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Artificial Intelligence, the latest cybersecurity threat


February 19, 2018   by Jason Contant


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Artificial intelligence (AI) could be a double-edged sword for Canada’s property and casualty insurance industry, offering several potentially positive outcomes, but at the same time a new cybersecurity threat.

AI is consistently touted by the insurance industry for its potential to process claims faster, improve underwriting, and better identify fraud. It can even be used as a tool to help cybersecurity investigations, says Sean Christie, chief information officer at Gore Mutual Insurance Company.

But it can also represent a potential cybersecurity threat. “There’s all kinds of various, different cybersecurity threats that are now being driven by AI technology,” Christie told Canadian Underwriter Wednesday.

Whenever someone uses an AI tool to gather information and then take action in an automated fashion, there is an opportunity to “write some pretty sophisticated scripts that could be used for the collection of data or some type of DDoS attack or other mechanism to hurt an organization,” he explained.

For example, a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack takes advantage of specific capacity limits that apply to any network resources, such as the infrastructure that enables a company’s website. Such an attack aims to exceed the website’s capacity to handle multiple requests and prevent the site from functioning correctly.

On the flip side, AI could be used to indicate a different kind of threat that’s emerging. “Certainly AI has some promise in that space,” Christie said. “So, it has both an advantage and disadvantage for a lot of companies.”

Canadian businesses in general are not prepared to undertake AI initiatives, according to to a study released earlier this month by Canadian IT solutions firm NOVIPRO The study found that only 23% of medium-sized and large businesses in the country are planning to invest in AI over the next two years.

NOVIPRO also found that 33% of Ontario companies had difficulty recruiting data scientists, while 37% have a hard time attracting experts in AI.

The online survey, IT Trends in Large and Medium-Sized Canadian Businesses, polled 467 decision-makers in IT sectors and various other industries. All the respondents worked for large (500 employees or more) or medium-sized (100 to 499 employees) companies.