Email threats are constantly evolving as adversaries find new ways to breach security perimeters. Attackers are themselves harnessing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to evade security tools and launch more sophisticated attacks.
It is clear that a new approach to security is needed to distinguish between legitimate emails and genuine threats at speed and fill the gaps created by human error. Email security based on lists, signatures, and human-defined rules is no longer sufficient and organisations must also have AI-based tools in their security arsenal.
However, with AI solutions now ubiquitous throughout the tech industry, it is important to avoid AI washing—when security vendors claim to provide AI-powered solutions but lack the technology or capabilities to deliver it to clients. When it comes to email security, partnering with vendors that truly harness AI limits the risk of cyber threats for your organisation, customers, and partners.
When evaluating AI-based technology, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) should look for solutions that can filter emails at speed and scale, while delivering the predictive capabilities to neutralise new, dynamic threats.
AI security layers
The primary use case for AI in this context is to determine whether an email is malicious, but today's AI technology can be harnessed to address different aspects of email security. Machine Learning techniques can be used to train algorithms that analyse the features and behaviour of an email, webpage, URL, or attachment to establish whether email-security protocols should be activated. Due to its self-learning capabilities, Machine Learning can analyse large volumes of data to improve over time.
Email security tools powered by AI can also identify and block threats that are not yet detectable by traditional email security tools. By using data from real-time threats to analyse an email and its features, AI-based solutions make it possible to stop sophisticated threats and zero-day attacks.
Advanced phishing and spear phishing attacks are particularly difficult for email technologies to identify and stop, as they use sophisticated techniques to mimic legitimate emails and evade traditional email security tools. Machine Learning algorithms can be used to reveal patterns and trends for predictive capabilities. AI solutions powered by Machine Learning can be trained using millions of emails to detect the features and behaviours of any email-borne threat—including phishing, spear-phishing, and malware—regardless of the techniques used to disguise it.
Adding AI to your managed security stack
For MSPs, these automated features can help them move beyond simply selling licenses to developing scalable managed security services. AI not only provides significant value to customers, but also makes it easier for MSPs to manage various products across multiple security environments.
Of course, AI and Machine Learning should complement a multi-layered approach to email security. For example, MSPs should also consider providing user awareness training, which addresses the greatest weakness in an organisation's attack surface. AI-based training programs can automate, personalise, and contextualise education to enhance cyber security without requiring additional time or resources from MSPs.
Adding AI-based threat detection and response solutions to their technology stack enables MSPs to protect your customers' productivity and profitability, and modernise their security strategy.