DEEPCHECKS GLOSSARY

AI Firewall

The power of artificial intelligence (AI) has been tested and diversified into many areas, especially with the boom of large language models (LLM) and generative AI. One such area is firewalls. Firewalls have always been the gatekeepers of the network, allowing legitimate traffic and blocking most types of attacks, such as malware, exploits, or even port scanning activities. These devices relied heavily on signatures to detect various threats that affect organizations.

With advancements in threats in the modern threat landscape, traditional firewalls are not enough to secure networks and applications against threats such as advanced malware and ransomware that may even utilize AI to launch the attacks themselves. These attacks are really difficult to detect and prevent using traditional firewalls.

What is an AI Firewall?

An AI firewall is an advanced security system that enables organizations to protect systems against threats not detected by traditional firewalls that rely on signatures for threat detection. This technology uses advanced machine learning and AI to detect attacks that have not yet been seen in the wild.

AI Firewall

Reference: https://www.cloudflare.com/learning/ddos/glossary/open-systems-interconnection-model-osi/

Like traditional firewalls, AI firewalls run on layers 3, 4, and 7 of the OSI model. However, with robust detection capabilities, these firewalls can detect anomalies within legitimate traffic that uncover hidden attacks or even help identify attacks before they happen.

Evolving Threat Landscape

The cybersecurity threat landscape has undergone significant transformations over the past decade, driven by technological advancements and the increasing sophistication of cybercriminal attacks.

Advanced persistent threats (APTs) have become more prevalent, characterized by prolonged, targeted attacks aimed at stealing data or disrupting operations. These attacks are often backed by state or well-funded groups. A notable example is the SolarWinds attack in 2020, where APT actors infiltrated the SolarWinds Orion software, compromising numerous government agencies and private companies globally.

Ransomware attacks have also increased, evolving to “double extortion,” where data is encrypted and threatened to be leaked unless a ransom is paid. The Colonial Pipeline attack in 2021 by the DarkSide ransomware group exemplifies this, causing significant fuel shortages and leading to a $4.4 million ransom payment.

Additionally, the adoption of IoT and smart devices has expanded the attack surface. Many devices lack robust security features, making them vulnerable entry points into larger networks. The Mirai botnet attack in 2016, which targeted IoT devices to conduct massive DDoS attacks, is a clear example.

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The Need for AI Firewalls

Given these evolving threats, traditional firewalls and security measures have become insufficient. AI firewalls offer advanced capabilities to detect and mitigate these sophisticated attack vectors:

  • Increasing sophistication of cyber attacks: Cybercriminals are continually developing more sophisticated attack vectors, such as advanced persistent threats (APTs), which are stealthy, prolonged attacks aimed at stealing sensitive information or causing disruption. Traditional firewalls, which rely on static rules and signatures, struggle to detect and defend against these complex threats.
  • Advancement of ransomware: Ransomware attacks have become more prevalent and advanced, employing techniques like “double extortion,” where attackers threaten to leak stolen data if the ransom is not paid. Traditional firewalls often fail to recognize these rapidly evolving tactics, necessitating the adaptive capabilities of AI firewalls.
  • Expanding attack surface: The widespread adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and smart technologies has dramatically increased the number of potential entry points for attackers. Many of these devices lack robust security features, creating vulnerabilities that traditional firewalls cannot adequately manage.
  • Supply chain attacks: Cybercriminals increasingly target the supply chain, compromising less secure elements to reach their primary targets. These attacks can be devastating and are challenging to detect with conventional firewall technology, which may not have visibility into the entire supply chain.
  • Insider threats: Threats from within the organization, intentional or accidental, pose a significant risk. Traditional firewalls are not well-equipped to monitor and detect anomalous behaviors by trusted insiders, necessitating more advanced behavioral analysis capabilities.

Besides, many systems now use LLMs to enhance their features and functionality. This opens up a new threat landscape that has not been discussed before. These systems are also susceptible to attacks such as:

These systems often pose different challenges compared to securing web applications.

The Need for AI Firewalls

Benefits of AI Firewalls

AI firewalls have come a long way from where they started, and some of the key features that allow these AI Firewalls to excel at detection and prevention capabilities include:

  • Behavioral analysis: AI firewalls can analyze and understand normal behavior patterns within a network, making it easier to identify anomalies indicative of APTs or ransomware activity.
  • Automated threat detection and response: AI-driven systems can respond to threats in real time, minimizing the impact of ransomware or IoT botnet attacks by isolating compromised devices and blocking malicious traffic.
  • Predictive analytics: AI firewalls can leverage machine learning to predict potential phishing or social engineering attacks, providing preemptive measures to protect against these threats.
  • Integration with threat intelligence: AI firewalls can incorporate global threat intelligence data, allowing them to recognize and counteract emerging threats more effectively, such as those seen in supply chain attacks.