Cyber spy agency warns foreign adversaries could ‘weaponize’ AI to influence next federal election | World News - Hindustan Times
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Cyber spy agency warns foreign adversaries could ‘weaponize’ AI to influence next federal election

Dec 07, 2023 11:38 AM IST

Canada’s cybersecurity intelligence agency has warned that foreign adversaries and hacktivists could “weaponize” artificial intelligence in an attempt to influence Federal elections in the country scheduled for late 2025.

Canada’s cybersecurity intelligence agency has warned that foreign adversaries and hacktivists could “weaponize” artificial intelligence in an attempt to influence Federal elections in the country scheduled for late 2025.

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Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, part of the Communications Security Establishment, released its Cyber Threats to Canada’s Democratic Process: 2023 Update, which included this warning. “Cyber threat actors are increasingly using generative artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance online disinformation. It’s very likely that foreign adversaries or hacktivists will use generative AI to influence voters ahead of Canada’s next federal election,” a release from the agency stated.

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The report noted that bad actors “are likely to weaponize generative AI within the next two years to create deepfake videos and images depicting politicians and government officials and to further amplify and automate inauthentic social botnets using text and image generators.”

It explained that the term deepfake videos referred “to machine learning models that use image and audio synthesis techniques to generate fake videos that can appear realistic and genuine to viewers.” This could result in such videos of events that never occurred adding to political division prior to elections.

“We judge that cyber threat activity targeting democratic processes are likely viewed by foreign adversaries such as China and Russia as an obscure and risk-averse way of impacting Canada’s policy outcomes,” the report stated.

It warned that content could be created using deepfakes from debates between political leaders prior to polls. “However, if cyber threat actors circulate deepfakes altering debate content, voters may be deceived. Even if the truth is made clear later on, the damage may lead voters to question the legitimacy of political debates in the future,” the report said.

While social media companies are trying to deal with the menace, CCCS assessed that “it is very likely that as technology develops, it will become better at fooling detection models, which will make it more difficult for social media companies to detect and automatically remove synthetic content before it reaches voters.”

Other than the AI-generated challenge, the report identified three other global trends.

First that cyber threat activity targeting elections was on the rise worldwide, with the proportion of polls targeted by increasing from 23 per cent in 2021 to 26 per cent in 2022.

Secondly, it stressed that Russia and China “continue to conduct most of the attributed cyber threat activity targeting foreign elections.” And, this is low risk, as most of the activity cannot be traced since in 2022, 85 per cent of cyber threat activity targeting elections was unattributed, meaning it could not be credited to a particular state sponsored actor.

“This latest assessment shows the growing impact of emerging technologies, like generative AI, as foreign adversaries look for new ways to target elections and influence voters,” Sami Khoury, Head, Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, noted.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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