Harnessing AI for Cybersecurity: Beating AI Attackers at Their Own Game

June 06, 2024

In the rapidly evolving landscape of cybersecurity, AI-powered attackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. To counter these threats, organizations must adopt advanced security technologies that leverage AI technology as part of a multi-layered approach to security. Here, we will explore the network security challenges security administrators now face due to new AI-based attacks and elements of Teneo’s StreamlineX framework, which addresses these challenges using innovative AI technologies when deployed with thoughtful application and planning. 

New AI Challenges Faced by Cybersecurity Defenders 

The increasing sophistication of cyber threats driven by AI technology presents unique challenges for cybersecurity professionals. Here are some of the key areas: 

Generative AI 

Generative AI is on the rise. AI systems are now capable of creating new, high-quality content, such as text, images, or even malicious code. Cybercriminals use generative AI to develop advanced phishing emails, fake websites, and even malware that can bypass traditional security measures. The dynamic nature of generative AI makes it difficult for static defense mechanisms to keep up, as these threats can continually evolve and adapt to existing security protocols. 

AI Constructor Programs 

AI constructor programs are tools that allow attackers to build complex malware and attack vectors with minimal effort. These programs can automatically generate sophisticated attacks that adapt and evolve over time, presenting a significant challenge for cybersecurity defenses. The ability of AI constructor programs to create novel attack methods on the fly makes it difficult for traditional security solutions to detect and respond to these threats effectively. At the same time, it makes these capabilities available to a larger group of less-skilled attackers. 

AI Red Teaming  

AI red teaming involves using AI to simulate cyber-attacks in a controlled environment to test the effectiveness of security defenses. This approach highlights weaknesses in security infrastructure that may not be apparent through conventional testing methods. The challenge lies in the unpredictability and variety of AI-driven attack simulations, which can uncover vulnerabilities that human-led red teaming might miss. 

Polymorphic Attacks  

Polymorphic attacks involve malware that changes its code or appearance with each iteration, making it difficult for traditional antivirus programs to detect. These attacks can evade signature-based detection systems, posing a significant threat to organizations. The ever-changing nature of polymorphic malware means that it can infiltrate systems by appearing as a new, unknown threat each time, bypassing defenses that rely on known signatures. 

These challenges underscore the need for more advanced cybersecurity measures that can keep pace with the evolving tactics of AI-empowered attackers. Teneo has found them and can help. 

Common Attack Vectors Used by Hackers and How StreamlineX Protects Against Them 

In the complex landscape of cybersecurity, hackers and bad actors employ various sophisticated attack vectors to compromise systems and data. Security professionals need to deploy a well-designed defense-in-depth strategy. Teneo’s StreamlineX is a thoughtful and robust framework to understand and deploy the necessary technologies to protect against these prevalent threats. It leverages advanced AI-driven technologies to beat AI-power attackers at their own game. Here’s a look at some common attack vectors, and how components of the Teneo StreamlineX framework defend against them: 

DNS-Based Malware Attacks 

Attack Vector: Approximately 92% of malware uses DNS to communicate with command and control (C2) servers, exfiltrate data, and propagate within networks. Advanced threat actors exploit DNS to mask their malicious activities, making detection challenging. 

StreamlineX Protection: The technology Teneo has chosen in its Core Network Services (DDI) component of the framework utilizes DNS security to protect against data loss (DLP), block access to phishing and malware sites, and recognize C2 communications. This proactive approach brings light to zero-day threats before they can escalate. 

Email-Based Attacks 

Attack Vector: Around 91% of cyber-attacks involve email, including phishing and Business Email Compromise (BEC). These attacks exploit human vulnerabilities and bypass traditional email security measures. 

StreamlineX Protection: As part of the Secure the User component of StreamlineX, this technology integrates behavioral analytics and deep learning models to baseline normal email patterns and detect anomalies. By identifying and blocking irregular or abnormal emails, StreamlineX prevents BEC attacks and secures compromised accounts, seamlessly integrating with SaaS-based email systems like O365 and Google Workplace Email/Gmail. 

Malicious File Attacks 

Attack Vector: 68% of organizations have experienced successful endpoint attacks, compromising or holding ransom critical company data. These attacks often exploit unpatched vulnerabilities and rely on malicious files to gain a foothold. 

StreamlineX Protection: Teneo partners with a company that has a deep learning model that has been training for over five years on billions of samples, and which recognizes malicious files with near-perfect accuracy. The solution integrates with existing systems via APIs, or as an agent, and can even operate offline, providing comprehensive endpoint protection with minimal false positives. 

Unpatched System Vulnerabilities 

Attack Vector: Nearly 60% of companies fail to patch their systems regularly, leaving them vulnerable to exploits. Unpatched systems can be easily targeted by attackers to gain unauthorized access and control. 

StreamlineX Protection: A patch management system is needed that audits network systems, identifies missing patches, retrieves them from vendors, tests them safely, prioritizes deployment, and reports the results. This ensures that vulnerabilities are addressed promptly and efficiently under the Actionable Observability area. 

Volume and Frequency of Sophisticated Attacks 

Attack Vector: With 30,000 new attacks created annually, traditional annual penetration testing is insufficient. Attackers can afford to fail thousands of times, but a single failure on our part could result in significant financial loss for the company. Continuous vulnerability scanning and remediation are necessary to keep up with the volume and sophistication of modern threats. 

StreamlineX Protection: Teneo provides a fully automated solution that provides continuous vulnerability scanning that is both effective and safe by design. As a SaaS solution, you are always guaranteed to have the latest scanning methods, constantly updated by their 120+ security researchers. Because of their expertise, this approach does not require deep security expertise, providing constant protection against evolving threats without the overhead of expensive security experts. 

The “Human Element”  

Attack Vector: Human error accounts for 74% of security breaches. Mistakes, laziness, and lack of awareness can undermine even the most advanced technical defenses. 

StreamlineX Protection: A system continuously monitors for risky behavior, shuts down threats, and provides targeted training to empower employees to manage their own risks effectively. This human-centric approach helps mitigate the impact of human error on security by both blocking but also helping to improve the behavior of the user. 

Not Planning for a Data Breach 

Attack Vector: The question is not if attackers will ever breach your network, the question is when. Companies must have a strategy for how to contain a bad actor when they utilize a zero-day exploit to access one of your systems. Although most companies have some form of segmentation, it is usually not granular enough to stop attackers from moving laterally within a network undetected and performing recognizance. This can lead to compromise of other systems, data exfiltration, and even ransomware attacks that can take an entire company offline.  

StreamlineX Protection: Segmentation isn’t a new concept. In shipbuilding, the idea is critical – a breach to one part of the hull doesn’t sink the ship.  In networking and data center/cloud security design, the idea is the same. Teneo emphasizes agent-based segmentation and micro-segmentation to “ring-fence” applications to prevent attackers from moving laterally, even between servers that are allowed to communicate. This approach integrates easily into existing networks, facilitating quick and efficient segmentation. Projects that took years now take only weeks to implement. I know of no other technology that can provide such a significant reduction in attack surface with no change to the network infrastructure.  


In the battle against AI-empowered cyber threats, a strategic and layered approach is essential. Here are key takeaways for building your cybersecurity defense: 

Create a Multi-Layered Defense-in-Depth 

Implementing a defense-in-depth strategy is crucial. This involves deploying multiple layers of security measures that work together to protect against various attack vectors,  

Leverage AI for Defense 

Recognize that your adversaries are using AI to enhance their attacks. To effectively defend against these sophisticated threats, you must also leverage AI-driven solutions that can analyze, detect, and respond to the new types of attacks created by AI-empowered attackers. 

AI is Only Part of the Solution 

While AI is a powerful tool in your cybersecurity arsenal, it is only part of the solution. It’s essential to understand the full landscape of your security needs and strategically place defenses to cover all potential vulnerabilities. This means integrating AI with other technologies and best practices to ensure comprehensive protection. 

Partnering with a competent security expert like Teneo can provide the guidance and advanced solutions necessary to navigate the complexities of modern cybersecurity. Teneo’s StreamlineX framework is designed to help you build a resilient defense that stays ahead of AI-driven attacks, ensuring your business remains secure and operational.  

If these topics are areas you feel you’d like to explore with us, please book a meeting with Teneo or email me directly at sevans@teneo.net.  Stay safe! 

Author: Steve Evans, SVP Solutions Engineering, Teneo

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