February 24, 2024

AI Intensifying Global Ransomware Threat, Warns The NCSC

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) published a report on January 24, highlighting the near-term impact of AI on the looming cyber threat.

The growing adoption of artificial intelligence and the constantly improving capabilities of AI tools will increase the already severe threat posed by ransomware gangs, cybersecurity experts in the UK have warned.

The cybersecurity agency assessed that artificial intelligence is making it easier for novice cybercriminals in a number of ways. It enables even unskilled criminals to pull off successful cyberattacks, including ransomware attacks.

Here’s How AI Is Helping Cybercriminals

Until now, one of the most common ways to identify scammers has been their poorly written emails and texts, often filled with grammatical errors.

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT can now change this by helping scammers and other cybercriminals produce more convincing messages to prey on unsuspecting victims.

A growing number of publicly available AI tools are making it increasingly easy to generate text, image, and voice messages using nothing but simple hand-typed prompts.

NCA director-general for threats, James Babbage, agrees that advancements in AI will likely cause the ransomware threat to increase in the coming years.

Additionally, cybercriminals can also use AI to identify vulnerable targets, the NCSC warned. “AI services lower barriers to entry, increasing the number of cyber criminals, and will boost their capability by improving the scale, speed, and effectiveness of existing attack methods”.

The report warned that there might also be a spike in fraud and child abuse.

The biggest threat that AI would help amplify, however, is ransomware. Previously identified by the NCSC as the biggest cyber threat faced by the UK, ransomware attacks involve cybercriminals stealing data or locking access to files in a system by encrypting them.

Hackers can then extort hefty ransoms from their victims by threatening to leak stolen data or wreaking financial havoc by refusing to reopen access to locked systems.

According to the National Crime Agency (NCA)’s findings, cybercriminals are already developing malicious versions of generative AI models. This, in turn, allows anyone to acquire better hacking tools with ease.

Must Harness the Potential of AI While Managing Its Risks, Says NCSC Chief

Lindy Cameron, the chief executive of the NCSC said that despite the growing cyber threats due to artificial intelligence, the technology should still be embraced.

We must ensure that we both harness AI technology for its vast potential and manage its risks – including its implications on the cyber threat.Lindy Cameron

Cameron also went on to describe the growing use of AI in cybercrimes as “evolutionary” rather than “revolutionary”, explaining that while it increases existing risks, the risk landscape itself won’t be getting transformed in the near term.

The NCSC is doing all in its power to ensure that AI systems are designed to be secure, she assured while urging individuals and organizations to follow the agency’s guidelines.

AI can also be used as a defensive tool against malicious actors, the report noted, pointing out that it can help design more secure systems and detect cyber-attacks.

Not too long ago, the UK government published the “Cyber Governance Code of Practice” – a set of guidelines that encourage businesses to stay better equipped to prevent and recover from ransomware attacks.

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