North Korea had plans to direct a cyber attack against power grids in the United States and successfully launched an attack directed at South Korea's Ministry of Defense, NBC News reported. While the campaign may have failed, the attempts of North Korean hackers to target utility companies presents a growing risk for American companies that are responsible for keeping the lights on for millions of homes across the country. Many power grids operate on a network separate from the public internet, insulating the systems that control the grid from attackers. North Korean hackers were able to successfully infiltrate South Korea's defense ministry and stole a large collection of military documents that purport to detail wartime contingency plans developed by South Korea and the U.S. A total of 235 gigabytes of military documents were reported to be stolen from South Korea's Defense Integrated Data Centre in a breach that took place in September 2016, and 80 percent of those stolen files have yet to be identified.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning is making its way into more security products, helping organizations and individuals automate certain tasks required to keep their services and information safe. Kashyap, the senior vice president and chief product officer at Cylance--a cybersecurity firm known for its use of AI--doesn't view AI and machine learning as a replacement for human workers but rather as a supplemental service that can enable those workers to do their job more efficiently. He said there were now "billions of pieces of malware" in the wild, and "well thought-out cyber campaigns" being carried out on the regular, with targeted threats directed at individuals and organizations that require a more efficient way to check the validity of code and defend against attacks. With a widening gap between the number of security professionals needed compared to the number available--a shortage of more than 1.5 million is expected by 2020--Kashyap determined the issue no longer just required a human scale solution; it needed a computing solution.
That said, the government has recently begun to act on the issue, making a start with the security guidelines for smart homes. While it does make life easy, the fact remains that AI is based on algorithms and if a base algorithm is tampered with, AI can also be reprogrammed. Unless and until these risks are properly assessed and preventive measures to plug vulnerabilities are put in place, AI adoption needs to be closely monitored. Strict security guidelines need to be put in place by governments, while tech companies need address the issue more seriously, and start issuing regular updates to plug vulnerabilities the way they currently do for smartphones.