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
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Data Leak Week: Billions of Sensitive Files Exposed Online
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  12/10/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Our Endpoint Protection system is a little outdated... 
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-12420
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-12
In Apache SpamAssassin before 3.4.3, a message can be crafted in a way to use excessive resources. Upgrading to SA 3.4.3 as soon as possible is the recommended fix but details will not be shared publicly.
CVE-2019-16774
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-12
In phpfastcache before 5.1.3, there is a possible object injection vulnerability in cookie driver.
CVE-2018-11805
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-12
In Apache SpamAssassin before 3.4.3, nefarious CF files can be configured to run system commands without any output or errors. With this, exploits can be injected in a number of scenarios. In addition to upgrading to SA 3.4.3, we recommend that users should only use update channels or 3rd party .cf ...
CVE-2019-5061
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-12
An exploitable denial-of-service vulnerability exists in the hostapd 2.6, where an attacker could trigger AP to send IAPP location updates for stations, before the required authentication process has completed. This could lead to different denial of service scenarios, either by causing CAM table att...
CVE-2019-5062
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-12
An exploitable denial-of-service vulnerability exists in the 802.11w security state handling for hostapd 2.6 connected clients with valid 802.11w sessions. By simulating an incomplete new association, an attacker can trigger a deauthentication against stations using 802.11w, resulting in a denial of...