Artificial Intelligence: What Are the Major Cyber Threats for 2024?

By Ed Watal, Founder & Principal — Intellibus

Critics of artificial intelligence have called attention to the potential consequences of innovation in the cybersecurity sphere. Although AI technology is not necessarily a threat in and of itself, wrongdoers have already developed several use cases for the technology in the form of malicious cyber threats. Worse yet, these cyber threats are at a level that we have never seen before — leaving many individuals and organizations vulnerable in ways they could not have imagined. However, by understanding these new cyber threats created by AI technology, we can take steps to reduce their negative consequences.

Although it is impossible to eliminate the misuse of artificial intelligence tools entirely, it is essential to mitigate these potential cyber threats to create a world where AI can be used responsibly for the betterment of society. Ignoring AI technology’s potential to make a legitimate, positive change in the world because of its capacity to be abused by a few bad actors will only allow those wrongdoers to further expand the technology’s capabilities unchecked. 

Artificial intelligence has gotten a negative reputation from the slew of hackers and other criminals manipulating and abusing the technology for their gain. It’s no different than any other innovation — when something new and creative is introduced into the world, people will find a way to use it that causes harm. 

That being said, we can still take steps to fight against the misuse of AI by being aware of how this technology can be misused. While artificial intelligence can cause significant damage, we must also understand the positive effects that this technology can have on productivity and efficiency across several industries. 

How scammers are using AI to improve their schemes

One of the most frightening use cases for artificial intelligence is scammers’ improvement of phishing schemes, as scammers can now train an AI model on a library of messages written by an individual and create a convincing impersonation of their writing style. In the past, phishing schemes could be sniffed out due to mistakes like grammatical errors or inconsistencies in voice. With the level of accuracy and detail with which generative AI models can replicate human writing, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent writing.

However, it’s not just written content that artificial intelligence is becoming concerningly good at creating — AI models have also been developed to create convincing false audiovisual materials, known as “deepfakes.” Now, scammers can create images or audio clips using a person’s likeness that could be used for any number of illicit purposes, from blackmail to reputational damage or even the spread of misinformation. The consequences of such practices on individuals, organizations, government entities, and society at large could be profound.

The threat of automated cyber attacks

Hackers are also finding ways to use artificial intelligence technology to automate cyber attacks since a model can be trained to automatically and constantly probe a network for vulnerabilities that can be exploited. By the time the network operator is aware of these vulnerabilities, it is often already too late because hackers can identify them so efficiently. 

Given how connected our society is today, automated attacks can be incredibly dangerous, particularly when they target critical infrastructure or supply chains. If a hacker exploits a vulnerability in a single point of the supply chain, the entire network could come crumbling down and cause severe economic damage. In cases where hackers have targeted infrastructure like power grids, the potential for significant loss of life cannot be overlooked.

Protecting yourself from the cyber threats of the AI revolution

Although this might sound like an argument against the proliferation of artificial intelligence, that couldn’t be further from the case. In fact, some of the same technology wrongdoers use to cause harm has been used to improve cybersecurity for individuals and organizations. 

For example, network operators can proactively use models that scan for network vulnerabilities to find weaknesses and bugs they might need to address. AI Models can also be trained to analyze written, visual, and audio materials to evaluate their authenticity.

That being said, the fundamental change that must be made regarding artificial intelligence technology to combat its misuse is to adopt a mindset of vigilance worldwide. We must practice responsible cybersecurity techniques, such as safe passwords and access control restrictions. People must also do their due diligence when they receive any suspicious communication so they can learn how to distinguish potential phishing attacks and deepfakes from legitimate messages.

Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool with the potential to revolutionize many industries, but the nefarious actions of wrongdoers threaten to undermine the many positive applications that AI technology can have to make the world a better place. By understanding the potential cyber threats posed by artificial intelligence, we can take steps toward mitigating their damage and paving the path for a more responsible future for AI.

Ed Watal is the founder and principal of Intellibus, an INC 5000 Top 100 Software firm based in Reston, Virginia. He regularly serves as a board advisor to the world’s largest financial institutions. C-level executives rely on him for IT strategy & architecture due to his business acumen & deep IT knowledge. One of Ed’s key projects includes BigParser (an Ethical AI Platform and an A Data Commons for the World).  He has also built and sold several Tech & AI startups. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, he worked in some of the largest global financial institutions, including RBS, Deutsche Bank, and Citigroup. He is the author of numerous articles and one of the defining books on cloud fundamentals called ‘Cloud Basics.’ Ed has substantial teaching experience and has served as a lecturer for universities globally, including NYU and Stanford. Ed has been featured on Fox News, Information Week, and NewsNation.

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