Zscaler: Security Risks Grow as AI Adoption Skyrockets 600%

Zscaler ThreatLabz research stresses the need for better data security, with businesses needing to secure generative AI (Gen AI) transformations by adopting Zero Trust initiatives
Whilst businesses reap the rewards of AI investments, Zscaler urges caution to implement better cybersecurity and Zero Trust initiatives to keep data safe

AI tools and large language models (LLMs) continue to gain traction throughout the global business landscape, yet cybersecurity anxieties remain.

The technology continues to be successfully integrated into company operations, with AI and machine learning (AI/ML) use skyrocketing by nearly 600% over the last year. However, Zscaler’s 2024 AI Security Report finds that this rapid increase is putting enterprises at risk, suggesting that the challenge of securing AI/ML applications remains unresolved.

Zscaler ThreatLabz research stresses the need for better data security, with businesses needing to secure generative AI (Gen AI) transformations by adopting Zero Trust initiatives. These can then be used to defend against the new AI-driven threat landscape.

Balancing AI innovation with cyber safety

Throughout 2023, the cybersecurity landscape continued to evolve as cyber threats and ransomware attacks spiked, impacting essential businesses and services. What’s more, threat actors have become more sophisticated than ever before, exploiting sensitive data for their own gain.

Research at the start of 2024 found that, whilst the majority of business leaders were optimistic that AI would improve job efficiency, three-quarters were concerned that the technology would be used for cyberattacks.

AI is already well-cemented in business operations, with Zscaler’s report reflecting a dramatic increase in AI transactions. From April 2023 to January 2024, ThreatLabz saw AI/ML transactions rise to more than three billion monthly across the Zero Trust Exchange platform. Despite the mounting security risk and increasing number of data protection incidents, enterprises continue to adopt AI tools in large numbers, according to Zscaler.

The report also found that Open AI’s ChatGPT continued to be the most popular Gen AI application, accounting for more than half of all enterprise AI transactions (52%).

AI market in the US continues to boom

AI adoption differs globally as crucial factors like regulations and technology infrastructure are different around the world. Zscaler cites the United States (US) as producing the highest percentage of business AI transactions at 40%. India was second at 16%, as the country continues to accelerate its digital transformation strategies.

Image: Zscaler

Likewise, ThreatLabz discovered a 135% increase of enterprise AI transactions in the APAC region, compared to EMEA. The team attributes this surge to India’s extensive usage and adoption of AI tools for conducting business across the tech sector, suggesting a higher concentration of tech jobs, stronger willingness to adopt new innovations and fewer barriers to usage.

As the power of AI advances across businesses, it has become what Zscaler describes as a double-edged sword. While AI offers immense potential for innovation and efficiency, it also brings forth a new set of risks that organisations must grapple with.

Gen AI use within enterprises introduces significant risks that include:
  • Protection of intellectual property and non-public information: the risk of data leakage
  • AI application data privacy and security risks: including an expanded attack surface, new threat delivery vectors, and increased supply chain risk
  • Data quality concerns: the concept of "garbage in, garbage out" and the potential for data poisoning

AI-related cybersecurity threats are limitless, as cybercriminals can harness AI to plan and execute phishing and malware campaigns, exploiting vulnerabilities across a business.

To address this challenge, Zscaler calls for enterprises and cybersecurity leaders to harness AI to its full potential, whilst remaining cautious and mitigating risks against AI-powered attacks.

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