- The FBI has issued warnings to tech companies about rising threats from hackers targeting artificial intelligence (AI) innovations, emphasizing the aggressive tactics of nation-states, especially China, in acquiring AI research and talent.
- Cybercriminals are leveraging AI tools to amplify traditional crimes, with a noticeable surge in the creation of “deepfakes” for blackmail and extortion, highlighting the urgent need for enhanced cybersecurity measures.
In a recent advisory, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alerted tech giants and startups about the escalating risks they face from hackers, both criminals and state-sponsored, as they develop and refine artificial intelligence (AI) tools. These cyber adversaries are increasingly motivated to steal intellectual property or the data that fuels robust chatbots.
The alert comes as AI-powered services, including well-known platforms like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, become more accessible to consumers. Furthermore, the proliferation of AI language models has become more straightforward for many organizations.
A mere two days prior, FBI Director Christopher Wray and the agency’s assistant director for the cyber division, Bryan Vorndran, spoke about specific AI-associated threats stemming from China. Political leaders from both the U.S. and Europe have continuously expressed concerns about China’s ambition to lead in all facets of AI research and deployment.
The officials emphasized the impending surge in attempts to gather intelligence on U.S. companies, academic institutions, and government research entities involved in AI innovations. Such endeavors might encompass the transfer of AI-related insights, ranging from algorithms to computational infrastructure. These transfers can occur via both licit and illicit means, including foreign commercial investments.
A government representative highlighted the unparalleled global reputation of U.S. AI research and development. He stated, “In the AI domain, it’s evident that the expertise of U.S. professionals is a prime target in the AI supply chain.” Nation-states are aggressively pursuing various strategies, both lucrative and diverse, to onboard this talent and redirect top-tier AI research for their military and civilian agendas.
The FBI has emphasized its “productive and sustained engagement” with entities in the AI sector. In response to the competitive AI landscape with China, the Biden administration has implemented bans on exporting select high-end GPUs to China and the machinery necessary for certain associated processes. Anne Neuberger, a key White House official overseeing cybersecurity and emerging tech, noted that the U.S. government has provided preventive cybersecurity briefings to leading AI companies, especially as these firms transition away from open-source models.
In the same advisory, the FBI also cautioned the general public about the risks as cybercriminals leverage AI to amplify traditional crimes, such as fraud. A senior FBI official detailed the ease with which AI tools can be employed in various criminal activities, from ransom demands to creating synthetic content online for extortion purposes.
An FBI notification in June highlighted the growing menace of “deepfakes” — digitally manipulated videos or images — being used for blackmail. The alert stated, “The FBI continues to witness reports from victims, including minors and non-consenting adults, who discover their photos or videos have been transformed into explicit content and subsequently disseminated on social media or adult websites.”
Additionally, the threat landscape includes cyber adversaries harnessing AI to enhance phishing tactics, malware distribution, and even refining explosive manufacturing instructions.
The convergence of AI and cybersecurity threats underscores the need for a vigilant and proactive approach to protect both corporate and public interests.