Race to Gain Generative AI Upper Hand Raises the Stakes for Cybersecurity Professionals

Cybersecurity firm Splunk released its State of Security 2024: The Race to Harness AI global research report late last week. Many respondents reported that cybersecurity has become easier to manage compared to past years. However, many also said cybersecurity defenders are now racing against adversaries to harness generative AI (Gen AI).
According to the report, most organisations have heavily adopted Gen AI tools within their teams. The research found 93% of organisations use public generative AI, but 34% of organisations do not have a generative AI policy in place.
“We are in an AI gold rush, with bad actors and security professionals both trying to seize the advantage,” said Patrick Coughlin, a Senior Vice President at Splunk. “The introduction of Gen AI creates new opportunities for organisations to streamline processes, increase productivity, and limit staff burnout. Unfortunately, Gen AI also presents unprecedented advantages for threat actors. To combat this new threat landscape, defenders must outpace threat actors.”
Compared to organisations still developing a cybersecurity program, the report found those organisations with advanced approaches have significant budgets, resources, and authority and are well-positioned to embrace cutting-edge Gen AI tools and technologies. However, despite this widespread adoption, many organisations lack a clear Gen AI policy or fully grasp of the technology’s broader implications. Furthermore, respondents were divided on who will gain the upper hand in leveraging Gen AI tools, cybersecurity defenders or threat actors.
The report canvassed 1,650 security executives across 16 industries in nine countries between December 2023 and January 2024. Among the key responses were;
  • 93% of respondents said public Gen AI was in use across their respective organisations, and 91% reported using Gen AI specifically for cybersecurity operations;
  • Despite high adoption, 34% of surveyed organisations say they do not have a Gen AI policy in place, and 65% of respondents admit to not fully understanding the implications of Gen AI;
  • 44% of respondents rank generative AI as a top initiative in 2024, surpassing cloud security as the top initiative; and
  • Respondents were split over who has the Gen AI advantage. While 45% of respondents believe Gen AI will be a net win for threat actors, 43% said Gen AI will give cybersecurity defenders the edge.
The report also tackled the recruitment challenges in the cybersecurity sector, especially for entry-level workers seeking to break into the industry. Splunk’s findings indicate that Gen AI is a possible solution to this problem as it helps organisations discover and onboard entry-level talent more efficiently. Additionally, most respondents anticipate that Gen AI will enhance their speed and productivity.
  • 86% of respondents said Gen AI can enable them to hire more entry-level talent to fill the skills gap;
  • 58% say onboarding entry-level talent will be quicker thanks to Gen AI;
  • 90% of respondents believe entry-level talent can lean on Gen AI to develop their skills in the Security Operations Centre (SOC); and
  • 65% believe the technology will help seasoned cybersecurity professionals become more productive.
The majority of cybersecurity professionals are also facing growing compliance pressures. The implementation of stricter compliance requirements has significantly raised the stakes, particularly for security leaders who may personally face repercussions for the organisations’ violations. This changing compliance landscape underscores the need for increased vigilance and accountability within the security sector.
  • 76% of respondents say personal liability has made cybersecurity a less attractive field and 70% have considered leaving the field due to job-related stress;
  • 62% of professionals report having already been impacted by changing compliance mandates requiring disclosure of material breaches;
  • Meanwhile, 86% of respondents said they will shift budgets to prioritise meeting compliance regulations over security best practices; and
  • Many respondents also expect their organisations to be more risk-averse, with 63% expecting that organisations will err on the side of caution and overreport breaches as material to avoid penalties.
You can read the full report here.

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