AI surge could mean increased global ransomware threat, warns UK’s NCSC

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In a new report published by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in the UK, cyber chiefs have warned that the global ransomware threat is expected to rise with the use of artificial intelligence (AI). According to the report, AI is already being used in malicious cyber activity and will significantly increase the volume and impact of cyber attacks, including ransomware, in the near future. The report suggests that AI lowers the barrier of entry to novice criminals, thereby enabling relatively unskilled threat actors to carry out more effective access and information-gathering operations. The NCSC has urged organisations and individuals to strengthen their defences against cyber attacks and to follow their ransomware and cybersecurity hygiene advice. The report also notes that AI can improve the detection and counteraction of cyber attacks, offering substantial opportunities for cyber defenders.

Analysis from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has found that cyber criminals have already begun developing criminal Generative AI (GenAI) and offering it as a service, increasing the capability available to those willing to pay. However, the effectiveness of GenAI models will be limited by the quality and quantity of data on which they are trained. The NCA believes that ransomware will continue to be a major threat in the coming years due to the financial rewards it brings and its established business model. The report also suggests that AI adoption by cyber criminals will increase in the areas of fraud and child sexual abuse.

The NCSC is part of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and its findings concur with the Bletchley Declaration agreed upon at the UK-hosted AI Safety Summit in November, which highlighted the need for a global effort to manage the risks of frontier AI and ensure its safe and responsible development.

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