June 17, 2024

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Don’t Fear AI – Responsible Use Helps Avoid Cyberattacks

The world is rapidly becoming more digital, and cybersecurity concerns have grown with the rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI). While AI drives innovation across various industries, it also presents security risks. 

Cyberattacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated, targeting federal agencies, big corporations, and data-rich state and local governments. Recent research by Sophos revealed that 72% of state and local government organizations experienced data-encrypted attacks, with only 20% successfully stopping them before data was compromised. Additionally, Zscaler, a leader in cloud security, reported a 47% surge in phishing attacks last year, partly attributed to the influence of AI. Despite these challenges, organizations can leverage responsible AI use to prevent cyberattacks.

What Is at Stake if AI Is Used Irresponsibly?

Responsible AI use has become a top priority for governments worldwide. The U.S. and EU have released executive initiatives promoting AI regulation and responsible AI use and innovation, reflecting the need to address the existing problems. While AI technology offers immense potential, it also carries risks. Jen Easterly, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, recently cautioned against AI-driven tools becoming an easy avenue for cyberattacks. She emphasized that advancing AI technology should not compromise safety and security.

Without responsible development, implementation, use, and management of AI technology by local and state governments, there is a heightened risk of cyberattacks, potentially resulting in the loss or compromise of sensitive government data, critical infrastructure, and residents’ personal information, resulting in loss of public trust. AI bias can harm local governments by heightening existing societal inequalities. When implementing AI, agencies should ensure their training data is unbiased and provide transparent information to residents explaining how AI is used.

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Responsible AI Use to Help Avoid Cyberattacks in State and Local Governments

While addressing irresponsible AI use remains crucial, state and local governments should also consider a strategic implementation of AI to enhance cybersecurity measures. Rather than shying away from AI, they should embrace it as a proactive defense against cyber threats. Here are some steps that state and local governments can take to leverage AI effectively:

1. Robust Threat Detection Systems: Implement AI-powered threat detection systems that continuously monitor network traffic and identify potential cyber threats. These systems can employ machine learning algorithms to detect patterns associated with malicious activities and sift through a plethora of data that would be impossible for manual efforts to even attempt.

2. Enhanced Data Security: Utilize AI to strengthen data security by implementing advanced encryption algorithms, user behavior analytics, and anomaly detection techniques. AI can identify potential vulnerabilities and enable proactive measures to mitigate risks.

3. Predictive Analytics for Risk Assessment: Leverage AI to analyze data and identify potential vulnerabilities and weak points in the security infrastructure. Predictive analytics can help assess risks and prioritize resources for enhanced protection.

4. Automated Incident Response: Employ AI-based automation tools to respond to cyber incidents promptly. AI can detect and respond to threats in real time, minimizing the damage caused by cyberattacks.

5. User Awareness and Training: Develop AI-driven training programs to educate employees about cybersecurity best practices, such as identifying phishing attempts and suspicious activities. AI can simulate real-world scenarios and provide personalized training to improve user awareness.

As AI advances, the public sector must use this technology responsibly to safeguard residents and sensitive data. While the risks of AI-driven cyberattacks are real, responsible use of AI can be a powerful tool in preventing such threats. State and local governments should embrace AI and leverage its capabilities to protect against cyber threats proactively. 

By implementing AI-driven cybersecurity measures, they can enhance their defense systems and respond swiftly to mitigate risks. Ultimately, responsible AI use will help create a secure digital environment for the public sector and its residents.

Picture of By Ben Sebree & Jim Flynn

By Ben Sebree & Jim Flynn

Ben Sebree
As the Senior Vice President of Research and Development for CivicPlus®, Ben Sebree oversees finding new opportunities for CivicPlus' unified applications portfolio to adapt and meet the changing needs of local governments and their residents. He achieves this by utilizing the latest and most innovative technologies. Ben's extensive experience in the technology sector spans over twelve years, with a focus on enterprise platforms, IoT technology, AI, CaaS, and integrations for seven years. His expertise has been recognized with multiple industry awards, and he continues to innovate, holding several pending patents.

In addition to leading CivicPlus' integrated solutions, Ben collaborates with third-party partners to create industry-leading system integrations that can serve as the foundation for all local government software needs. Ben earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Information Systems and Human Resources, as well as a Master of Business Administration from Kansas State University.

Jim Flynn
As the director of information security at CivicPlus, Jim Flynn is responsible for managing the security and hosting reliability for its more than 12,000 global customers, impacting more than 340 million community members in the United States and Canada alone. Flynn has been at the forefront of cybersecurity strategy and leadership, protecting local governments from the continually evolving cyber threats that exist today. He has been with CivicPlus since 2009 and brings more than 20 years of IT security and data management experience to its customers.

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