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Threat: What happens when the most potent armament in your defensive arsenal falls into the wrong hands? Welcome to the world of adversarial AI, in which attackers employ the power of artificial intelligence to launch even more fiendishly effective exploits.
“I do think within the next five-year time frame they might be using machine learning heavily,” says Nachreiner of hackers. “They might even use it first for simple things like phishing. There are already plenty of researchers who have shown how you can use machine learning to send out fake lure emails over and over and see how people are responding.”
Lonas thinks at least some threat actors are doing that already. Webroot has recently noticed subtle, evolving changes in phishing campaigns that appear to reflect the kind of A/B testing digital marketers use to refine their messaging. “That could be human beings that are doing that, but I think it’s clearly a trend that the bad guys will leverage,” Lonas says.
Clay thinks it’ll be a while before that happens, though. For all the money they’re raking in, cybercriminals don’t have the resources to build AI engines of their own, so they won’t start tapping into machine learning until big public cloud vendors like Microsoft and Amazon Web Services start offering AI services at bargain-basement prices.
“We still need to have that backend capability that can do [AI] at a price point that the criminals will accept,” Clay says.
Countermeasure: Once cybercriminals start leveraging artificial intelligence, we’re essentially in for a bad guy/good guy AI arms race. The encouraging news, as Sophos Chief Product Officer Dan Schiappa told ChannelPro at last year’s RSA Conference, is that the intelligence of an artificial intelligence solution hinges directly on how much data it can draw on, and the good guys are likely to have way more data at their disposal than the bad guys for the foreseeable future.
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