Japan SMBs optimistic about AI but gaps remain

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Barracuda has published a research report, entitled ‘SMB cyber resilience in Japan: Navigating through doubt to an AI-powered future,’ that explores the perceptions, concerns, and applications of AI among small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in Japan.

The findings show that Japanese businesses are optimistic about the potential benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), but worry about gaps in security, knowledge, and skills.

Taking in responses from 500 IT professionals in organizations of between 50 and 200 employees in Japan in late 2023, including 47% in C-suite roles, the research found that respondents are largely positive about AI. 

Among other things, they expect AI to enhance operational efficiency, making it easier and quicker to gather customer insight (76%), which is crucial for business development and market research.

However, the report also reveals some apprehensions regarding AI implementation. A notable 62% of respondents expressed concern that any current use of generative AI in businesses is unofficial, highlighting a lack of regulation, visibility, and oversight in this area. Moreover, 69% worry about the inherent risks associated with AI deployment, indicating a need for robust security measures and risk management strategies.

However, while 55% of respondents admitted they are unsure how attackers might leverage AI in email-based attacks — 36% believe AI will strengthen protection against such threats. The report underscores that while attackers can use AI to launch attacks that are faster, more sophisticated, and more targeted, AI tools can also be used to enhance threat prevention, detection, and response.

When it came to coping with AI-based cyberattacks, 63% of respondents felt they lacked some or all of the necessary skills to mitigate such threats, highlighting a need for upskilling and education in this area. Three-quarters (77%) expressed a need for external partners to help them to implement and manage AI solutions.

Commenting on the findings, Makoto Suzuki, Regional Sales Director for Japan at Barracuda, said: “It’s clear from the report that Japanese SMBs see the value of AI for business productivity. However, gaps remain when it comes to understanding and addressing the threats that AI can pose to an organization’s cybersecurity posture. This could hold businesses back from harnessing the full potential of AI to revolutionize business performance and competitiveness by optimizing processes, reducing costs, improving quality, and providing new insights and ideas.

“The good news is that it’s possible to harness the full benefits of AI while mitigating the risks.”

In order to boost cyber resilience, Barracuda recommends that businesses deploy AI-enabled security tools to counter attackers deploying generative AI and machine learning to build their cyber weapons. By doing so, businesses will be able to enhance their resilience and be better prepared to detect, prevent, respond to, and recover from attacks.

This approach should be supported by regular security awareness training and a sound approach to security basics, such as patching and backups.