The Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology is launching a project to study the effects of the rise of artificial intelligence on cyber operations.
The Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence project, known as CyberAI, will invite fellows and Georgetown University faculty to research increasing threats to cybersecurity, the effect of automation on cyber defense and the degree to which cyber operations will become faster and more powerful, according to a Nov. 21 news release from the CSET. The project is funded by a $2 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a nonpartisan, private charitable foundation established by Hewlett-Packard co-founder and his wife.
Cyber operations specialists utilize computer programs to create an effect across cyberspace, according to the United States Army website. Offensive operations involve targeting an enemy and conducting hostile activities. Defensive operations are conducted to protect data, networks and systems by detecting, identifying and responding to attacks.
The CyberAI project will illuminate how artificial intelligence can be an important tool in improving the effectiveness of both offensive and defensive cyber operations, according to project leader and CSET senior faculty fellow Ben Buchanan.
“There’s some promise that it can enable defenders to better protect their networks, especially by finding signs of a breach,” Buchanan wrote in an email to The Hoya. “But AI also might enable the offensive side of cyber operations to be faster and more potent.”
The project will also examine the potential risks artificial intelligence may cause in cyberspace and national security. AI systems are susceptible to traditional software vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Hackers are also able to manipulate machine learning systems to cause the network to fail or reveal confidential information, according to an Oct. 22 CSET news release.
Established in January 2019, the CSET is the largest research center focused on artificial intelligence technology and policy in the United States. The center aims to join experts in the field of artificial intelligence and advanced computing to Georgetown’s networks in security policy to produce analysis of the national security implications of emerging technologies, according to a Feb. 28 university news release.
The center opened on Georgetown’s campus this fall. In its inaugural year, the CSET team developed a reputation for rigorous research and thorough analysis that it hopes to build upon this year, according to Jason Matheny, founding director of the CSET.
“The CyberAI project will build on those strengths, offering us the chance to provide new insights at the intersection of cybersecurity and AI,” Matheny wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We’re excited to expand in that direction as we head into year two.”
Along with conducting research, the CSET also delivers nonpartisan analysis to the policy community, according to the CSET website.
AI is an important tool for cyber defense that is complex and often unintelligible to those unfamiliar with the field, Buchanan wrote. Through CyberAI, Buchanan hopes to help policymakers better understand artificial intelligence.
“Our job is to understand it and explain it to policymakers,” Buchanan wrote. “We’re excited to expand the areas in which we can do that.”
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation awarded the grant Nov. 11 for a two-year term. The grant will enable the CSET to expand the scope of work it engages in, according to the statement from the CSET.
“The CyberAI project will build on CSET’s strengths: the rigor of our research, our reputation for thorough and impartial analytical products, and our growing data science capabilities,” the statement read. “We are grateful to the Hewlett Foundation for recognizing the importance of cybersecurity’s intersections with AI, and for their confidence in our ability to deliver results.”
The money from the grant will enable the CSET to hire experts in the field and focus more deeply on the impact of cybersecurity and AI on national security, according to Buchanan.
“We’re building a critical mass of cybersecurity, AI, and national security talent at CSET, and this grant will help us accelerate those efforts,” Buchanan wrote.