When ChatGPT, OpenAI’s groundbreaking large language model (LLM), was launched in November 2022, its game-changing capabilities astonished users worldwide. Although previous LLM iterations have existed as far back as the 1960s, ChatGPT represents a phenomenal advancement in this technology.
This AI-powered virtual assistant certainly has numerous applications, such as answering questions on a wide range of topics, condensing lengthy documents, composing music and poetry, translating texts into multiple languages, writing code or simulating responses to customer service queries in a highly human-like fashion. However, all that glitters is not gold.
As the user base for ChatGPT and similar LLMs continues to expand, concerns regarding the potential for manipulation and misuse of these technologies have risen. Consider the vast amount of information users input into these tools and the potential repercussions if threat actors could access and exploit such data for malicious purposes. With the global incidence of data breaches already rising by 38% in 2022, business leaders must recognize the escalating cyber risks of AI-based technologies and take action to ensure their proper use.
Here are some of the potential cybersecurity risks posed by large language models like ChatGPT:
ChatGPT’s proficiency in crafting highly personalized and contextually relevant content can empower hackers worldwide to take their phishing campaigns to the next level. No more traditional phishing scams laden with poor grammar and awkward phrasing. The conversational abilities of ChatGPT can make it more challenging for users to distinguish AI-generated content from human-generated content, rendering social engineering attempts more powerful. For instance, a hacker can exploit the AI assistant to send a decoy message impersonating a company’s CEO and trick an employee into divulging privileged information or authorizing wire transfers.
Since ChatGPT operates in a virtual environment and interacts with multiple systems, it can contain vulnerabilities that bad actors can take advantage of. When a vulnerability is discovered and exploited, hackers can gain unauthorized access to the model, inject malicious code or malware into the system or manipulate its behavior to generate harmful or misleading content. Moreover, if ChatGPT users provide the tool with confidential information, such as financial data or protected health information (PHI), it could become an irresistible target for hackers looking to steal such valuable information.
ChatGPT requires substantial amounts of data to train effectively. It curates and captures information that can include sensitive data such as login credentials, personal identifiable information (PII), financial data, health records, confidential business data, legal information, biometric identifiers and even private conversations. Imagine the inherent privacy risks involved in storing and processing such personal information. Even without malicious intent, ChatGPT can generate responses that disclose private data, posing a threat to individuals or organizations. Much worse, if the model were to be trained using the company database, there would be a severe risk of unauthorized access or data misuse in the event of a breach.
It is important to note that ChatGPT, like all LLMs, does not possess inherent knowledge or fact-checking capabilities. It relies solely on the patterns and information it has learned from its training data. Therefore, it may confidently generate responses that appear factual but are, in fact, incorrect. Additionally, the model’s inability to verify the accuracy of the information or lack of access to real-time updates can contribute to the propagation of misleading information. When an AI system is trained on data that contains inaccuracies, outdated or fraudulent information, it can inadvertently perpetuate and disseminate false information, leading to potentially serious repercussions.
Relying heavily on centralized language models creates a single point of failure. If access to these models is disrupted, it can affect various applications that depend on them. Centralized language models are typically hosted on servers or cloud platforms. If these resources become unavailable due to technical issues, cyberattacks or other disruptions, it can have cascading effects. Online platforms that utilize language models for chatbots, customer support, content generation, data entry or language translation may be unable to deliver their services effectively. Businesses relying heavily on these models may face significant setbacks, impacting productivity, service-level agreement and customer satisfaction.
While specific instances have yet to be extensively documented, there have been reported cases where hackers have attempted to exploit ChatGPT to recreate malware strains. The vulnerability lies in ChatGPT’s ability to generate text in response to prompts. If persistent and creative, bad actors could carefully construct prompts to coax the model into producing code snippets that can be utilized for malicious purposes. For example, by engaging in a conversation with ChatGPT and steering the dialogue toward discussions on exploitation techniques, hackers may strategically inject prompts to elicit responses resulting in the generation of malicious code.
ChatGPT and other LLMs face a significant challenge in terms of governance and accountability. These models are trained on vast amounts of data from diverse sources – and when they generate offensive or harmful outputs, determining who’s responsible gets tricky. The dispersed deployment of these models can lead to unintended consequences, misinformation or biased content without deliberate intent. To address the accountability gap, it is crucial to establish clear guidelines, promote transparency in model development, foster industry collaborations and implement effective regulatory measures to ensure responsible use.
ddressing modern cyber risks requires robust security protocols and next-generation security solutions to ensure the responsible use of AI tools. Every organization, regardless of size and industry, must continuously fortify its security controls in order to safeguard customer trust and confidence.
With the rapidly evolving threat landscape, it has become a question of when, not if, you will fall victim to a cyber incident. It is more crucial than ever to surround your organization with multi-layered protection. Incorporate ongoing and up-to-date security awareness training for your employees, enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA) for your hybrid workforce and implement thorough incident detection and response practices across your organization. But beyond awareness and sophisticated technical controls, you need a dedicated team of security experts to manage continuous oversight.
Partner with an award-winning managed security service provider (MSSP) like Omega Systems to enhance your overall security posture, benefit from cost-effective solutions and stay ahead of emerging cyber risks. Omega’s complete end-to-end managed security service, Smart Secure, will give you peace of mind and allow you to focus on your core operations while confidently addressing growing cybersecurity compliance requirements.
Contact our security experts at Omega today to learn more.