There is no doubt that organizations should be concerned about the risks this new era of generative AI poses. ChatGPT's moment in cybersecurity is significant for both technological and marketing reasons. Security analysts and experts have their own reasons.
The cultural and economic rise of ChatGPT in recent months has led to an interest in generative artificial intelligence as a whole, and this moment has also included cybersecurity.
ChatGPT, developed and published by research firm OpenAI, is considered a large language model (LLM), a type of AI model used to generate text. LLMs are themselves a type of generative AI, an emerging branch of artificial intelligence where models are used to create content such as images, audio or text using a huge amount of training/calibration data - e.g. , OpenAI's Dall-E image generator.
ChatGPT's immense popularity was no doubt fueled by Microsoft's announced billion-dollar investment in OpenAI last fall, which led to the integration of the chatbot with the software giant's Bing search engine. Following this investment, a number of "AI-powered" products have entered the market in the past six months. For example, generative AI was the unofficial theme of the RSA 2023 Conference in April, as many vendors had AI-based offerings to present.
Several cybersecurity vendors present at the conference said they have been using AI and machine learning for years. The extremely broad concept of artificial intelligence has been integrated in various forms for decades, and some vendors have been building advanced datasets for years.
But generative AI is on the rise, although experts have been divided on what has led to this moment. Some said it was the result of marketing more than actual technological advances, and others said generative AI as well as ChatGPT were leading to a crossroads moment.
Generative AI is here to stay, and CISOs in particular cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the risks this new technology presents. So what are the risks and how can businesses protect themselves amid the new AI threat landscape?
Exploitation of Generative Artificial Intelligence by Cybercriminals
The emergence of ChatGPT and similar generative AI models has created a new threat landscape where almost anyone who wants to conduct malicious cyber activities against a company can do so. Cybercriminals no longer need to have advanced coding knowledge or skills. All they need is a malicious action and access to ChatGPT.
Influence fraud should be an area of particular concern for organizations going forward. It is by no means a new or novel concept; for years, bots have been used to generate comments on social media platforms and in media comment sections to shape political discourse. For example, in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election, it was found that bots retweeted Donald Trump ten times more than Hillary Clinton. But now, in the age of generative AI, this kind of deception—which has historically been reserved for high-level political fraud—could trickle down to the organizational level. Within seconds, malicious actors could theoretically use ChatGPT or Google Bard to generate millions of malicious messages on social media, mainstream news channels, or customer service pages. Attacks designed against companies - including their customers and employees - can be executed at an unprecedented scale and speed.
Another major concern for organizations is the breeding of bad boys. In 2021, 27.7% of global internet traffic was made by bad bots, and in the last two years, that number has skyrocketed. With its advanced natural language processing capabilities, ChatGPT can generate realistic "user agent" strings needed to validate requests on servers, it can also generate browser fingerprints and other attributes that can make scraping bots look like legitimate users . In fact, according to a recent report, GPT-4 is so adept at generating language that it convinced a human he was blind to get him to solve a CAPTCHA for the chatbot. This is an enormous threat to enterprise security, and will become an increasing problem as generative AI develops.
Generative AI can serve as a boon for the CISO (Chief Information Security Officer)
The risks posed by generative artificial intelligence are undoubtedly alarming, but the technology is here to stay and is advancing rapidly. Therefore, CISOs must use generative AI to strengthen their cybersecurity strategies and develop stronger defenses against the new wave of sophisticated malicious attacks.
One of the biggest challenges facing CISOs right now is the cybersecurity skills shortage. To date, there are approximately 3.5 million cyber jobs open worldwide, and ultimately, without skilled personnel, organizations simply cannot protect themselves against threats. However, generative AI offers a solution to this industry-wide challenge, as tools like ChatGPT and Google Bard can be used to speed up manual work and reduce the workflow of tainted cybersecurity personnel. In particular, ChatGPT can help accelerate code development and detect vulnerable code, improving security. The introduction of the GPT-4 code interpreter is a game changer for understaffed organizations, as automating tedious operations can free up time for security experts to focus on strategic issues. Microsoft is already helping streamline these operations for cybersecurity personnel by introducing Microsoft Security Copilot, based on GPT-4.
In addition, AI chatbot tools can support incident responses. For example, in the event of a bot attack, ChatGPT and Google Bard can provide real-time information to security teams and help coordinate response activities. The technology can also help analyze attack data, helping security teams identify the source of the attack and take appropriate measures to limit and mitigate the effects.
At the same time, organizations can use ChatGPT and other generative AI models to analyze large volumes of data to identify patterns and anomalies that may indicate the presence of criminal bots. By analyzing chat logs, social media data, and other sources of information, AI tools can help detect and alert security teams to potential bot attacks before they can cause significant damage.
Protection in the new age of generative artificial intelligence
We have now entered the age of generative artificial intelligence and as a result organizations are facing more frequent and sophisticated cyber attacks. CISOs must embrace this new reality and harness the power of artificial intelligence to combat these AI-enhanced cyberattacks. Cybersecurity solutions that fail to utilize real-time machine learning are ultimately doomed to be left behind.
For example, we know that as a result of generative AI, organizations will see an increase in the number of bad bots trying to defraud their sites. In a world where bad actors use bots-as-a-service to create complex and invisible threats, choosing not to use machine learning to block these threats is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. Therefore, now more than ever, AI bot detection and blocking tools are imperative for organizations' cybersecurity.
Example: Traditional CAPTCHAs, long considered a trusted cybersecurity tool, are no match for today's bots. Bots are now using artificial intelligence to get past "old-fashioned" CAPTCHAs (such as traffic light images), necessitating businesses to move to solutions that drive traffic first, using CAPTCHAs last solution (and then, only cybersecurity-rich CAPTCHAs). In addition, organizations can protect themselves by implementing multi-factor authentication and identity-based access controls that grant users access through their biometric data, which will help reduce unauthorized access and misuse.
Generative AI poses significant security risks to organizations, but if used correctly, it can also help mitigate the threats it creates. Cybersecurity is a game of cat and mouse, and CISOs must stay ahead of the curve to protect their organizations from the devastating financial and reputational damage that can occur as part of this new AI-driven threat landscape. By understanding the threats and using the technology effectively, CISOs can protect their organizations from the emerging attacks that generative AI presents.
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