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Op-Ed: Why fear cannot stifle businesses as we prepare for the evolution of AI

Ahead of this year’s federal budget, there have been various announcements by the government with the aim of helping Australians and Australian businesses prepare for the evolving cyber threat landscape and the emergence of AI-based threats.

user iconPrashant Haldankar
Mon, 08 May 2023
Op-Ed: Why fear cannot stifle businesses as we prepare for the evolution of AI
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This includes potential additional funding to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, the creation of a Cyber and Infrastructure Security Group (CISG), and new cyber exercises for organisations managing critical infrastructure.

As Australia prepares for the cyber threats of today and tomorrow, the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) by consumers and businesses is growing. Simultaneously, bad actors are constantly searching for security weaknesses in the way this technology is used and are incorporating their findings into their next attacks. AI’s part in accelerating the volume and complexity of attacks is playing a significant role in how the government is designing policies and programs to protect Australia. This is a much-needed step in the right direction if we want to keep pace with bad actors rather than continuously play catch-up after attacks have already occurred.

However, as we embark on this mission to prevent attacks and protect Australians, both the government and business leaders need to focus on discussing and implementing new initiatives from the lens of resilience.


Now is the time to build confidence through capability.

There have been extensive negative headlines and fear-mongering around the cyber landscape, particularly in the last 12 months, as high-profile data breaches and attacks have shone a light on the scale of bad actors and their networks. Instead of adding to this narrative, we need to shift the conversation to how businesses can act and how they can be empowered to innovate moving forward, despite the prevalence of cyber threats.

Unveil the unknowns of the cyber threat landscape to be aware, not afraid

The threat that AI presents to the cyber industry and, consequently, Australian businesses, government agencies, and individuals is significant. But businesses should not feel defeated.

It is critical to understand what AI can and cannot do to ensure any consequent actions appropriately reflect the risks of AI.

For example, at an individual level, bad actors can automate calls, texts, emails, and more to trick people into supplying personal information, such as their bank details or mailing addresses, and then use this information to gain access to their accounts. This could start with accessing an account they have with a utilities or retail provider, and then, from the information gained, AI could be used to expand this reach to banking or healthcare-related accounts.

At a macro level, the domino effects of an AI-based threat could impact millions. For example, bad actors targeting data collection and indexing as it goes into an AI model would be capable of adding bias to a system that could control critical infrastructure, make military decisions, or provide financial advice that could be unfair or skewed towards the interests of the bad actors. Depending on the motivations of the bad actors, there could be impacts on the economy or even the trust between citizens and governments.

These capabilities can be daunting. Yet, by understanding their nature and the intentions, resourcing, and tactics used by bad actors, Australia can take action. There needs to be a multi-pronged, always-on, and proactive approach to preventing attacks. Showing fear in the face of AI or the bad actors behind the AI only gives them the benefit of feeling like they are on the right track, encouraging them to keep going.

Business and government leaders need to instead have the confidence that their preventative actions are making a difference, and their teams can work on their core areas of focus without being held back or distracted by fear of the unknown.

Courageous innovation is within reach

The last thing businesses need while grappling with cyber threats is further reason to hold back from launching new products, researching and designing new capabilities, or implementing disruptive business models. Across all industries, we are already seeing fear around AI and cyber security presenting hurdles to the ways directors are leading businesses and the way teams are coming up with and executing ideas.

However, as AI and other technologies evolve, there will be boundless opportunities for innovation that deliver positive value. For businesses, there are endless ways they could be increasing efficiency, cutting costs, and freeing up employees to learn new skills and drive new initiatives. Like any new endeavour, this type of innovation requires courage if we want to see real outcomes. Courage cannot be easily “given” to employees, but they can feel empowered to be courageous in their actions and ideas if they feel secure in the way their business and teams are operating.

Ahead of the federal budget, it will be important to prioritise and keep in mind the value of this empowerment. With the right policies and initiatives to ensure every aspect of every business is systemically supported to act securely, and with proactive leadership approaches that incorporate security-first initiatives, courageous innovation is within reach.

This shift will not only help businesses and individuals counter the threats of AI today but also use it confidently for good into the future.

Prashant Haldankar is the chief information security officer at Sekuro

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