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Artificial Intelligence: AI as Master Hacker

By Dick Weisinger

Increasingly we find that Artificial Intelligence can improve our lives through automation, smart decision making, solving complex problems, and providing unexpected insights.

That’s the potential good that AI can do, but the flip side is that AI can be used maliciously too. While AI is surprisingly good at finding unexpected solutions, it is equally good at identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in existing systems.

Bruce Schneier, cryptographer and security researcher, warns that “AI systems will themselves become hackers: finding vulnerabilities in all sorts of social, economic, and political systems, and then exploiting them at an unprecedented speed, scale, and scope. We risk a future of AI systems hacking other AI systems, with humans being little more than collateral damage.”

AI is typically applied to problems of optimization, things like maximizing profit, or minimizing the error of recognizing disease from medical imaging. But sometimes solutions are unexpected because AI can identify and exploit loopholes and problems with system design that allow it to achieve optimal results.

Schneier wrote that “AI can engage in something called reward hacking. Because AI doesn’t solve problems in the same way people do, they will invariably stumble on solutions we humans might never have anticipated—and some will subvert the intent of the system. That’s because AI doesn’t think in terms of the implications, context, norms, and values we humans share and take for granted. This reward hacking involves achieving a goal but in a way the AI’s designers neither wanted nor intended.”

Schneier concludes that “it will be years before we have entirely autonomous AI cyberattack capabilities, but AI technologies are already transforming the nature of cyberattack.”

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