AI poses new cybersecurity challenge, says law firm

Lawyers warn ransomware frequently targets financial services

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is increasing the need for tighter cybersecurity, Belfast businesses will hear on Tuesday.

Ransomware, where criminals obtain a company’s data and seek cash to have it returned, accounts for almost six in all 10 attacks on businesses, according to multinational law firm Pinsent Masons, which is hosting a gathering to mark CyberNI Week.

Laura Gillespie, Pinsent Masons partner, who leads the cyber team in Northern Ireland, says the sophistication and volume of attacks has increased over the past 12 months. “Clients are responding, however, by doubling down their efforts in developing cyber readiness programmes,” she adds.

Criminals target financial firms, which account for 40 per cent of all breaches. These businesses have data that can be easily sold or used for identity or financial fraud. Gangs successfully extracted sensitive information from businesses in 43 per cent of confirmed cases.


A report by the law firm, Cybersecurity Landscape, Risks and Challenges, alerts businesses to new trends, including fragmentation of the groups attacking companies’ systems, some of whom now operate like franchises.

“Criminals involved in cyberattacks are continually finding new ways to target businesses with the aim of obtaining commercially or personally sensitive information, and with artificial intelligence set to play a bigger role organisations need to make cybersecurity their number one priority in 2024,” said Ms Gillespie.

On the plus side AI can also help defend against attacks by identifying criminals’ techniques and emails with rogue traits.

The EU Network and Information Systems Directive, which member states must adopt by October, will help create a commonly high level of security to protect IT infrastructure. However, the law firm noted that uncertainties remain in the UK, which has made little progress with proposed changes to its network information systems’ security regulations.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas