The UK's cybersecurity agency has warned of the looming threat that artificial intelligence (AI), specifically 'deepfakes' and other AI tools, pose to the integrity of the country's upcoming elections. The agency has highlighted troubling increases in cyberattacks and the rapid proliferation of state-aligned actors.
Emerging AI Threats to Elections
According to the UK's National Cyber Security Center, the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence technologies, specifically 'deepfakes' and other AI tools, poses significant challenges to the integrity of the forthcoming national elections. Deepfakes use AI to create hyper-realistic but entirely artificial audio and video content. The fear is that such content could be used to spread disinformation during the campaign period, thereby impacting voters' perceptions and potentially the election outcome itself.
Rise of State-aligned Cyber Threats
Alarmingly, the cybersecurity agency's annual review noted the rise of state-aligned actors as a new significant cyber threat to the national infrastructure, including power, water, and internet networks. These actors, often motivated by ideology rather than financial gain, reportedly have sympathies towards Russia's further invasion of Ukraine. The proliferation of such groups poses an enduring and substantial threat to the UK's security.
The cybersecurity agency, echoing warnings by Britain’s MI5 and MI6 intelligence agencies, highlighted the rise of China as a technological superpower as an 'epoch-defining challenge' for the UK's security. The report warned of the risk of China becoming the predominant power in cyberspace if the UK does not increase its resilience and develop its capabilities adequately.
AI's Role in Spreading Disinformation
The report underscored the potential impact of fast-evolving AI technology on the democratic process, particularly the role of 'hyper-realistic bots' in disseminating disinformation. Although the UK's traditional paper-and-pencil voting method makes it difficult for hackers to disrupt the voting process directly, the spread of false information via these sophisticated bots could indirectly influence the voters' decisions, thereby affecting the election outcome.