticated and more frequent cyberattacks. I recently spoke with Gil Shwed, co-founder and CEO of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. He is widely credited with inventing the modern firewall and keeps a keen (some might say obsessive) eye on the threat environment. Here are some of his observations:
What mainly increases is the sophistication of the attacks. It becomes much simpler to develop attacks. Generative AI makes writing malware, for example, very easy. You can go to a tool like ChatGPT, have it develop a back-office application that collects information, and then craft a phishing email from that information that sounds perfect. You can do all of this without knowing how to program or having the best English to write those emails.
Of course, AI can also be used to fight cyberattacks. We use a lot of AI in our tools. We have what we call ThreatCloud, which is a network of threat sensors that share data and work together to fight malware. We use approximately 75 different threat engines, as we call them, to identify and stop these attacks. Now 42 of them are already AI-based. We just launched five new ones and we launched 12 last year.
ChatGPT had only been around for two months when we discovered that it was being used in at least five major instances to create attacks. These are attacks that we have blocked on our customers’ sites. A typical organization in the United States is attacked 1,200 times a week.
The typical cloud application is connected to 15 other applications. From a security perspective, it’s a nightmare. This means that 15 other apps can impact the security of the app you are using. It creates a lot of challenges and it’s a huge investment on our side to defend the cloud.
Every new technology makes people excited and there are people who are too afraid of it. Generative AI can democratize a lot of things: people who aren’t great at writing can now write professionally; they can present their ideas in a way that allows them to compete with people who are fluent in English. You can use these tools to enhance learning. We should focus on how to exploit the potential.
We all need more cybersecurity. It’s not just about spending more money. How do you deploy an architecture focused on prevention instead of just detecting threats and combating them? For solutions, I think of the three Cs: global, consolidated and collaborative. If you have a fire alarm on the sixth floor, we all know what to do. In cyberspace, a tool can stop an attack, but the threat may have spread to another floor or is now coming from another area. We need tools that work together all the time. It’s not an easy task to do, but it’s necessary.
I am now celebrating 30 years since the creation of Check Point. The Internet has made our world more connected, more open and perhaps even more democratic. The challenge now is to make it safer.