ChatGPT Cybersecurity Risks and Impacts

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized many aspects of modern life, with applications in customer service and support, education and training, and virtual personal assistants. AI-based chatbots, in particular, have grown popular thanks to their ability to simulate human conversations and provide human-like responses through text box services and voice commands. Going by recent developments, ChatGPT seems to be the newest favorite toy on the Internet, and it’s easy to see why.

Already, there are fears that the chatbot could usurp long-established search engines like Google. On the flip side, some people are still skeptical about ChatGPT and consider it a serious cybersecurity threat. It raises the question, could ChatGPT become a security risk? If so, how can such risks become mitigated?

Today, we review the incredible rise of ChatGPT, the possible impacts on the cybersecurity landscape, and how to mitigate its risks. Let’s dive in.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is the latest and arguably the most interactive AI chatbot. It’s the brainchild of the AI research and deployment company, OpenAI. The chatbot got created to interact conversationally by answering follow-up questions, admitting mistakes, challenging incorrect premises, and rejecting inappropriate requests.

ChatGPT amassed more than one million users within the first two months of its launch, with many touting its ability to mimic human conversations and provide services across multiple fields. A standout feature of the chatbot is that it doesn’t merely offer an index of search results. Instead, ChatGPT leverages its AI capabilities to provide practical solutions to complex topics.

Unlike most AI chatbots, ChatGPT had training on extensive digital text scrapped from the Internet. As users tested the system, they were asked to rate the responses. OpenAI claims that the chatbot got created to promote and develop friendly AI. Nonetheless, there are fears that the chatbot could be counter-productive in the long run and that it’s a cybersecurity threat.

ChatGPT Phishing Risks

Phishing risks have been a lingering concern for the ChatGPT service, given that it exclusively learns from human data derived from the Internet. According to cybersecurity experts, it’s easy for hackers to use the AI chatbot to write phishing codes and emails and execute efficient and targeted attacks.

To warn users of the potential dangers of ChatGPT, Check Point Research used it alongside Codex (an OpenAI system that translates natural language to code). The creation of malicious phishing codes and emails aimed to illustrate the chatbot’s threat to the cybersecurity landscape.

Spoofing The ChatGPT Interface

ChatGPT has a UI interface where people provide text inputs. That makes it an obvious target for hackers to spoof the interface via phishing emails and attempt to trick users into providing sensitive information such as passwords and social security numbers. As a relatively new and bare-bones Beta product from a UI perspective, the ChatGPT interface doesn’t have much stability or familiarity from it’s users. IT managers must educate their end users on how to verify domains and interfaces are legitimate before providing inputs to the ChatGPT interface.

Growing Concerns About ChatGPT

Malicious actors can easily use ChatGPT to create malicious phishing codes, emails, and infection chains capable of targeting hundreds of computers concurrently. Such concerns don’t come as a surprise because any Internet-based product with a user interface where people provide information can easily become manipulated and used to trick users into providing their sensitive data.

A worrying concern about ChatGPT is that multiple scripts can get generated with minor variations using different wordings. Already, the chatbot can write emails indistinguishable from what’s written by humans and in any style. The system can generate website content, reviews, press releases, YouTube video scripts—basically everything a malicious actor needs to perpetrate a phishing attack.  

Furthermore, it’s relatively easy for attackers to use ChatGPT and similar platforms to create realistic-sounding emails. The open-source versions of the service are increasingly being availed. Anyone with advanced coding skills and access to compromised emails can conveniently train their AI systems on an organization’s stolen data.

Another critical concern is ChatGPT’s ability to generate human-like text. There’s potential for deep fake text indistinguishable from what human users create. With such text, anyone can spread misinformation or even impersonate individuals for malicious reasons.

Although cybercriminals can use ChatGPT to perpetrate attacks, there’s a lot you can do to prevent that from happening. Cybersecurity awareness training is effective in helping you thwart all forms of phishing attacks, including those perpetrated by AI chatbots. The cybersecurity awareness training provided by NetTech is one such program.

chat gpt boost productivity but comes with cybersecurity risks
Person working on computer with icons of Chatbot computer program designed for conversation with human users over the Internet.
Illustrating Chat GPT and cyber risks.

ChatGPT Programming Risks

Anyone with advanced computer skills can use ChatGPT to generate code. Indeed, this is a productivity boost, but it has hidden dangers. On paper, the chatbot can’t write malicious code when asked to do so because it has security protocols for identifying inappropriate requests. Nonetheless, the protocols can still become bypassed to attain the desired output.

That’s particularly true if the prompt is detailed and explains the steps of writing the harmful code rather than a direct prompt. In this case, ChatGPT will answer the prompt and effectively create malicious code on demand. Since cybercriminals already offer malware-as-a-service, the assistance of AI chatbots will make it even more straightforward for them to generate harmful AI-generated code.

ChatGPT provides less-experienced and skilled attackers the opportunity to write accurate malware code. It’s bad enough that malicious code is already widely available. AI chatbots like ChatGPT will likely exacerbate an already perilous situation by enabling virtually anyone to create harmful code themselves.

As an open-source program that can become easily manipulated, ChatGPT could usher in a wave of polymorphic malware. Its uncanny ability to write highly advanced code (good and bad) is particularly worrying. In addition, the malware written using ChatGPT contains no malicious code, so it’s challenging to detect and mitigate. Studies have also indicated that the chatbot can generate and mutate injection code, highlighting its programming risks.

Inability For Developers To Verify ChatGPT Generated Code

Experienced developers may be equipped to verify the integrity and security of code, but inexperienced developers can’t. Since ChatGPT is nothing more than a trained machine learning model, there isn’t much in terms of the ability for the AI bot to critically think and analyze the code it produces as secure or fit for the task at hand. Developers, especially junior developers need to be educated on the risks of ChatGPT code, and code still needs to be scrutinized through code review processes before being committed to higher environments like production.

The Malware Impacts of ChatGPT

An in-depth analysis of leading hacking communities has already established that cybercriminals are already using ChatGPT to develop malicious software, dark websites, and similar tools for enacting cyber-attacks. OpenAI claims there are restrictions on the chatbot’s use including using it for malware creation. However, that seems to be far from the truth.

Many users allude to the fact that it’s easy to work around such restrictions. Cybercriminals can create the malware they want by specifying what the chatbot should do and the steps to take. For this reason, using ChatGPT to create malware is akin to writing code in a computer class.

Using the chatbot, a malicious actor can conveniently create a file stealer designed to search for common file types that self-delete after becoming uploaded or when errors occur as the program runs. In doing so, all evidence is deleted, making the malware attack hard to detect and investigate. Furthermore, cybercriminals can use ChatGPT to effortlessly create a dark web market script for selling personal information stolen in data breaches, cybercrime-as-a-service products, and illicitly obtained payment card data.

When it comes to the malware impacts of ChatGPT, the greatest fear among cybersecurity experts is that it will democratize malware attacks by turning anyone into a malware and ransomware threat actor. Security teams can leverage the chatbot for defensive purposes like testing malware. However, it has significantly lowered the barriers to entry for malicious actors.

How to Mitigate Chat GPT Risks

Looking at the cybersecurity risks of ChatGPT, it’s easy to deduce that a lot can go wrong. Nonetheless, you can do a lot to prevent your team from falling victim to attacks generated by AI programs such as ChatGPT. The chatbot presents an opportunity to boost employee productivity and may help your company realize its target. Nonetheless, its deployment should be cautious, especially in high-risk operation areas. That can help mitigate some ChatGPT risks.

Another way to mitigate ChatGPT risks, albeit aggressively, is to block it using a network firewall. In doing so, employees won’t be able to access and use the chatbot within the company premises or while using the company’s infrastructure. However, taking this route means you could be missing out on the numerous productivity benefits of the chatbot and similar AI solutions.

Why Cybersecurity Awareness Training is Important

ChatGPT is a relatively new chatbot. The most effective way to combat its potential risks is by undertaking cybersecurity awareness training. It helps increase their awareness of cybersecurity issues and AI chatbots in particular. Training your employees on programs like ChatGPT helps them understand the chatbot and how to identify attacks perpetrated through it.

They will learn ways of reducing the cybersecurity vulnerabilities common at the individual level, including being unable to pinpoint phishing emails. Regardless of your organization’s size, facing a cyberattack is a matter of if and not when. With AI chatbots like ChatGPT becoming widely available, the threat landscape has intensified. There’s no better way to prepare for attacks than by providing cybersecurity training to your employees.

Besides helping to mitigate ChatGPT risks, cybersecurity training can help prevent downtimes if attackers manage to intrude into your systems. It could take weeks or even months to recover from a malware attack. Cybersecurity training adds a double layer to your security landscape. It can help you prevent attacks in the first place and deal with the aftermath if you suffer an attack.

Conclusion

AI chatbots are here to stay, and so are their cybersecurity risks. Creating a cyber-secure environment is the surefire way to mitigate the risks and prevent the fallout that accompanies cybersecurity attacks. At NetTech Consultants, we pride ourselves on providing top-notch cybersecurity training to prevent the unthinkable from ever occurring.

We help our clients cultivate a security-first culture. Our IT consulting services can help you deal with the risks arising from technologies such as AI chatbots. So, contact us for cybersecurity awareness training you can trust.

The NetTech Content Team

NetTech Consultants is a Jacksonville based managed IT services provider that serves SMBs and organizations in Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida. NetTech publishes content discussing information technology and cybersecurity concepts and trends in a business context.

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