The ‘age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)’ is upon us, and it’s rapidly developing. Looking to the future, it’s becoming increasingly clear that much of our world will soon be surrounded by AI-enabled tools and “smart” products. Not long ago, this may have sounded like far-fetched science fiction. But now, it’s widely accepted that AI will reshape our lives, transforming society as we know it.

While it’s important to keep up to date with artificial intelligence and its emerging capabilities, the speed of its development can make this tricky. Here we will cover what you need to know about the AI landscape in 2023, and why good cyber security is more important than ever.

What’s been happening over the past year?

Artificial intelligence – or ‘AI’ – isn’t new. In fact, the first recorded use of the term “artificial intelligence” came at an academic conference in 1956. But until recently, few humans had ever had an actual conversation with a robot. That changed on the last day of November in 2022, when ChatGPT, a chatbot that instantly generates human-like text responses to just about any question, was released to the public.

As of the summer of 2023, more than a billion people know exactly how it feels to talk to a machine. But as a society, we’re only on the cusp of seeing what AI is truly capable of.

What is generative AI, and why is it so popular?

Generative artificial intelligence – or generative AI – is a fast-emerging technology that can generate content ranging from images to music and text. Though it has recently become popular, thanks to the development and widespread availability of tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney, generative AI has existed for a long time. In fact, the first chatbot was created in 1960. OpenAI, the foundation that produces ChatGPT, has been working on developing advanced AI and the infrastructure that supports it since 2015.

Two of the most popular generative AI tools currently are ChatGPT and Midjourney. ChatGPT can use user input to create a humanlike and intelligent response to any question or statement. It can also be used to write essays or simply have a conversation. Midjourney is similar, but instead of generating text, it uses prompts to generate images instantly.

“The incredible popularity of ChatGPT along with the image generator Midjourney and a wide array of other AI-powered generators have made the possibilities of the technology much more tangible,” F-Secure’s Threat Intelligence Lead Laura Kankaala explains.

It’s safe to say that the acceleration of the technology that underpins tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney has been exponential. Before last year, we would only see such technology used at expos of major companies and controlled by professionals. Now, chatbots are poised to become our personal assistants, while picture-generating tools help design our homes, and ChatGPT can even code websites.

What are the risks and benefits of the rise of AI?

The benefits of AI are clear, as Kankaala explains, “AI will transform our lives – it will affect all types of industries, such as research into medicine, or even climate change. It can change our societies for the better, as long as we make sure we have safeguards in place.”

As we’ve established, AI does have its drawbacks. There are now much greater risks of cyber-based attacks, and cyber criminals will likely use this technology to build upon existing cyber crime techniques, making them more effective.

For example, AI can produce accurate voices and deep fakes which can effectively deceive people, through vishing and deepfake scams. It also has the power to make phishing and smishing more effective too. Plus, there is the risk of nation-state based cyberattacks, with officials from Europol and Singapore already issuing warnings of AI’s potential in the hands of bad actors.

In March of 2023, a group of academics and tech leaders issued an open letter calling on all “AI labs” to “pause” development of the model that powers ChatGPT to review the technology before the development of what’s known as “artificial general intelligence,” where machine intelligence will easily surpass human capabilities.

How will AI transform our lives?

AI is already all around us. It’s in our GPS systems, phones and laptops, smart home devices, and more. And as the technology develops, we will likely see it become even more ingrained in our daily lives. Even before the introduction of ChatGPT, a survey carried out by IBM showed that 44% of businesses were already looking to use AI. With all the developments over the past year, this figure will surely now have skyrocketed.

AI can help our society move forwards and enrich our lives, enabling us to bridge language barriers, improve communication, speed up projects, and even solve complex economic problems and climate issues in the future. But with these advancements comes risks, in particular surrounding how cybercriminals may use AI to make their scams more effective.

Kankaala explains it best, “The cliché you will hear a lot is that only good AI can stop bad AI. And that’s probably true, especially in the long run. But for now, we need to be much more worried about bad people using good AI. And the only way to fight against that is with good internet security, awareness, and diligence.”

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