EUROPOL: Malicious Uses and Abuses of Artificial Intelligence

The emergence of new technologies is shaping the world in an increasing range of sectors. Though there are many ways to define these technologies and their varying functions, it is possible to sum them up briefly. Artificial intelligence, (AI) in particular, is ubiquitous in its applications and holds great promise to address a number of complex global challenges. By capitalizing on the unprecedented quantities of data, AI has shown potential from navigation and content recommendations to detecting cancer more accurately than human radiologists.

AI is a subfield of computer science (with many cross relationships to other disciplines) dedicated to the theory and development of computer systems that can perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, translation between languages, decision-making, and problem-solving. Machine learning (ML), itself a subfield of AI, consists of algorithms that use statistical techniques to give computer systems the ability to “learn” from data — that is to say, to progressively improve performance on a specific task. Compared to other computer software, ML algorithms do not require explicit instructions from humans but rather extract patterns and learn implicit rules from a considerable number of examples.

While AI and ML algorithms can bring enormous benefits to society, these technologies can also enable a range of digital, physical, and political threats. Just as the World Wide Web brought a plethora of new types of crime to the fore and facilitated a range of more non- traditional ones, AI stands poised to do the same.4, 5 In the continuous shift from analogue to digital, the potential for the malicious use of new technologies is also exposed.

Hence, while this report looks at the present state of both AI and ML technologies, it also seeks to predict the possible ways that criminals will exploit these technologies in the future — a task that though seemingly daunting, is paramount for the cybersecurity industry and law enforcement to undertake in the never-ending challenge to always stay one step ahead of criminals.


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By Vincenzo Ciancaglini, Craig Gibson, and David Sancho

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