March 27, 2023
4 Min Read
We constantly hear in the news that cyber threats are accelerating, and that security teams are struggling to keep up with the rate of development. It’s both true, and not surprising. The entire history of humanity tells us this is pretty much bound to happen.
While cyberattacks are attacks on technology, the attack tools are also themselves pieces of technology. The rate of technology development has been accelerating for as long as technology has existed; there’s no reason why it should stop any time soon and there’s no reason why attack tools shouldn’t follow the same trend.
To get an appreciation of how technological development has accelerated, it’s instructive to look at the timelines.
About a decade after internet protocols were drafted the first self-replicating internet worm was released. This was still a few years before the internet was something that most people had access to at all, let alone used, let alone relied on for nearly all the necessities of life.
The number of innovations that have happened since the internet became widespread is beyond counting. As anyone in the security space knows though, not all of those innovations have been good.
Yes, we’ve built space stations, learnt to edit genes, put supercomputers in the pockets of half the world’s population and developed mRNA vaccines. Unfortunately, we’ve also come to completely rely on tools that have only been in existence for 0.001% of the time that tools have been around. The same acceleration of development that has allowed us to advance so fast has also allowed the attacks on these systems to rapidly advance as well.
Here, today, in 2023, roughly 3.4 million years after our ancestors started making tools, there is a great deal of talk about a new class of tool, and one tool in particular: Artificial Intelligence, and specifically ChatGPT.
ChatGPT isn’t alive, and it’s not magic, although it comes close to being an example of what science fiction author, Arthur C. Clark meant when he wrote that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” In fact, it’s just another, even more powerful tool. Since the first stone hunting axe was used to club another hominid, tools have been used for both good and bad. ChatGPT will be no different; it will be able to do both good and evil, both better and faster than before. That’s just the way that technology goes.
So yes, the attackers are innovating faster than ever. It’s not going to let up. We have to live with it. But remember, innovation works for good as well. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can be, and are being, used to protect as well as attack. Bad people will try to use huge machine learning models like ChatGPT to develop new attacks, but good people will be using them to come up with new defenses. These tools may all be very new, but it’s important to remember that in some way, it’s just the same as it’s been for millions of years!
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