Modern AI-powered tools may be less terrifying than clichéd Terminator visions, but in the hands of the wrong individuals, they can still be pretty scary.
Deepak Dutt, founder and CEO of Zighra, a cybersecurity startup, says there’s a high likelihood that sophisticated AI will be used for cyberattacks in the near future, and that it might already be in use by certain countries. In terms of how AI could be used in nefarious ways, Dutt has no shortage of ideas.
“Artificial intelligence can be used to mine large amounts of public domain and social network data to extract personally identifiable information like date of birth, gender, location, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and so on, which can be used for hacking [a person’s] accounts,” Dutt told Gizmodo. “It can also be used to automatically monitor e-mails and text messages, and to create personalized phishing mails for social engineering attacks [phishing scams are an illicit attempt to obtain sensitive information from an unsuspecting user]. AI can be used for mutating malware and ransomware more easily, and to search more intelligently and dig out and exploit vulnerabilities in a system.”
Dutt suspects that AI is already being used for cyberattacks, and that criminals are already using some sort of machine learning capabilities, for example, by automatically creating personalized phishing e-mails.
“But what is new is the sophistication of AI in terms of new machine learning techniques like Deep Learning, which can be used to achieve the scenarios I just mentioned with a higher level of accuracy and efficiency,” he said. Deep Learning, also known as hierarchical learning, is a subfield of machine learning that utilizes large neural networks. It has been applied to computer vision, speech recognition, social network filtering, and many other complex tasks, often producing results superior to human experts.
“Also the availability of large amounts of social network and public data sets (Big Data) helps. Advanced machine learning and Deep Learning techniques and tools are easily available now on open source platforms—this combined with the relatively cheap computational infrastructure effectively enables cyberattacks with higher sophistication.”