AI has gone from a sci-fi dream through a buzzword stage to a very real presence in today’s digital world. Practical AI application also brings evangelists who urge businesses to adopt now or never catch up. The technology is disruptive, transformative, and here to stay, but should you rush in?
This article takes a look at the impact that adopting artificial intelligence has on business security. It briefly outlines how AI can help your endeavors but focuses more on the associated risks. You’ll also find out how to meet the security challenge head-on & reap the most benefits with minimal risk.
Generative AI’s explosion into diverse fields we once thought reserved for human creative endeavor potentially benefits many aspects of business operation. Tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney have the widest reach since they’re a boon to marketing departments. Using them lets marketing teams create compelling copy and specific visuals while using far less time and resources.
The benefits don’t end there. AI tools already exist that can generate convincing speech from text. Some can even create training or promotional videos with a handful of careful inputs. Trained with enough data, an AI large language model or LLM could even speed up software development by suggesting the code needed to solve specific problems.
These are just the possibilities the general public has become aware of in the last year. They already promise unprecedented productivity growth. Companies may simultaneously cut costs by having AI tools replace part of their workforce.
And the risks you might not be aware of by implementing it
AI is spurring the newest digital gold rush, and apps developed to take advantage of it are flooding the market. It’s impossible to keep up with and anticipate every security risk. Moreover, companies must now face old cybersecurity threats supercharged by AI on the one hand and unique ones the technology brings on the other.
LLMs like ChatGPT work best when you feed them large amounts of accurate information and ask them to perform tasks through well-thought-out prompts. This may include exposing sensitive or confidential data in hopes of getting better results. The now infamous case of Samsung staff using proprietary company code in their prompts is just the most well-known incident.
If trained developers aware of cybersecurity best practices can commit such blunders, chances are the average worker will, too.
Since so many companies are already offering AI services, it’s unlikely that all have the safeguards to keep the data you put in private and encrypted. Even established services like ChatGPT keep a history of past interactions. Someone with access to an employee’s account could pull their history up and discover a trove of useful and sensitive information.
Strong passwords are an effective traditional defense against such threats. Deploying a company-wide password manager is even better. The business password manager ensures each employee has a unique set of uncrackable passwords for all their accounts. Human error can still play a part. However, a strong password guarantees a single compromised account doesn’t grant attackers access to others.
AI model poisoning
We’re at a stage in AI’s development that allows for easy manipulation and tampering. A malicious actor could feed false data into the model with serious consequences. For example, a compromised AI might suggest code that contains malware. Or, it could redirect users to spoofed versions of genuine sites and extract their data & use it for nefarious purposes.
Such poisoning isn’t always intentional. The AI works with the information it has, which might be incomplete or biased. This leads to erroneous responses more often than anyone should be comfortable with. And it seems to be getting worse. Moreover, using sources indiscriminately can influence AI’s results by enforcing past preconceptions and discrimination.
Compliance & legal issues
Providing inaccurate information can make a company vulnerable to regulatory and legal consequences. Some AI models also illegally use copyrighted material to fuel their output. Asking one to design a company logo or promotional material could end up with being charged with copyright infringement. The associated financial loss, not to mention the hit on the company’s good standing, is a major concern.
Unauthorized access & malicious insiders
AI is also changing the rules regarding some of our most trusted security means. Specifically, biometric means of access like voice & facial recognition have suddenly become much easier to bypass. For example, AI can convincingly imitate someone’s voice with only a few examples of the person’s speech. That opens the door for vishing (voice phishing), security breaches, and other unforeseen problems.
Malicious insiders were always a threat, but AI gives them further incentives. Such a person could try to use the AI to extract data or tinker with the underlying algorithms to give themselves an edge.
How should businesses approach AI’s security challenges?
When dealing with bleeding-edge technologies like AI, security solutions can’t immediately catch up. Even so, businesses can mitigate many concerns by adopting an approach that mixes tried & tested steps with challenge-appropriate innovation.
Data security remains the primary focus, so companies should deploy robust measures to maintain it. Up-to-date endpoint security is a must, as are protocols that stratify, monitor, and audit access.
Employees should only use trusted AI services and be able to reach them from outside the company without compromising security. A business VPN will help by setting up secure & encrypted access to your network resources. Some may wonder if a VPN is worth it, but if employees can use AI tools from anywhere without fear of eavesdropping or data theft, they’ll be more likely to take advantage of AI’s transformative possibilities.
Education plays a pivotal role in responsible AI use. Train your employees how to use AI effectively without giving sensitive information away. Inform your workforce of the risks and suggest the best practices to overcome them. The AI landscape is highly volatile, so remain informed to anticipate and forestall potential issues.
Featured image credit: Philipp Katzenberger/Unsplash