Urgent call for cyber defence as AI-driven ransomware attacks surge

The global ransomware threat is expected to increase over the next two years due to Artificial Intelligence (AI), warns the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). AI is already being used in malicious cyber activity and will almost certainly increase the volume and impact of cyber attacks, according to the new term of AI on the cyber threat assessment, published by NCSC.

The NCSC report highlights that by reducing the entry barriers for inexperienced cybercriminals, hackers-for-hire, and hacktivists, AI empowers less skilled threat actors to conduct more efficient access and information-gathering operations. This heightened accessibility, coupled with AI’s ability to enhance victim targeting, is anticipated to escalate the global ransomware threat over the next two years.

Ransomware remains the predominant cyber threat confronting organisations and businesses in the UK, prompting cybercriminals to adjust their business strategies for increased efficiency and profit maximisation.

In response to this enhanced threat, the Government has committed £2.6 billion through its Cyber Security Strategy to enhance the resilience of the UK. Both the NCSC and private industry have already embraced the application of AI to bolster cyber security resilience, focusing on advanced threat detection and security-by-design.

Cyber expert Suid Adeyanju, CEO, Riversafe commented: “Cybercriminals are persistently exploiting ransomware and powered by AI advancements these attacks pose a detrimental risk to businesses that aren’t sufficiently prepared. In response to these escalating attacks, organisations must increase their threat intelligence, adopting a comprehensive strategy that blends advanced technologies and heightened observability. Furthermore, it is imperative to prioritise thorough training programmes for all staff on the dangers posed by cyber threats. As the surge in cyber-attacks shows no sign of slowing down, taking measures to secure data and mitigate risks should be a top priority for businesses.”

At the UK-hosted AI Safety Summit in November at Bletchley Park, The Bletchley Declaration was endorsed. It introduced a pioneering global initiative to address the risks associated with cutting-edge AI and promote its secure and responsible advancement.

The AI sector in the UK, currently employing 50,000 individuals and contributing £3.7 billion to the economy, reflects the government’s commitment to fostering the evolution of the national economy and job market in alignment with technology, as outlined in the Prime Minister’s five key priorities.

Cybersecurity expert Andy Ward, VP International for Absolute Software, commented: “The heightened risk of cyber-attacks, amplified by evolving AI-powered threats, makes vulnerable security systems a prime target for cyber attackers. Ransomware threats do not discriminate across any person or sector, posing a significant global concern, especially when combined with AI.”

“Due to the severe damage that ransomware threats can cause, organisations must adopt a comprehensive cybersecurity approach with proactive and responsive measures. This involves assessing current cyber defences, integrating resilient Zero Trust models for user authentication, and establishing robust response protocols. It is crucial to combine preventive strategies with resilient technology to promptly recover and repair compromised devices in the aftermath of a breach, thereby ensuring readiness against cyber threats.”