Articles / Letter to Trump on an Immediate AI-based Cyber Threat to Our Nation

on 02 Mar 2019

D.J. Trump, President of the United States

White House,Washington, D.C.

Sir:

Some recent work by Geoffrey Hinton and others, which is readily available in the literature, leads me to expect that deep learning techniques may be turned into a new and important source of cyber security weapon in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring to your attention the following facts and recommendations:

In the course of the last ten years it has been made probable – through the work ofFei-Fei Lin at Stanford and others – that it may be possible to set up a massive database of vulnerability and attack images that can train deep learning systems by which vast amounts of power would be generated in the area of both cyber security offense and defense. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.

This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of artificial intelligence-powered cyber offensive weapons, and it is conceivable – though much less certain – that extremely powerful cyber weapons of a new type may thus be constructed. A single cyber weapon of this type, carried across the Internet and targeting our national infrastructure, might very well destroy its target together with some of the surroundingsystems. However, such cyber weapons might very well prove to be too complex for use by any entity other than a well-funded nation state.

The United States has only very poor cyber security training data for AI in moderate quantities. There is some good data in our private businesses and citizenry, while the most important source of data is in China.

In view of the situation, you may think it desirable to have a more permanent contact maintained between the Administration and the group of computer scientists and cyber security experts working on artificial intelligence for cyber security applications in America. One possible way of achieving this might be for you to entrust with this task a person who has your confidence and who could perhaps serve in an official capacity. His task might comprise the following:

a) to approach Government Departments, keep them informed of the further development in AI-powered cyber weapons, and put forward recommendations for Government action, giving particular attention to the problem of securing a supply of security-relevant data from businesses and citizenry for training AI systems to detect vulnerabilities and attacks for the United States;

b) to speed up the experimental work, which is at present being carried on within the limits of budgets of University laboratories and private cyber security start-ups, by providing funds, if such funds should be required, through his contacts with privatebusiness and persons who are willing to make such contributions for this cause, and perhaps also by obtaining the co-operation of industrial laboratories which have the necessary AI-related computing, data, and platforms.

I understand that China has access to an unprecedented amount of training data for their military cyber weaponry. That she should have such capability might perhaps be understood on the grounds that Chinese scientists are rapidly advancing their interests in artificial intelligence and are likely to apply this directly to their military for information superiority, using available results on AI for cyber security where the work is now beingdone.

Yours very truly,

(Edward Amoroso)