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The CEO of Recorded Future, Christopher Ahlberg, discussed in an interview with Dan Patterson from ZDNet how hackers, bad actors, and cyber criminals are using generative artificial intelligence to worm their way into systems. Ahlberg also discussed how defenders are using AI to protect networks that are critically important, such as critical infrastructure and water power, which we rely on. However, Ahlberg noted that emerging technologies, such as Neuralink and technologies that connect our brain to the internet, could be exploited by bad actors.
Connectivity of any health related device to the internet is a dangerous proposition. Some examples of serious security issues with health devices are listed below (reference):
- Pacemakers were implicated in a major hacking risk, with 465,000 devices from Abbott’s recalled by the US FDA
- ICS-CERT identified problems with a number of syringe infusion pumps in U.S hospitals. This could allow a remote attacker to gain unauthorized access and impact the intended operation of the pump, including the administration of fatal overdoses.
- An ICD can deliver a shock to the heart. Modern ICDs can also function as pacemakers. The Medtronic Maximo was discovered vulnerable to cyberattacks via its radio.
Ahlberg explained that generative AI platforms like ChatGPT and others are taking the world by storm, and both cyber defense and threat intelligence experts are using them. But so are the bad guys. Hackers, bad actors, and other creative forces have utilized these platforms to carry out cyber attacks. He noted that any new technology will inevitably be used for both good and bad purposes.
Some ways that threat actors can leverage ChatGPT (reference):
- Improved enumeration to find attack points
- Foothold assistance to gain unauthorized access
- Reconnaissance to assess attack targets
- More effective phishing lures
- Develop malicious polymorphic code more easily
While AI-driven attacks are particularly challenging to defend against, Ahlberg noted that AI can also be used to enable attribution and help threat hunters identify threats. He explained that AI can be used to connect dots across lots of data as well as writing, which can make the analysis phase more efficient.
Ahlberg further elaborated on how generative AI can help cyber criminals in their phishing campaigns. Phishing is one of the key vectors in cybersecurity, and cyber criminals need to put in some effort to create phishing emails that are effective across multiple countries. Generative AI can help cyber criminals be more creative and efficient in crafting phishing emails that are more convincing, making it harder for targets to identify them as fake.
In addition to discussing the threats posed by generative AI, Ahlberg also discussed how the technology can be used to enhance intelligence collection and analysis. Recorded Future has launched the first version of its AI that uses GPT techniques to connect dots across lots of data and help with writing. This can help organizations be more efficient in their intelligence collection and analysis processes.
More organizations are starting to leverage the capabilities of large language models for defensive cybersecurity operations. For example; Microsoft has developed an AI assistant called Security Copilot that combines Microsoft’s threat intelligence footprint to augment the work of security professionals.
When asked about how AI can blend with open-source intelligence (OSINT) techniques, Ahlberg noted that the internet has made it easier for OSINT to be collected and analyzed. However, he noted that the definition of OSINT can be problematic, and organizations need to be careful when collecting and analyzing data to ensure that they are not violating any privacy laws.
Overall, Ahlberg’s interview highlights the opportunities and challenges presented by generative AI. While the technology can be used to enhance cybersecurity defenses and intelligence collection, it can also be exploited by bad actors to carry out cyber attacks. Therefore, organizations need to be aware of these risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.
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