Emerging Generative AI Malware and Phishing Attacks

Emerging Generative AI Malware and Phishing Attacks

Emerging Generative AI Malware and Phishing Attacks are on the rise and here’s why. Advancements in Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) have brought forth groundbreaking innovations in various fields, including natural language processing, image and voice generation, and more. However, malicious actors have found ways to exploit these GenAI tools, such as ChatGPT, Bard, and others, to create malware or conduct phishing campaigns. This blog post aims to answer essential questions about GenAI and its misuse, as well as provide insights into how to protect against these threats.

Generative AI is artificial intelligence that focuses on creating new content, including text, images, or sound. It leverages machine learning algorithms and large datasets to generate convincing, human-like content by learning patterns and understanding the underlying structure. Generative AI tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and the Bard language model have revolutionized content generation, but their capabilities have also attracted cyber criminals.

Generative AI Powered Cyber Attacks

There have been a few incidents where GenAI has been misused for malicious intent. In 2021, cybercriminals used generative AI tools to generate custom phishing emails, targeting specific organizations and individuals. These emails contained malicious payloads that, when opened, would encrypt the victim’s files and demand a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. 

In 2022, experts discovered that cybercriminals were using AI-generated photos to create fake LinkedIn profiles for social engineering purposes. The fake profiles were used to connect with real professionals to extract information or gain access to networks.

In 2021, a phishing attempt using a deepfake audio trick resulted in a $35 million corporate heist. The attacker used an AI-powered voice-spoofing tool to impersonate a director’s voice and instruct an employee to transfer funds to a foreign bank account.

These GenAI phishing attacks are effective because of three main points: convincing content, personalization, and automation. GenAI tools generate content that is often indistinguishable from human-generated text, making it difficult for recipients to differentiate between legitimate and malicious messages.

Who is Behind the Emerging Generative AI Malware and Phishing Attacks?

Cybercriminals from various backgrounds and affiliations, including organized crime groups, nation-state actors, and lone hackers, have found GenAI to be a valuable asset in their malicious activities. The versatility and accessibility of these technologies make them a unique aspect for a wide range of cybercriminals, from organized crime groups to lone hackers. As GenAI tools continue to advance, organizations and individuals must remain vigilant and adopt effective countermeasures to protect themselves against this growing threat. 

The emerging challenge is GenAI-generated phishing emails can be easily tailored to specific individuals or organizations, increasing the likelihood of a successful spear-phishing attack. This leads to cybercriminals ultimately automating the generation of phishing emails, allowing them to conduct large-scale spear-phishing attacks more efficiently.

How Can Organizations Reduce the Risks Caused by GenAI Cyber Attacks?

Mitigating the risk of GenAI exploitation requires a multi-faceted approach that combines technological solutions, employee training, and policy development. Here are some steps organizations and individuals can take to protect themselves from the potential misuse of GenAI tools: 

✅  Security awareness training: Regularly educate employees about the latest cyber threats, including those involving AI. Teach them how to identify phishing emails, deepfake content, and other AI-generated malicious material. Emphasize the importance of verifying the source of any suspicious communications and reporting incidents to the appropriate personnel.

✅  Robust cybersecurity measures: Implement strong and up-to-date cybersecurity solutions, such as endpoint protection (antivirus) software, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, safe web browsing filters, and advanced threat protection software. These tools can help detect and block GenAI-generated malware, phishing attempts, bogus links and other threats before they cause harm. 

✅  Develop and enforce security policies: Establish clear guidelines and policies for employees regarding the use of AI and GenAI tools within the organization. Ensure that employees understand data protection responsibilities and the potential risks associated with GenAI technologies and the steps they must take to prevent their misuse.

The Road Ahead for Gen-AI and Cybersecurity

Generative AI, despite its many benefits, has also provided cyber criminals with powerful tools to conduct sophisticated phishing and malware campaigns. Organizations must stay vigilant and invest in security awareness training to mitigate these risks. Users should remain cautious as they explore trends in technology and GenAI. Enterprises should consider using fine-tuned models that are trained on enterprise data. It is important not to use large language models without eliminating “hallucination” problem. It is vital to put together a specialized framework of people, processes and technology to safeguard enterprise data from inadvertent release into LLMs. 

Continuously provide ongoing education and resources to help employees, executives and boards recognize and avoid phishing attempts, such as suspicious emails or links that could lead to malware or data breaches. By staying vigilant and following best practices for cybersecurity, we can help keep your organization safe from emerging  GenAI malware and phishing attacks. Learn more by watching our on-demand webinar: Ensuring Data Privacy with Generative AI LLMs like ChatGPT and Bard.

About the Author

Michael Marrano, MS, CISSP, CISM, CISA

Michael is an information security expert, practitioner, writer, speaker, and the founder of Riskigy Cybersecurity Advisors. With an extensive list of degrees, certifications and over 25 years in technology and cybersecurity, Michael specializes in security assessments, security strategy development, and fractional vCISO leadership engagements to help organizations, investors and service providers enhance cybersecurity compliance.

Michael is a Human Intelligence builder and shares his cybersecurity awareness advice and tips in weekly social posts, a blog and newsletter. Engage Michael now to discuss the latest cybersecurity, privacy and tech headlines and risks with your audience. Available for keynotes, presentations, lectures, spokesperson, panelist, webinars, podcasts and guest speaker engagements.

Learn more about Riskigy vCISO services www.riskigy.com 

Connect with Michael on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/michaelmarrano