Yesterday I published a piece on the need to better comprehend, and possibly to regulate, the implications which come from the use of new and highly sophisticated systems in the field of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). New applications with abilities to understand, and to respond, in natural language, or in the form of complex visual compositions are crossing a boundary line where it becomes very difficult for an unknowing observer to identify that the communication partner is an A.I. system. Their capabilities are scarily powerful, ranging from natural conversations through writing poems, articles or other complex pieces of writing, or even computer code, just based on natural language input.
I mentioned the possibility for such systems to be abused in malicious contexts. Like any modern piece of software, their inner workings are almost impossible to understand for people who do not take their time for an in-depth learning curve. At the same time, their capacities are fascinating. Meaning that they and their results are looking so good, and the dangers coming from their unregulated use appear so abstract, that they permeate into the real word with a speed which makes curbing unwanted effects a gigantic mission (almost) impossible.
Now, on the general dangers from this cyberworld, here a very comprehensive and meticulous documentation which the English version of the German news magazine DER SPIEGEL put online yesterday: “The “Vulkan Files”: A Look Inside Putin’s Secret Plans for Cyber-Warfare. I just want to recommend reading it. The full scale of Russia’s integral user of cyber weapons into regular warfare and State sponsored terrorism becomes very obvious. The report is based on comprehensive research including insider information which DER SPIEGEL conducted together with investigative partner organisations.
Looking at it, the strategic range of hostile activities, in and way beyond the current war of aggression raging against the Ukraine, becomes clear. Those hostile cyber activities are an integral part in larger operations, and they target the West, as well as any people posing a threat to Putin’s control regime. Which does not come at a surprise. Recent public discussions have made it very difficult to qualify what we collectiviely are finding ourselves in. People with authorized public voices have to tread their words very carefully, simply because any language of war can escalate a situation which is meant to be escalated by those in Russia who wage a war against the Ukraine, and who, that would be safe to say, are extremely hostile against the West, and do not hesitate to lure the West into a larger scale conflict of some kind. Oh, no, wrong: We are already in a larger scale conflict, and we try to defend ourselves, and to de-escalate that situation back into the realm of international diplomacy.
Subject to attacks in the cyber-realm are any people, organisations, or infrastructure deemed worthy to be attacked in gaining influence, information, control, manipulate through desinformation, influence public opinion, or just to exercise visible destructive power. It does not matter whether it is you, a civilian or a military or a political target, or an industrial or government target. Depending on the malicious intent, literally everyone is subject to these attacks, like, influencing your opinion and framework of perception of Russia’s war activities, and Putin and his collaborators committing crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
DER SPIEGEL is able to exhibit the contours of the full scale of it, and only by one of those actors who try to use this cyber-power. A lot has been written about others, such as in Iran, in North Korea, or in China. But the Russian side of things becomes more and more obvious, partly because, as DER SPIEGEL states, these activities are not even meant to be covert to a full extent any more. But make no mistake, the cutting edge use of state of the art tools will always be kept in the dark.
Stating what we all should know. But in this context, new A.I. tools such as language based models, are already being used, and are increasingly being used. They may become the new “power tool”.
Few things are more important than systematic cyber security strategies, including police and military defense and deterrence. In countries of the European Union, in countries aspiring to join the E.U., and generally within countries who contribute the upholding of principles including Human Rights, a rule of law, and democracy as a means of basing the power on the will expressed by the people, not by dictators, oligarchs, autocrats, or, I may add, any people who put their own power beyond the limits of a rule of law. Those inlude Organized Crime.
In some countries I work in, these vulnerabilties take the form of wide open barn doors. There is a need to collectively close these doors. Yes, the Internet is about freedom of communication and information exchange, for the prosper of All. But exactly this is under attack. Often invisible. Until massive cyber attacks bring governance to a screeching halt. Which is what we have witnessed in some countries not mentioned in DER SPIEGEL, between 2019 and 2022.