FBI fears China is stealing AI technology to ramp up spying and steal personal information to build terrifying dossiers on millions of Americans
There are fears that China is stealing artificial intelligence technology to launch massive cyber attacks on the US and elsewhere.
The FBI is increasingly concerned about the dictatorship's frequent high-profile data thefts of U.S. companies and government agencies.
Advanced AI would allow China to increase the scale and effectiveness of what it could collect and, crucially, analyze, sources told the newspaper. Wall Street Journal.
The FBI is so concerned about this escalation that it and other Western intelligence agencies met with industry leaders in October to discuss the threat.
The US and China are locked in an arms race over rapidly developing technology that has the potential to reshape their rivalry and the way wars are fought.
There are fears that China is stealing artificial intelligence technology to launch massive cyber attacks on the US and elsewhere
China's quest for dominance includes corporate espionage efforts to steal AI technology from the companies that develop it.
Former Apple employee Xiaolang Zhang was arrested in July 2018 when he tried to board a flight to Beijing with stolen trade secrets for self-driving vehicles.
He pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets and will be sentenced in February.
Last year, Applied Materials sued Chinese rival Mattson Technology, alleging a defected engineer stole trade secrets.
Instead of AI algorithms, the company makes computer chips powerful enough to run high-quality AI programs.
Federal prosecutors became involved, but no charges were filed and Mattson said there was no evidence it ever used anything stolen from Applied in its products.
The FBI has been more interested in thefts from companies like Applied in recent years because even if China got its hands on the latest AI programs, they would be outdated within months.
China has been linked to massive data breaches at Marriott, where millions of guest records were stolen, at health insurer Elevance Health and at credit agency Equifax.
The Office of Personnel Management also had 20 million personnel files stolen from government employees and their families in 2015.
Analysts believe the Chinese military has changed its strategy from intelligence gathering to infiltration in an effort to sow chaos should war break out.
Then in 2021, tens of thousands of servers running Microsoft Exchange Server, which is the basis for Outlook, were affected. Experts fear previously stolen personal data may have been used to tackle the attack.
Earlier this month, analysts revealed that Beijing's military had dug into more than 20 major suppliers in the past year alone, including a water company in Hawaii, a major port on the west coast and at least one oil and gas pipeline.
They bypassed extensive cybersecurity systems by intercepting passwords and logins not monitored by junior employees, leaving China “sitting on a stockpile of strategic” vulnerabilities.
In August, hackers were spotted trying to penetrate systems of the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which provide power to the state.
The project, codenamed Volt Typhoon, coincided with growing tension over Taiwan and could decouple US efforts to protect its interests in the South China Sea.
Communications, manufacturing, utility, transportation, construction, maritime, government, information technology, and education organizations were targeted by Volt Typhoon.
The Director of National Intelligence warned in February that China is already “almost certainly capable” of carrying out cyberattacks to take out oil and gas pipelines and rail systems.
“If Beijing feared that a major conflict with the United States was imminent, it would almost certainly consider conducting aggressive cyber operations against the U.S. homeland's critical infrastructure and military assets worldwide,” the annual assessment said.
The Director of National Intelligence warned in February that China is already “almost certainly” capable of carrying out cyberattacks to take out oil and gas pipelines and rail systems.
China was so good at hacking into American companies and government databases that it probably collected more data than it could process and make usable.
But AI technology, combined with its army of hackers, would allow it to search billions of records and extract useful information with ease.
Intelligence agencies could use data from multiple sources to build dossiers on millions of specific people.
This may include fingerprints, financial and health records, passport information and personal contacts.
China could use them to identify and track spies and monitor the travels of government officials, figuring out who has a security clearance worth targeting.
“China can use AI to build a dossier on virtually every American, with details ranging from their health records to credit cards and from passport numbers to the names and addresses of their parents and children,” said Glenn Gerstell, former general counsel at the National Security Agency, told the Wall Street Journal.
“Take those files and add a few hundred thousand hackers working for the Chinese government, and we have a terrifying potential threat to national security.”
Such escalating threats from China made the development of AI technology to counter these threats increasingly important.
Industry experts believed that AI would be better at defense than offense, and would be able to identify and counter attacks from China and elsewhere.