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Artificial Intelligence Could Pave Way to New Cyber Warfare, Elon Musk Warns

Nov 04, 2016 04:20 AM EDT
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Developments in the field of artificial intelligence and a recent string of attacks on numerous websites signal a terrifying future of cyber warfare, Elon Musk told his five million Twitter followers on Thursday.

His dire warning pertains to a mixture of machine-learning AI and rather "vulnerable" systems that lay the foundation of the internet. Musk said that the future of cyber warfare may not be waged with humans and our weapons, but with AI systems.

Just recently, an unknown group of hackers launched a massive "distributed denial of service" (DDoS) attack that took down part of the internet in the West. Analysis of the incident confirmed that the hackers used a huge "botnet," or a system of computers, that comprised simple internet of things (IoT) devices to overload the systems of Dynamic Network Services (Dyn), a firm that is part of the internet address system.

These systems provide DNS services to websites, both big and small, such as Spotify, Netflix, Twitter, and Reddit. On October 21, the said DDoS attack disrupted hundreds of sites, making them hard to reach for hours. The attack caused the global community to be on full alert toward new forms of cyber warfare.

According to the Economist, the world is facing a growing threat of DDoS attacks. Unfortunately, our lack of resources to stop such a phenomenon is alarming, especially now that dependency on these systems is growing.

However, Musk said in a tweet that these DDoS attacks might not need human hackers, and in the future, they may be simple feats for advanced AI systems.

According to Inverse, modern digital attacks are usually orchestrated by hackers who follow algorithms depending on the damage they want. However, Musk's exchange with followers on Twitter highlighted the possibility of hackers using AI to optimize their attacks, which is "particularly susceptible to a gradient descent algorithm." This algorithm takes a complex problem and forces programs to find optimal solutions, and recent developments in the field are helping AI get better in doing these algorithms.

Musk said that in the near future, massive DDoS attacks will be a piece of cake for AI. This means the future of cyber warfare may depend on how well-protected the internet is.

But the craziest part of this is: both hackers and cybersecurity experts may use AI. Musk affirmed the possibility of the inevitable: AI versus AI cyberwarfare.

Musk is one of the high-profile members of the tech community who openly speaks up against unregulated AI. He wants systems to be open and transparent to avoid corporate misuse.

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