See more about Marc here. Ever since HAL malfunctioned and killed most of the astronauts aboard ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey, we’ve been wary of the dangers of artificial intelligence. Then the movie I, Robotcame out with the notion of AI armies and we really started wondering whether AI wasn’t going to result in total destruction of the human race.
“It’s smarter than us. It can take over. Someday we won’t be able to control it and it will take over as the dominant species on Earth”
AI Can be Militarized. It Can Change Our Culture. But This is About Something Else
The militarization of artificial intelligence à la “I, Robot” is one obvious danger to consider. And HAL- well HAL simply malfunctioned. Then there are some who fear the cultural implications of AI, which include the death of innovation.
These are worrisome outcomes for the development of AI but there’s a more immediate concern to consider and that’s the threats to security and privacy posed by the Internet of Things as it feeds AI ever-increasing stores of data about our daily lives.
AI and the Internet of Things
From the moment Apple’s Siri was launched as a feature of the iPhone 4S in 2011, artificial intelligence has made its way into our personal lives. Now we have Mark Zuckerberg’s Tony Stark-like home assistant to look forward to: a personal assistant who screens your phone calls, pays your bills, keeps your home comfortable and finds good things to watch on Netflix.
Not everyone has an intelligent personal assistant yet, but we do increasingly own smart technology and in some cases wear it. From our FitBit bracelets to our programmable thermostats, we’re connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) in more ways than we probably realize. And it’s growing.
Plus, there are the commercial apps on your phone, electronic financial transactions, internet browser activity, your digitized health records, the insurance you buy, the investments you make- all are part of a growing sector of daily life that collects your data.
If you use a robo-advisor to manage your portfolio, you already know that platform has a lot of personal information about you, and not just financials. Those platforms use behavior and psychological data to assemble your mix of securities, too. Imagine the impact of combining that info with your medical records.
Now consider this: the IoT feeds that data to various business systems that crave such information. They then use data to make important bottom-line decisions that will invariably affect your life. Two main examples of this are the finance industry and the insurance industry.
Insurtech is Disseminating AI Into All of Modern Life
Of course, nobody’s forcing you to buy an intelligent fitness tracker. You don’t have to use a robo-advisor to manage your investment portfolio, either. But if you participate in a healthcare system, then chances are you have or will soon come into contact with one of the many ways AI is changing the industry.
“Insurtech”, as it’s known, is the application of AI to any number of touchpoints across the medical and health insurance spectrum. Real-time geolocated doctor appointment bookings are only the beginning. Imagine sending your doctor snapshots of a wound over time so he can check how it’s healing. Or capturing your own EKG at home while your doctors receive alerts if anything is amiss. Even the very hardware many people already use at home for medical purposes (glucometers, for example) might be tied into the IoT.
Insurtech startups sprouting up constantly, too. They collect personal data for clients for any number of useful reasons, such as:
- reduce expenses
- improve relationships with insurers
- reduce risk
- improve the quality of customer service
So… Security of the IoT?
During a battle, military generals prefer not to expose a large area of their troops because, of course, that’s a vulnerability. The more spread out they are, the thinner the ranks and the more open to attack they’ll be. It’s the same with the IoT.
The IoT creates a bigger attack surface for hackers and other malicious threats. For security professionals, the difference between defending a corporate data structure from attack and defending that same structure once it’s connected to the IoT is vast. Compare it to defending a bank and defending a country.
Next, consider the implications of a security breach with the IoT involved. It’s one thing if your phone gets hacked. Annoying but probably not life-threatening. What happens when an AI system linked to insurtech gets hacked? You’re looking at control of pacemakers, home health-monitoring systems, your health records, and more falling into the wrong hands.
Now extend that idea broader, beyond insurtech to the entire IoT. Hackers could now have multiple points of entry (your smart coffee maker, for example) for reaching important systems like your car, your robo-advisor platform, the airplanes you ride, or even the nation’s power grid.
AI & Security Breaches
Right now, the biggest threat to business data security is insider threats. Don’t let that obscure the bigger security issue looming on the horizon: AI.
The cyber security industry is now working on AI systems that would protect us from data breaches. What happens, however, when an AI security system turns on its employer and performs an inside job, so to speak? When will the first AI-caused data breach take place? The malicious intent of a human hacker may pose a certain threat, but the consequences of a data breach caused by AI could be devastating, given the very “connected” nature of AI.
Experts agree that there are basically two main security risk factors with Artificial Intelligence:
- the code
- the connection to the Internet
That means there are two ways hackers can breach AI: through the hardware itself (your fitness bracelet) or remotely, through the code. The key to averting a data breach is an immediate allocation of resources to develop failsafe security processes to prevent these breaches.
The world can never have enough smart people working on this. Much like today’s cyber security specialists try to stay one step ahead of hackers, tomorrow’s will do the same- only on a much grander scale.