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Artificial intelligence

AI time bombs could sneak cyberattacks past watchful eyes

February 22, 2018

Malicious code hidden inside neural networks could hijack things like image recognition algorithms long after people start using them.

The situation: Image recognition AIs can be tricked quite easily, which raises the specter of, say, a cyberattack convincing a self-driving car to ignore a stop sign. But what if malware could be woven into algorithms so that they were, in effect, programmed to mess up?

The fear: A new paper shows how certain neural networks could be tainted by sneaking in malicious code. The nefarious program then sits there, waiting for a trigger that activates it to hijack the system and force it to start falsely predicting or classifying data.

Why it matters: The US government already worries that hardware built in other countries could have back doors that allow foreign agents to spy on or take control of computerized systems. High-tech paranoia? Maybe. But this latest work suggests that even AI isn’t immune to digital cloak-and-dagger tactics.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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