Elon Musk is concerned that AI could be used to take down the internet
The internet is about to become a battlefield, and Musk says A.I. could make the carnage even worse. According to a short exchange on Musk’s Twitter today, the systems that keep the internet running are particularly vulnerable to simple, brute-force attacks, the kind of cyberwarfare that AI excel at.
On October 21, an unknown group of hackers wiped out part of the internet in the United States and Europe with a massive Denial of Service attack. The hackers used a massive “botnet”, linked computers able to perform coordinated functions, of simple Internet of Things devices to relentlessly overload the servers at Dyn Systems, which provides DNS services to a huge number of websites, including Spotify, Twitter, Netflix, and Reddit.
For the most part, cybersecurity authorities believe that a human being or group of people orchestrated and executed the attack, plugging in the botnet’s targets and making sure their digital blows landed. But in the future, Musk says massive DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks might not need human hackers to wreak havoc on the infrastructure that keeps us all online.
On October 29th, the Economist published an article subtitled “Someone is learning to take down the internet,” which examined the growing phenomenon of DDoS attacks, and why we’re so bad at stopping them. Musk tweeted out the article and added a terrifying caveat, at some point, that “someone” won’t be a person, it’ll be an advanced A.I.
Musk is one of the highest-profile members of the tech elite to speak out openly against the unregulated advancement of Artificial Intelligence. He’s not against the technology as a whole, but thinks that attempts to make smarter robots should be open and transparent, to keep out profit-focused corporate influences that could lead to an A.I. takeover. Musk sees computer sentience as an inevitability, but wants to make sure the organic human race is taking every precaution to keep itself on the same level as our machines. Part of that includes something called the neural lace, which would merge organic human brains with A.I. processing power, allowing technology and evolution to stay on par.
But until then, Musk sees A.I. as a loaded gun. Right now, hackers’ offensive weapons, like DDoS attacks, have surpassed many of the traditional online defenses used to keep the internet safe and running. While the neural lace and the specter of a true A.I. apocalypse are both a long way off, advanced A.I.’s dominance of the internet is not.