Cloudflare's Defensive AI: Protecting Organizations Against Next-Gen Threats

By Alex Passett, Editor  |  March 12, 2024

I’ve got something to admit. Prior to last month’s massive ITEXPO #TECHSUPERSHOW experience in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I wasn’t fully aware of the capabilities of Cloudflare, Inc., the provider of reliable connectivity and multi-cloud services. I’d been brushing up on it thanks to fellow TMCnet Editor and Cloud Computing maestro Greg Tavarez, but I still wasn’t quite up to speed.

Before the show, I realized that – to access our remote desktop so I could continue writing while conducting quick on-site editorial work – I needed Cloudflare’s magic, so to speak. Then, I could securely use what I needed.

Naturally, it worked like a charm. (The more you know, folks.)

Notably (and just earlier today), Tavarez also penned a story about Cloudflare’s Magic Cloud Networking solution, one designed to simplify and secure connections between public cloud environments. (It’s a good read; click here for more.) So, I began to dig deeper and discovered a new tidbit of coverage regarding both Cloudflare and everyone’s go-to tech topic of recent memory – AI.

Cloudflare has officially announced its Defensive AI, a personalized approach for securing organizations against new waves of attacks presented by shifting cyber landscape developments and trends. This is important, as bad actors (who’ve already positioned themselves as threats to unprepared organizations) are themselves testing the limits of AI and how it can unfortunately enhance their targeted strategies; sophisticated AI phishing scams, AI-written code used to maliciously assault businesses’ critical functions, the whole nine yards.

It's a problem, and Cloudflare’s Defensive AI is a prime solution.

By leveraging organizations’ unique traffic patterns, for instance, this Defensive AI “keeps defenders a step ahead of threatening forces,” according to the press release, “by providing tailored mitigations that enable protection of critical applications and entire networks.”

Indeed. With Defensive AI, Cloudflare’s AI models look at specific customers’ traffic patterns, providing organizations with tailored defense strategies unique to their environment. This unlocks the following, per Cloudflare:

  • Protecting the Modern Web: APIs comprise 57% of all dynamic web and underpin some of the most popular apps and services for businesses. Thus, Cloudflare is developing API Anomaly Detection, which will help prevent attacks designed to damage applications, take over accounts or exfiltrate data. It will leverage AI to learn the behavior of an application and build a model of what a sequence of good requests over time looks like. The resulting traffic model will then be used to identify attacks that deviate from the “normal” behavior – acting essentially as a digital guardrail to help stop potentially malicious activity.
  • Securing the Email Threat Vector: Many reports indicate that at least eight or nine out of every ten cyber attacks begin with a phishing scam. That’s why reducing the risk presented by email is crucial for upholding ready-for-anything cyber resilience. Cloudflare’s Cloud Email Security solution stays ahead of threat actors by training AI models to identify different parts of a message and flag suspicious content. (And sadly, the rise of AI-enhanced attacks are making many traditional email security providers more or less obsolete, as threat actors can now craft phishing emails with little to no language errors. But despite that, Cloudflare’s models analyze all parts of a phishing attack – most of which are harder to fake. That’s leads to stronger security.)
  • Mitigating Additional Threats: Whether accidental or on purpose, almost half of insider threat incidents involve an employee with privileged access to company assets – underscoring the importance of Cloudflare’s Zero Trust approach. Cloudflare Gateway (News - Alert) will allow customers to create a baseline of their organization's user behavior and resources being accessed; to flag or filter what presents as risky or unauthorized.

As described by Matthew Prince, CEO and co-founder of Cloudflare:

“Fighting AI with AI is now a non-negotiable, and a personalized approach to protect data and defend against complex threats unique to an organization’s attack surface (at both speed and scale) is paramount. By understanding ‘normal baselines’ in a customer's environment and mitigating the threats that will move the needle towards increased resilience, Defensive AI is the crucial edge defenders need to stay ahead of today’s adversaries.”

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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