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Genuine or Scam? AI Is Making Detection Of Email Fraud Challenging

NCSC alerts that soon, beginners can conduct complex phishing using generative AI tools.
Image Source: Photo by Torsten Dettlaff |Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Torsten Dettlaff |Pexels

Artificial intelligence (AI) is advancing rapidly, and the UK's cybersecurity agency, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), is warning that this progress comes with potential risks. The focus is on a particular type of AI called Generative AI, which can create convincing text, voice, and images. This technology is becoming more accessible to the public through tools like ChatGPT and free-to-use versions.

The NCSC is concerned that AI will make it tough for people to distinguish between genuine emails and phishing attempts. Phishing involves tricking individuals into revealing passwords or personal details. Due to the sophistication of AI tools, especially Generative AI, these phishing messages are becoming harder to identify.

Image Source: Photo by Pixabay |Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Pixabay |Pexels

Generative AI, along with large language models that power chatbots, is expected to increase the volume and impact of cyber-attacks over the next two years. The NCSC, which is part of the GCHQ spy agency, emphasizes the challenges in identifying various types of attacks, such as spoof messages and social engineering.

The NCSC predicts a rise in ransomware attacks, citing incidents targeting institutions like the British Library and Royal Mail in the past year. Ransomware involves hackers paralyzing computer systems, extracting sensitive data, and demanding cryptocurrency ransoms. The agency points out that AI's sophistication makes it easier for amateur cybercriminals to access systems and gather information.

Generative AI is already being used to craft deceptive content, making phishing attacks more convincing. This technology helps create fake documents that don't contain the usual errors, making it harder for individuals to recognize phishing attempts. While it doesn't necessarily enhance the effectiveness of ransomware code, Generative AI aids in sifting through and identifying potential targets.

Image Source: Photo by Tatiana Syrikov |Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Tatiana Syrikov |Pexels

The NCSC reports an increase in ransomware incidents, with 706 cases in the UK in 2022 compared to 694 in 2021. It raises concerns about state actors having enough malicious software to train AI models, creating new code capable of avoiding security measures. The agency suggests that highly capable state actors are likely to leverage AI in advanced cyber operations.

Despite the threats posed by AI, the NCSC acknowledges its potential as a defensive tool. AI can be used to detect cyber-attacks and design more secure systems. This dual role highlights the complexity of the AI landscape in the cybersecurity realm.

As a response to the increasing threat of ransomware, the UK government has introduced new guidelines encouraging businesses to improve their resilience. The "Cyber Governance Code of Practice" aims to elevate information security to the same level as financial and legal management. However, cybersecurity experts, including former NCSC head Ciaran Martin, call for stronger action. Martin emphasizes the need for fundamental changes in how public and private bodies approach the ransomware threat.

Cover image source: Pexels | Photo by Sora Shimazaki
Cover image source: Pexels | Photo by Sora Shimazaki


In conclusion, the rapid advancements in AI, particularly Generative AI, pose both opportunities and challenges in the cybersecurity landscape. While these technologies enhance the sophistication of cyber-attacks, they also offer potential solutions for defense. Striking a balance between leveraging AI for security measures and mitigating its misuse by cybercriminals is crucial in safeguarding against evolving threats.