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Incorporating AI and automation into cyber risk management

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By Shankar Bhaskaran, Managing Director, (India) MetricStream

In a digital era where everything is interconnected, organisations across industries face a spectrum of multi-dimensional, high-velocity, high-impact, and interlinked risks, contributing to the increased complexity of cyber risk management.

In 2023, India witnessed a substantial increase in cyberattacks, with the average weekly attacks per organisation rising by 18% year-over-year to reach 2,108. Globally, there was a 38% surge compared to the previous year.

With many emerging risks and priorities, CISOs and IT risk leaders can be stretched thin. Thriving in this hyper-digitised business environment while navigating a complex web of interconnected cyber risks is impossible today without technology-enabled measures.

AI can completely transform IT risk management by providing solid tools that empower enterprises to address sophisticated cyber threats effectively. According to Gartner, 34% of organisations already utilize AI security tools for risk management, while 56% actively explore AI solutions.

Here’s a look at how and why businesses should incorporate AI and automation into their IT risk management strategy.

While automated workflows and processes are ubiquitous today, it may be surprising that several organisations still rely heavily on manual efforts, spreadsheets, and isolated operations.

Embracing technological solutions and software tools can expedite processes and reduce reliance on manual efforts. For risk professionals, chief risk officers, and CISOs, automation provides the opportunity to concentrate on analyzing risk and compliance data, proactively preventing risks, and developing solid strategies rather than being bogged down by routine, repetitive tasks like conducting risk and control assessments, tracking regulatory alerts, and disseminating notifications.

The focus must be on transitioning from fragmented and isolated processes to comprehensive, interconnected risk management approaches. Integration and connectivity are pivotal in removing redundancies, ensuring timely delivery of relevant information to the right individuals, and simultaneously cutting costs, efforts, and workloads.

Role of AI

AI-powered systems can significantly enhance organisational cyber defence capabilities through advanced threat detection, predictive analytics, and real-time monitoring. Next-generation AI-driven tools enable organisations to establish intelligent, secure, and automated systems capable of real-time threat detection, prevention, and prediction.

AI models can be trained to identify anomalies in system behaviour, serving as an effective means of detecting potential cyber risks. This capability proves invaluable in recognizing potential security breaches or operational failures. Moreover, AI-powered threat intelligence contributes to identifying emerging threats, facilitating the development of proactive mitigation strategies.

Ensuring compliance with IT regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), is achieved through the continuous monitoring capabilities of AI tools. These tools not only streamline compliance efforts but also enhance accuracy and efficiency. Implementing AI in Continuous Control Monitoring (CCM) reduces costs by automating tasks and elevates accuracy levels, particularly in precise control mapping through AI algorithms.

Here’s a deep dive into the holistic benefits:

Actively managing IT and cyber risks

Organisations can better define and maintain data on IT and cyber risks, assets, processes, and controls with a streamlined AI-driven cyber risk strategy. The risks can be assessed, quantified, monitored, and managed more efficiently with industry-standard IT risk assessment frameworks such as NIST, ISO, etc. Issues can be effectively addressed through closed-loop processes that focus on issue investigation, action planning, and remediation.

Ensuring compliance with cyber regulations

AI-powered GRC platforms help organisations manage and monitor IT and cyber compliance processes based on various security frameworks and standards. This enables creating and maintaining a centralised structure for a sustainable IT and cyber compliance hierarchy. These tools can link compliance controls and assessment activities according to the organisation’s security requirements. Besides, processes for documenting, investigating, and resolving IT compliance and control issues can become more structured and updated.

Streamlining management of IT and cyber policies and documents

Automated and AI solutions bring a more systematic approach to IT policy management across business units, divisions, and global locations. Policies can be easily created by entering required information into the system or uploading existing policies as attachments. IT compliance is strengthened by linking IT and cyber policies to asset classes, requirements, risks, controls, processes, and organisations. Automated notifications and task assignments trigger policy review and revision cycles.

Keeping vendor risks in check

As organisations increasingly associate with third-party vendors, the need to extend cyber risk management strategies to them is a must-have. AI-driven cyber risk solutions enable organizations to identify, assess, mitigate, and monitor IT vendor risks while managing vendor compliance. Automated workflows accelerate vendor registration and onboarding processes, facilitating risk assessments, continuous vendor monitoring, and risk mitigation. Due diligence is simplified, where powerful reports and analytics provide deeper insights into vendor risks, compliance, and performance.

Simplifying management of threats and vulnerabilities

Automated processes ensure that proactively identifying, collating, prioritising, tracking, and remediating cyber and information security threats and vulnerabilities become a priority for organisations. A unified view of threat and vulnerability information imported and consolidated from multiple sources can be obtained. Risk management teams are better placed to make informed decisions on vulnerability remediation strategies based on combined risk ratings for business assets linked to vulnerability severity and asset criticality rating.

Quantifying cyber risk in business terms

Since expressing cyber risk exposure in monetary terms for analysis and communication is crucial, organisations must accurately determine the monetary impact of cyber risks, such as data breaches, identity theft, infrastructure downtime, etc. Simulation techniques can be leveraged with AI and automated platforms to transform range-based estimates into more accurate values. Risk management teams can better prioritise cyber investments, aligning cyber programs with the overarching risk management strategy.

Automating control testing and evidence collection

Organisations can easily automate the retrieval of control testing results and evidence against industry standards and frameworks for all organisation-wide controls, including custom, application-specific, multi-cloud, and on-premises controls. They gain comprehensive visibility into specific resources where controls were executed and control testing results.

As the risk landscape continues to evolve in complexity, the true potential of AI and automation in IT risk management will gradually unfold in the coming years, making these tools indispensable components for effectively navigating the realms of cyber risk and IT compliance management. By harnessing AI-powered solutions, organisations can elevate their decision-making capabilities, optimise resource allocation, and secure a competitive edge.

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