AI hackers battle cybersecurity experts in technology ‘arms race’

Not so long ago, many phishing messages could be discovered simply by paying attention to the details.

The majority of phishing attacks, which can account for up to 90% of cyberattacks that result in data breaches, originate from countries where English is not the first language, often Eastern Europe and Russia.

When you receive an email, text, or social media message where your English is “off,” you don’t know whether the grammar was wrong or just the phrasing was awkward, but it’s because the message was sent to a bank or financial institution, for example. Indicates that the message was not sent by an institution. Recruiter at a local company.

In the early days of generative artificial intelligence, that’s all but gone. ChatGPT may not know what happened yesterday, but it can compose your emails in perfect American English every time.

While this is bad for people and businesses susceptible to phishing scams, it’s not bad for the cybersecurity industry. Between improved text copy, voice spoofing, and the looming threat of deepfakes, cybersecurity is more necessary than ever. The game is yet to come, as AI is also being used more and more aggressively in cybersecurity.

AI: Is it a new smartphone?

Steve Piper, founder and CEO of Annapolis, Maryland-based CyberEdge Group, spoke at the Cybersecurity Marketing Society’s CyberMarketingCon in Austin. It contextualizes the impact of AI on our lives by comparing the current situation to the situation in the late 80s. When most people have a smartphone for the first time.

“When I held the first iPhone 1 in my hand, I just thought it was amazing,” Piper told “But I didn’t know how a smartphone would change my life. …If you compare what it was like when I first had a smartphone to what we know today, it’s how your life will change. We had no idea how it would affect us. You had no clue. That’s artificial intelligence.”

Cybercrime is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and so is cybersecurity. Matt Barnett, CEO of cybersecurity firm SEVN-X in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and co-producer of the upcoming AI-weaponized documentary Inhuman, says that voice spoofing, etc. He points out that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the human ear to detect AI. , the AI ​​itself can tell the difference.

“One of the things that is really difficult to get right is that [with deepfake audio] It’s the way we naturally speak,” Barnett told “Our voices have inflections and tones, and our vocal patterns are almost random, making it difficult for computers to properly understand.However, it is also very difficult for computers to diagnose things created by AI. That means the best tool for detecting the use of AI is actually AI.”

Steve Piper's photo

Steve Piper. (Courtesy of Steve Piper)

AI arms race

If AI is the best tool to both cause and prevent cybersecurity disruptions, what Piper aptly described is an “arms race.” AI facilitates cybercrime, AI learns how to stop cybercrime, AI evolves to evade detection, and so on. upon.

“We understand early on how to do that. [AI] Ultimately, it will help treat the disease,” Piper said. “But bad guys could use it to create new diseases. There are many benefits for good people in the world of cybersecurity, and security vendors are now using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create new diseases that were previously impossible.” So we’re much better at detecting threats. But now bad guys are using artificial intelligence to create more sophisticated threats.”

Most large companies continue to respond by investing in cutting-edge cybersecurity services and products. While it can’t be overstated that we’re still in the early stages of AI, Piper’s company produces an annual Cyber ​​Threat Defense report that shows that today’s cybersecurity is indeed catching up. . Approximately 1,200 security professionals from 17 countries are asked each year whether their organization with 500 or more employees was the victim of a successful attack that year.

“This is the first time that the number of successful attacks has decreased two years in a row,” Piper said. “Now we’ve gone from scary to a little less scary to a little less scary. So in 2021 he’s 86%, in 2022 he’s 85%, In 2023, he was 84.7.[%]. The bleeding has stopped. It’s not getting worse, things are getting just a little bit better. Because in recent years, organizations have adopted machine learning to detect cyber threats in ways never before possible. ”

This data suggests that at least medium to large businesses have a slight advantage over cybercriminals.

But what about individual consumers? According to Piper, they are at a disadvantage.

“Individuals often don’t invest in cutting-edge cybersecurity defenses,” he says. “They don’t have firewalls to protect them, and they usually don’t have dedicated email or web security. Even if you have antivirus software, you may have forgotten to update it and let your subscription expire. , I think AI will give cybercriminals an advantage in attacking individuals, as individuals are not taking advantage of new innovations in cybersecurity defenses.”

Inhuman documentary early poster

An early poster for the documentary Inhuman. (Courtesy of Chris Granden)

Protect yourself from AI cybercrime

As individuals, there are ways to protect yourself without expensive high-end cybersecurity. Chris Glanden, founder of his Delaware-based BarCode Security brand and producer of the documentary “Inhuman,” said data about individual users is being collected all the time. That data could then be used in more targeted cyberattacks against individuals. AI can be used to collect voice data for phishing scams, as well as learn details such as where you work and who you are associated with.

“Be careful with the information you provide, because I think chatbots are probably the biggest use case for AI technology right now, if you’re talking about the general public,” Granden said. “Nowadays, everyone uses ChatGPT in some way, so from a data privacy perspective, we don’t recommend sending sensitive data about yourself to ChatGPT. Because we don’t know exactly what it will be used for.”

Additionally, Barnett pointed out that what you type while chatting with, say, a customer service bot, is visible somewhere in real time even before you hit the send button.

“I don’t think people really understand it and don’t understand it,” he says. “…it actually captures the keystrokes you type before you press Enter.”

The fear that the technology will overtake humanity, possibly leading to extinction, is enough to make some people want to shut down AI completely. (The probability is not high, but it is not zero.)

But like other technological advances over the past century, AI can also improve society. It is already becoming a part of our daily life, for better or for worse.

“If you think about the Internet, it’s both a blessing and a curse, right?” Piper said. “We can be victims of identity theft and cyberattacks, and there are so many scary things happening because of the internet, social media, etc.

“But I think most people would agree that the Internet is a net positive to our lives,” he says. “I sincerely hope that artificial intelligence will bring benefits to our lives.”

Company name: Cyber ​​Security Marketing Association


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