Artificial intelligence (AI) defines the simulation of human intelligence by machines. These machines and devices are designed to think like human beings and imitate their actions.
The term can also be applicable for all kind of machines that emanate traits associated with human minds and behavior such as learning, decision making or problem-solving.
In this current issue we would like to propose a succinct analysis, trying to establish the interaction between the (AI) Artificial Intelligence and the cyber security, as related to the modern warfare, modern technologies and commercial develop-ments, applicable as a response to the dangerously multiplying cyber attacks around the globe.
These attacks are usually performed by hackers, a job title applicable to people trained with the intention to hijack, compromise and often annihilate information lodged mostly within the cyber world be that private, commercial or within the defense network. It is an action and a counter action business.
Unfortunately, the hacker who initiate these most dangerous attacks are just as prepared, educated and willing to proceed as are the “good guys” functioning within the government security agencies, the business world, the security details or even a diverse crowd of mercenaries, hired for a “just cause” of defending against the evil.
After all, the internet allows everybody, good or bad, access to information of any kind. As a consequence, just as easy as a minor hacker, for his own entertain-ment, can play games with your computer or your cell phone, introduce viruses just for fun or read your personal, medical or financial data, causing consequent damage at will, the same would work for the more sophisticated, those with far reaching and dangerous goals and targets. Needless to say, all these tasks can easily be executed throughout our world, a world that knows no frontiers when it comes to the notion called “cyberspace”.
Stephen William Hawking, an illustrious cosmologist and author, the former Director of the Center for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, once reflected on the subject in a study called “Artificial Intelligence, a good thing or something that will kill us all“.
Apparently, the answer to this dilemma is quite simple. It can go either way, depending on how the (AI) will evolve between now and a not so distant future.
Jeff Nesbit of US NEWS & World Report, addressed the issue few years ago when he reported that “Scientists are beginning to worry about Artificial Intelligence and the danger it poses to the mankind”. The photo attached to his report reminded us of the long gone years, when similar photos were beginning to populate the pages of the newspapers and magazines throughout the world, showing the mushroom created by an explosion of a nuclear bomb.
But, as the far reaching science struggles toward the future, an abundant number of surprises are likely to happen and positive news may just as well brighten our way. What if the humans will become immortal?
Pythia, at the Oracle of Delphi, would “predict” that “if one great nation will face another great nation in a war, one great nation will fall”. How actual when it comes to predictions!
It is just possible that right around 2050 we may be one of the extinct species or perhaps an immortal one. All thanks to the artificial intelligence further develop-ment. The former could be caused by cyber attacks performed by employing artificial intelligence while the later by a positive way the science may use the same. In either case it becomes increasingly likely that one machine or another will decide, without the human feelings, intervention or even influence.
There are a few types of cyber attacks. All are different by name, method or final purpose although they all have the same goal: to disrupt for some benefit the network employed by the victim. And then there are two types of victims, as per a declaration of a former CISCO CEO:
Companies who have been attacked already and are struggling to recoup.
Companies who have been attacked but don’t know it yet.
The main types of cyber attacks defined by one dictionary can be categorized as follows:
Malware. Malicious software, like spyware, ransomware, viruses, and worms.
Phishing. Fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
Man-in-the-middle attack. A type of eavesdropping attack, where attackers interrupt an existing conversation or data transfer. After inserting themselves in the “middle” of the transfer, the attackers pretend to be both legitimate partici-pants.
Denial-of-service attack. An attack meant to shut down a machine or network, making it inaccessible to its intended users.
SQL injection. A web security vulnerability that allows an attacker to interfere with the queries that an application makes to its database.
Zero-day exploit. A zero–day attack happens once that flaw, or software / hardware vulnerability, is exploited and attackers release malware before a developer has an opportunity.
DNS Tunneling. Enables cybercriminals to insert malware or pass stolen information into DNS queries, creating a covert communication channel that bypasses most firewalls.
These days Washington is looking with an increased attention to the growing threats caused by some recent cyber attacks. At the beginning of August, President Joe Biden warned that if the United States ended up in a “real shooting war” with a “major power”, it could be the result of a significant cyber attack on the country. The warning was specifically directed to Russia and China and it was following the occurrence of a few significant attacks by these countries one after another, against important commercial objectives in the United States. These attacks targeting companies like “Colonial Pipeline”, “Solar Winds”, meat processing company “JBS”, software firm “Kaseya”, have produced important damage to these companies themselves but, in the process they hurt America far beyond. Fuel and meat supplies deliveries have stagnated for a while and the delays in deliveries that followed, have caused a lot of pain to many American households, hurting people throughout the country.
And then, there is the question of election hacking. Affecting most of the western democracies election systems, the matter came into full view after the 2016 elections in the United States. A US Congressional Commission has established that while Russia has certainly interfered with a process that constitutes the very essence, the very foundation based upon which the country was built, it is not clear what kind of a success they registered. This is however, an example in which a state can safely operate by being at least partially self guarded, when it is properly prepared.
With the 2020 election over, the hacking of the US elections proved even less successful for the attackers. But the intentions of those living with the purpose to spoil and victimize, the American voting process will certainly not be discouraged.
Meanwhile, what makes the matter even more curious is the fact that during the June 16, 2021 Summit in Geneva, between Biden and Putin, the American Presi-dent shared a list of critical infrastructures the U.S. considers off-limits to possible attacks by nation-state actors. Also, at any time, members of the US Administration are in continuous contact with Moscow on the matter. This seems therefore, quite trivial. Don’t attack certain objectives or will go to war; but hey! as far as the non specified objectives… be as it may. Really? In other words, don’t shut the lights over New York or we’ll send the 82nd. Airborne but we will not be that drastically inclined if you, let’s say, mess with the lights over Denver.
Specialists and professionals are spending enormous amount of time in searching for methods of including the AI developments and ideas into various technologies and the cyber threats are an important part of their efforts.
The scope is to find not only the ways to implement these methods but to service them in order to keep them up to date. Corporations and Government Agencies are hiring specialists who can identify in advance the threats and if at all possible, avoid them. Needless to say their success provides, sine qua non, for the benefits based on which these agencies and corporations can function in the present climate, either when it comes to security or commercial and financial profit. A majority of corporations agree that (AI) is vital for their security because of the ever growing and ever changing number of the attacks, especially since the traditional methods can no longer prevent them.
However, there is always the human factor versus the artificial intelligence factor. A lot of organizations complain that about 25% of the security efforts and preventions are rendered unsuccessful. Moreover the human factor we were talking about, is mostly the cause for failures.
A number of above 50% of the cyber security personnel complain about being overstressed.
Consequently, according to some studies by registered investment advisors, companies are prepared to invest in (AI)cyber security projects at an ever increasing pace. It is envisioned that these investments are about to grow from about $8 billion in 2019 to approximately $38 billion in 2026.
It is a welcome development not only for the purpose itself but also because within this process, other vulnerabilities and abnormalities can be spotted. Such developments can be very helpful in improving the products and as such contribute to increasing profits.
Talking about profits, Jeff Bezos, the owner of AMAZON company and the man considered to be the richest person on earth, almost flew into space recently. I say “almost” because some NASA representatives argue that the “Blue Origin” rocket Bezos embarked on, only reached the altitude considered the “edge” of the space and not “the space” per se. Irrelevant for our analysis.
The resounding success of the operation itself notwithstanding, one of the interesting and challenging implication, is the idea, totally based on the highest level in artificial intelligence, envisioned by Bezos himself upon his landing back on earth. He said: “the future of the planet – and those who inhabit it – depends on what can be accomplished in space. This sounds fantastical, what I’m about to tell you, but it will happen. We can move all heavy industry and all polluting industry off of Earth and operate it in space. And we do need to move heavy industry off Earth because this is the best planet. We’ve been to all the planets in this solar system with robotic probes – this is the good one.”
In any case, the main question remains the future of Artificial Intelligence and the fact that most world leaders although increasingly involved with the positive aspects of it, are still not concerned enough in identifying the dark and dangerous ones.
We are “summoning the demon” in our race to create an artificial super-intelligence, declared Elon Musk, the “TESLA” CEO, another billionaire involved with the future of science.
No matter where are they are positioned on the matter, most of these leaders and scientists agree that within the next 25-30 years or perhaps even sooner, the humankind will move to create a computer able to replicate the human brain and mind. Once this point is reached, this “super computer” may not only replicate but indeed replace the human mind. It will be able to take decisions overlapping or even replacing the human thinking in the decision making process. The effect will be anybody’s guess. Will we be able at this point in time to stop the process, to contradict it or to forbid it’s influence and power or will it be too late? Who knows?
This will be a time in which we will derail from the Judeo-Christian concept on which “man is created in God’s image” to the “new Bible” promoting the idea that “man is created in a computer’s image”.
Look at the already operating and gaining in popularity “self driving cars”. Who is driving them if not the (AI)?
Who is flying the drones that are delivering within minutes of online ordering, Amazon packages to their client’s addresses?
Civil airplanes have been flying by computers for a long time already. But there was always the pilot who might cancel the computer’s “thinking”. For now.
What if we have a Stealth bomber that can fly itself above a battlefield, without a pilot to supervise the flight? At this point it can decide by itself when, where and what objective to bomb, all without any human intervention. Scary!
Think about how the action, thru which humans used to kill each other throughout the history, was in part, dependent on the distance separating the fighters. You had to face your adversary in close proximity in order to kill him in a duel or even in the back of the horse on the battlefield. Then we invented artillery; then planes. We did not have to be in such proximity to kill each other. Later, the atomic bomb became the most threatening weapon and that could be sent from far away pushing a button that launches a rocket.
All these were not possible without a human touch, a human brain.
The artificial Intelligence will do away with such necessity. A self minded machine will be able to decide and perform this dark action while humans will become a negli-gible quantity.
Furthermore, a super intelligent device which learns how to think and perform by itself, may one day decide to target these little characters made out of water and carbon, who are moving around, crowding and agitating them. Why not do away with them for good and be quiet.
It is a nightmare. Right now we can only imagine these things while watching SCI FI movies but we should not forget that back at the time, Jules Verne’s books were considered the SCI-FI of those times and today it takes a lot less than 80 days to travel around the world.
That being said, (AI) is progress. Or is it? If we agree that progress doesn’t necessary means “good” but a diversity of good and bad, then yes, the level of intelligence we were able to project into a machine, is indeed progress.
The bad aspects we were signaling before are compensated by the good aspects. Think about the speed with which the health scientists were capable to come up with not one but a variety of vaccines against the COVID-19 virus, in the past year. Usually such vaccines take years to develop and verify. The artificial intelli-gence is by far the main favorable factor in saving millions of lives in just one year.
One other example is a new product also based on (AI). It is a tool employed to detect early signs of domestic violence and abuse. This is a serious matter nowadays, a matter that affects one in three women around the world. We are talking about financial, sexual, physical or psychological abuses.
Nobody claims “problem solved” or “mission accomplished”. The evil in the world still needs human intervention to be kept under control. But since this human intervention is not perfect either, the (AI) is a very precious and needed help.
To finish our analysis in a positive tone, let’s enumerate a few advantages the human race benefits from and are only possible via the (AI):
Controlling and reducing the human error to a lower level.
Ready to use anytime, 24/7.
In certain aspects that involve danger, the risks are taken by a machine rather than a human being.
Addresses some repetitive jobs allowing humans to avoid them and concen-trate on the productive work instead.
Allows perpetual digital assistance.
Has the ability to take faster decisions.
Capability to design new projects and create imaginative products, sometime better than humans.
Needs significantly reduced time when performing certain jobs.
Achieving goals without the necessary training a human needs.
In conclusion, let’s give the (AI) our careful confidence because the benefits are enormous while establishing universal aggregates that control its growth and direction.
And then… Hope for the best!
New York 10 August, 2021