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Breaking Weekly Digital Gridlock #23: AI Malware

Weekly FinTech Tip: Adopting AI Now Is Necessary to Protect Your Organization From Cyber Attacks

Next generation attacks are going to change how we think about security.

Cybercrime will be a six trillion dollar industry by 2021. A bad guy usually identifies a target through something like LinkedIn, and it is generally a corporate executive or a support person. Then, the bad guy reviews social media and looks at everything they can find online about that person. The purpose of this is to find some way to get that person to open an email that they will send to them. It could look like a note from a friend. “Hey, remember this picture?”, and it might actually be a picture that they took off of Facebook. Embedded in that picture is malware that will allow the attacker access to the network wherever that person who clicked on it is. He is looking for data, personal information, stuff that could be sold, stuff that could be useful, stuff that can help him or her. This is all very time consuming, but that’s about to change, and that’s what scares us.

Here’s the future. Yeah, the bad guys still determines the target. He goes on LinkedIn and looks for your payments manager, your ACH manager, someone who he or she believes will have access to whatever it is that they’re trying to get to. That’s where things will change. Once the bad guy identifies the target, it’s time to just turn the AI loose. Let’s let the AI do the review on social media. Let’s let the AI determine what kind of email it’s going to send to that person. Oh, by the way, it’s not always right on the first try. It usually sends three, four, five, sometimes 10 emails before they get a click. The AI will just keep learning. “This person didn’t click this one, so let me send them a different one”. Then, once the person clicks, the AI will kick in and start looking around the network for resources that it is pre-programmed to look for and report what it finds back to the bad guy. Now they can execute hundreds or thousands of attacks at a time where before it might have been in the tens. This is important because scale matters.

It’s like fishing. The more bait, hooks, and casts you put out, the more fish you will catch. At the end of the day, we’re going to need AI to protect us from AI, and that means upgrading our current security systems to support algorithmic responses to AI attacks. It’s going to be algorithm versus algorithm. Your AI vs. their AI. Who’s smarter? Who could stop this? Who can detect it? And, just like security has been from the beginning of time, it’s going to escalate. If you don’t want to be caught flat-footed, it’s time to go out right now and make sure that your security team, your vendor, whoever it is, is researching, because this is not something that’s a year away. This is not something that’s six months away. This is something that’s going to happen very soon.

There are lots of products out there that are right on the cutting edge of this. I would take a hard look at them if you’re a financial institution. You are a critical target.

Thanks for listening. My name is John Best. I am the CEO of Best Innovation Group and the author of Breaking Digital Gridlock. If you like this tip, there are a whole lot more in my book, available on Amazon and anywhere books are sold. If you act quickly, you can also sign up for the accompanying video series that goes with the book on That’s right. It’s seven hours of me talking about different contributing factors to digital gridlock and how to combat them. We talk about blockchain and its effects on the financial industry, how to migrate to the cloud and who is going to help you do that. We talk about A.I. and what its long term effects will be. We talk about data analytics and how to implement it. We talk about digital transformation. It would be great for any staff member because everyone needs to learn about this. It’s going to be a cultural transformation, and by that, we mean that the entire group is going to have to learn this and understand it. It’s not good enough for just a few people in the organization.

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