Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Threat Intelligence

3/5/2019
10:30 AM
Chris Rouland
Chris Rouland
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

Artificial Intelligence: The Terminator of Malware

Is it possible that the combination of AI, facial recognition, and the coalescence of global mass-hack data could lead us toward a Skynet-like future?

For many of us, The Terminator series introduced us to the potential dangers of artificial intelligence (AI). As Skynet's advanced AI became self-aware, it concluded that humanity was a threat to its existence and sprang into self-preservation mode, ultimately triggering a nuclear holocaust and deploying an army of Terminators to battle the resistance.

While this was purely fictional back in 1984, 35 years later, AI-powered threats are the new reality and raises the question: Are we headed for a Skynet-like future in which AI takes over the world? Perhaps we're not quite there yet, but the ingredients are all there and it could be a potential recipe for disaster.

As our understanding of AI progresses and evolves, AI attacks will get more sophisticated and continue to improve. Maturing open source machine learning tools like TensorFlow from Google and others will be used in malcode, distributing even more damaging botnets, viruses, worms, trojans, targeted phishing expeditions, and so on. Of particular concern is the combination of machine learning, automated facial recognition and huge amounts of data in recent dumps. This  puts billions of people at risk of being compromised more than ever before.

One recent data dump is now raising alarm flags because it has the potential to affect millions of people. Known as Collections #1–5, well over 2 billion usernames and passwords were dumped onto the Dark Web. With data the foundation of AI, hackers can now carry out machine learning-based operations that leverage automated facial recognition and the information in Collections #1–5 to traverse social media networks and other sites to carry out automated spearphishing campaigns and a variety of other villainous exploits.

An AI populated with billions of email password pairs has a huge head start on leveraging evasive and powerful attack tools such as DeepLocker and Social Mapper. Consider the kill chain of shared credentials between corporate and personal emails. That's a very soft target for the Terminator of malware. Even if only 1% of the passwords in the "Collections" are still accurate and shared across accounts, that is well over 20 million vulnerable victims. From statistical analysis, we know the rate is far higher than that.

So, how bad could it get? Realistically, a mass collective hive of botnets with knowledge of credentials, email, facial recognition, and social networks could make AI phishing lures that will be make email unusable. Theoretically, with Collections #1–5 at its disposal, Skynet could now take over the world.

Which leads us to the need for a Resistance. Fortunately, Skynet does not exist… at least, not that we know of. But it will take a lot more than John Connor to win the AI war with cybercriminals. It will take a global coalition of brilliant minds and organizations from the private and public sectors fighting fire with fire, deploying AI-based security solutions that can keep pace, outmaneuver, and outthink these AI-powered attacks. The US Department of Defense echoed this sentiment in a recently unveiled summary of its official artificial intelligence strategy:

We cannot succeed alone; this undertaking requires the skill and commitment of those in government, close collaboration with academia and non-traditional centers of innovation in the commercial sector, and strong cohesion among international allies and partners. We must learn from others to help us achieve the fullest understanding of the potential of AI, and we must lead in responsibly developing and using these powerful technologies, in accordance with the law and our values.

Perhaps the late Stephen Hawking said it best: "Unless we learn how to prepare for, and avoid, the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization."

Or as the Terminator might say: "Hasta la vista, baby."

Related Content:

 

 

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two cybersecurity summits at Interop 2019. Learn from the industry's most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the Interop agenda here.

Chris Rouland is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Phosphorus Cybersecurity, Inc. A 25-year veteran of the information security industry, Chris is a renowned leader in cybersecurity innovation and disruption. In his career, Chris has founded and led several ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/14/2020
Lock-Pickers Face an Uncertain Future Online
Seth Rosenblatt, Contributing Writer,  8/10/2020
Hacking It as a CISO: Advice for Security Leadership
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  8/10/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
7 New Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities That Could Put Your Enterprise at Risk
In this Dark Reading Tech Digest, we look at the ways security researchers and ethical hackers find critical vulnerabilities and offer insights into how you can fix them before attackers can exploit them.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-17475
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
Lack of authentication in the network relays used in MEGVII Koala 2.9.1-c3s allows attackers to grant physical access to anyone by sending packet data to UDP port 5000.
CVE-2020-0255
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: CVE-2020-10751. Reason: This candidate is a duplicate of CVE-2020-10751. Notes: All CVE users should reference CVE-2020-10751 instead of this candidate. All references and descriptions in this candidate have been removed to prevent accidenta...
CVE-2020-14353
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: CVE-2017-18270. Reason: This candidate is a duplicate of CVE-2017-18270. Notes: All CVE users should reference CVE-2017-18270 instead of this candidate. All references and descriptions in this candidate have been removed to prevent accidenta...
CVE-2020-17464
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was withdrawn by its CNA. Further investigation showed that it was not a security issue. Notes: none.
CVE-2020-17473
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
Lack of mutual authentication in ZKTeco FaceDepot 7B 1.0.213 and ZKBiosecurity Server 1.0.0_20190723 allows an attacker to obtain a long-lasting token by impersonating the server.