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Criminal AI is Coming, and it could Cost Lives


Criminal AI is coming….

A brain trust of technology and security experts from Cambridge, Oxford, and non-profit research institute OpenAI among others, has published a new report sketching out how artificial intelligence techniques already available now or in the near future could be used by criminals, terrorist groups and rogue actors to inflict great damage.

The nightmare scenarios outlined in the 101-page document deal with the political, physical and digital threats emanating from malicious AI.

They include the weaponisation of commercial drones with explosive and facial recognition to carry out targeted assassination; the AI-aided fabrication of fake videos of politicians for disinformation purposes; false kidnapping scams rendered more credible by speech synthesis; and the use of big data analysis to create hyper-tailored cyber-attacks exploiting individual vulnerabilities (for instance, malware could be embedded in an e-book a target individual has been researching online.)

The report also highlighted what are the areas of most concern in ongoing AI research—for instance, a perverted version of DeepMind AlphaGo’s reinforcement learning software could be leveraged by hackers to quickly find vulnerability and exploits in code— and suggested some novel best practices to both researchers and policymakers.

According to the report, coders and engineers should always be aware that AI is a double-edged sword, and they should take a leaf out of computer security experts’ book in terms of caution. They should also abide by strict ethical standards, encouraging a whistleblowing culture, and assess the possible misuses of AI research before making it public.

Governments should seek more cooperation with AI researchers and possibly working with them towards enshrining in law new security standards for AI.

One of the authors of the report underlined how the document focused on pointing out hazards related to AI technology that exists today, or is likely to come about in the next five to ten years.

“Artificial intelligence is a game changer and this report has imagined what the world could look like in the next five to 10 years. We live in a world that could become fraught with day-to-day hazards from the misuse of AI and we need to take ownership of the problems – because the risks are real,” Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh, executive director of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, told the BBC.

“There are choices that we need to make now, and our report is a call to action for governments, institutions and individuals across the globe.”

“For many decades hype outstripped fact in terms of AI and machine learning. No longer. This report looks at the practices that just don’t work anymore – and suggests broad approaches that might help: for example, how to design software and hardware to make it less hackable – and what type of laws and international regulations might work in tandem with this,” he added.

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