Our Science Fiction Cyber Future
“The cybersecurity industry is currently enamored with concepts of autonomous defense, including elements of machine learning, behavioral analytics, and artificial intelligence—and rightly so. Programed to be able to study all vulnerabilities in the public domain, autonomous bots (autbots)—not to be confused with bots simply conducting repetitive tasks like guessing default passwords as programmed—could take what they learned from previous human efforts and come up with innovative methods to target systems, creatively finding unknown vulnerabilities and crafting patches for them.
As current cybersecurity professional shortages show, new approaches and lots of automation and robotics will be required to address the plethora of current and new cyber threats; autbots could help address issues of a deficient workforce and scale needed to achieve cyber defense objectives. Autbots could be used to augment existing red teams conducting penetration testing, either by handling some of the more labor-intensive aspects of the research and assessment, and delivering their results to humans for exploitation, or engaging in red teaming on their own, as they would be capable of assessing, attacking, and securing a network fully autonomously.
These technologies, however, will not be the exclusive domain of defenders. They will also be used to attack networks. These autbots will be designed to meet the objectives of their disreputable makers, but might also be able to adapt in unexpected ways. Attack autbots will find victim machines, compromise them, and then learn from the host to aid the next level of attack or target associated trusted systems and networks.”