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Top 6 AI Security Risks and How to Defend Your Organization

AI Security Risks

What Are AI Security Risks? 

AI security risks include vulnerabilities and potential threats that arise from the use of artificial intelligence technologies. These risks can lead to unauthorized access, manipulation, or misuse of AI systems and data, or they might involve the use of AI technology to attack other systems. As AI models become more complex and widespread, the attack surface for malicious actors expands, making it crucial to understand and mitigate these risks.

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Primary concerns include adversarial attacks aimed at deceiving AI models, unauthorized data access leading to privacy breaches, manipulation of data to skew AI decisions (data poisoning), and theft of proprietary AI models. Addressing these risks requires a security strategy tailored to the challenges posed by AI. 

This article is part of a series about AI security.

The Rise of Generative AI and the Impact on Security 

Generative AI technologies, in particular large language models (LLMs) like OpenAI GPT and Google Gemini, can be used both to improve security measures and to introduce new threat vectors. As generative AI becomes increasingly integrated into cybersecurity operations, it aids in automating complex processes such as threat detection and response planning. 

However, malicious actors are beginning to exploit these same technologies to create sophisticated attacks that are harder to detect and mitigate. Generative AI can produce realistic content for phishing campaigns, creating more convincing fake identities or messages to deceive users and penetrate security defenses. 

Additionally, generative AI is capable of creating highly realistic images and videos, leading to the proliferation of deepfakes. These manipulated media can be used to impersonate individuals, spread misinformation, or defame targets. The ease with which deepfakes can be produced poses significant challenges for verifying the authenticity of visual and audio content, complicating efforts to maintain trust and security in digital communications.

Top AI Security Risks and Threats

Here are some of the main security risks associated with AI technologies.

1. AI-Powered Cyberattacks 

AI-powered cyberattacks use artificial intelligence to conduct attacks that are more sophisticated, targeted, and difficult to detect. They can automate the discovery of complex vulnerabilities, optimize phishing campaigns, and mimic human behavior to bypass traditional security measures. The automation and adaptability of AI enables these attacks to scale rapidly and evolve in response to defensive tactics. 

2. Adversarial Attacks 

Adversarial attacks target AI models by manipulating input data to trick the system into making incorrect decisions or providing harmful outputs. They exploit vulnerabilities in the model’s algorithms by injecting inputs that appear benign to the model, but lead to undesired outputs by the AI. This technique can affect various applications—from tricking LLMs into participating in cybercrimes, to misleading autonomous vehicle systems, to bypassing facial recognition security measures.  

3. Data Manipulation and Data Poisoning 

Data manipulation and poisoning attacks aim at compromising the integrity of the training data used in AI models. By inserting false or misleading information into the dataset, attackers can skew the model’s learning process, leading to flawed outcomes. This type of attack targets the foundation of AI systems—their learning data—corrupting their decision-making capabilities. This can have a devastating impact on users of AI models in high-impact fields like healthcare, finance, automotive, and HR.

4. Model Theft 

Model theft is where attackers aim to replicate and steal proprietary AI models. This enables attackers to understand and exploit the model’s weaknesses, as well as disable safeguards and use it for criminal purposes. Extracting an AI model involves obtaining the software or source code through unintended exposure, organizational leaks, or by penetrating protected computer systems.

5. Model Supply Chain Attacks 

Model supply chain attacks target the components involved in the development and deployment of AI models. They compromise the integrity of AI systems by injecting malicious code or data into third-party libraries, training datasets, or during the model transfer process. This can lead to security breaches, including unauthorized access to sensitive information or manipulation of model behavior. 

6. Surveillance and Privacy 

Surveillance and privacy concerns relate to the potential for misuse of AI technology to monitor individuals without their consent. AI systems, particularly those involving facial recognition and data analytics, can be exploited for mass surveillance, raising ethical and legal issues. The problem is exacerbated by the risk that data collected by AI fall into the hands of cybercriminals or hostile state actors.

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Defending Your Organization: AI Security Best Practices

Here are some of the ways that organizations can help ensure the security of their AI systems.

1. Implement Data Handling and Validation 

Ensuring data integrity involves implementing stringent measures to authenticate the source and quality of data before using it to train AI models. This includes conducting thorough checks for anomalies or manipulations that could compromise model performance. 

Applying rigorous validation techniques helps identify and address inaccuracies in datasets, protecting against data poisoning attacks that aim to skew AI decisions. Data handling practices must also prioritize privacy and compliance with regulatory standards, requiring encryption of sensitive information and adherence to data minimization principles.  

2. Limit Application Permissions 

Limiting application permissions ensures that AI systems have only the necessary access rights to perform their functions. This minimizes the risk of unauthorized actions and reduces the damage from compromised AI applications. With the principle of least privilege, organizations can control access to data and systems, protecting against internal and external threats.

Regular audits of permission settings help identify and address excessive privileges that could be exploited by attackers. Organizations should establish a process for continuously monitoring and adjusting permissions in line with changing requirements. 

3. Allow Only Safe Models and Vendors 

Adopting AI technologies requires rigorous vetting of models and vendors to ensure they meet security standards. This involves evaluating the security practices of third-party vendors and scrutinizing the design and implementation of AI models for potential vulnerabilities. By allowing only AI solutions that have passed security assessments, organizations can reduce the risk of introducing insecure components into their systems.

Maintaining an allowlist of approved models and vendors can simplify the procurement process while ensuring consistency in security criteria. Regular updates to this list, based on continuous monitoring and reassessment, ensure that only current, safe AI technologies are used.  

4. Ensure Diversity in Training Data 

Diverse training data is important for developing AI systems that are fair and effective across varied scenarios and populations. A diverse dataset minimizes the risk of bias in AI decisions, promoting fairness, and also reduces the risk of data poisoning and dataset manipulation. This involves collecting data from a wide range of sources and ensuring it represents different demographics, behaviors, and conditions accurately. 

By prioritizing diversity in training data, organizations can enhance the performance of AI models while mitigating the risks associated with biased outcomes. Continuous evaluation of training data for diversity helps identify gaps or biases that may emerge as AI systems evolve.  

5. Use AI-Driven Security Solutions 

AI-enabled security solutions use machine learning algorithms and generative AI to identify patterns and anomalies that indicate potential security incidents and even automatically respond to incidents. In particular, advanced security solutions based on LLMs can be used to detect and counter phishing attacks and other threats leveraging generative AI.

By automating the detection process, AI security tools can reduce the time to identify and respond to threats, enhancing the security posture of an organization. By automating responses, AI security tools can reduce the load on security teams and reduce the time to mitigating risks.

6. Conduct Continuous Monitoring and Incident Response 

Continuous monitoring involves the constant surveillance of AI applications and infrastructure to detect anomalies and potential issues in real time. By tracking key performance indicators, data distribution shifts, and model performance fluctuations, organizations can quickly identify irregularities that may indicate a security breach or malfunction.

Incident response complements continuous monitoring by providing a structured way to address security incidents. This includes predefined procedures for isolating affected systems, analyzing the breach’s scope, and implementing remediation strategies. A swift and coordinated incident response minimizes the impact of attacks, ensuring business continuity and protecting data.

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What Are AI Security Risks? 

AI security risks include vulnerabilities and potential threats that arise from the use of artificial intelligence technologies. These risks can lead to unauthorized access, manipulation, or misuse of AI systems and data, or they might involve the use of AI technology to attack other systems.

What are the Top AI Security Risks and Threats?

Here are some of the main security risks associated with AI technologies.
1. AI-Powered Cyberattacks
2. Adversarial Attacks
3. Data Manipulation and Data Poisoning 
4. Model Theft 
5. Model Supply Chain Attacks 
6. Surveillance and Privacy 

What are the AI Security Best Practices?

Here are some of the ways that organizations can help ensure the security of their AI systems.
1. Implement Data Handling and Validation
2. Limit Application Permissions
3. Allow Only Safe Models and Vendors 
4. Ensure Diversity in Training Data 
5. Use AI-Driven Security Solutions 
6. Conduct Continuous Monitoring and Incident Response