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Can AI eliminate phishing?

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Phishing and social engineering schemes have been making headlines more than ever. From spear phishing to whaling to BEC (Business Email Compromise), these tried and true tactics continue to be successful.

How many times have we all almost clicked on that email from “Microsoft” asking us to re-enter our credit card data for our Office 365 account?  Or the “Apple” message asking us to click on a link to confirm that we didn’t make an iTunes purchases?  Or the “DocuSign” document link from a financial institution?  All these looked real at first blush, particularly when viewed on a small smartphone screen.  But none of them were.  And all could have had drastic consequences if the links were followed.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was some way to help end-users check those potentially malicious links and documents and scan the content to make sure that opening them won’t unleash devastation? Actually, there is: artificial intelligence (AI). AI solutions are just getting started, but as the technology becomes more widely adopted, we will begin to more effectively mitigate the impact of phishing emails, just the way that machine learning has helped to eliminate spam. 

How to fight phishing

There’s no question that phishing still presents a major headache. Some 91% of cyberattacks start with phishing. Such emails usually play on a reader’s curiosity, fear or sense of urgency. Even highly-educated, web-savvy users can fall victim to phishing. Most famously, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, recognized an email as a phishing attempt but famously told an aide that the email was “legitimate” when he meant “illegitimate.” The typo led to a massive email hack that played a big part in Clinton’s loss when a subordinate changed Podesta’s email, as the malicious email had requested.