AI, IoT and the end of Moore's Law add to US national security worries

US intelligence experts set out their list of potential threats - with technology risks high on the list.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director
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Enemies exploiting weaknesses in Internet of Things devices or using artificial intelligence to build better weapons, plus fears that the end of Moore's law could erode the country's lead in computer processing technology are among the current areas of concern for US intelligence community.

According to this year's worldwide threat assessment of the US intelligence community, delivered to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by the US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, attacks from Russia against the country's critical infrastructure also remain a "major" threat.

As well as more established threats such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and organized crime the worldwide threat assessment highlights a number of areas of technology which contain potential risks.

The report warned that while the US currently leads AI research, other countries are also building their capabilities. "The implications of our adversaries' abilities to use AI are potentially profound and broad. They include an increased vulnerability to cyber attack, difficulty in ascertaining attribution, facilitation of advances in foreign weapon and intelligence systems, the risk of accidents and related liability issues, and unemployment," the report said.

On the IoT, it warned that enemies are likely to seek capabilities "to hold at risk" US critical infrastructure as well as connected consumer and industrial devices.

"If adversaries gain the ability to create significant physical effects in the United States via cyber means, they will have gained new avenues for coercion and deterrence," it said.

The benefits of Moore's Law--which predicts that the overall processing power of chips will double roughly every two years-- has been a big driver of many US economic and security advantages.

But if, as some expect, Moore's Law might no longer apply by the mid-2020s this could erode US national security advantages, the report said, by allowing other countries to catch up.

"Semiconductors remain core to the economy and the military, yet new national security risks might arise from next-generation chips because of technology plateaus and investments by other states," it said.

Looking at current cyber threats rather than those in the future, the document also described Russia as a "full-scope cyber actor that will remain a major threat to US government, military, diplomatic, commercial, and critical infrastructure."

It said: "Moscow has a highly advanced offensive cyber program, and in recent years, the Kremlin has assumed a more aggressive cyber posture," something, the document said, was evident in Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 US election. Russia has denied any involvement.

"We assess that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized the 2016 US election-focused data thefts and disclosures, based on the scope and sensitivity of the targets," the threat assessment report said.

The report also said that outside of the US, "Russian actors" have conducted damaging and disruptive cyber attacks, including on critical infrastructure networks, "We assess that Russian cyber operations will continue to target the United States and its allies to gather intelligence, support Russian decision making, conduct influence operations to support Russian military and political objectives, and prepare the cyber environment for future contingencies," it said.

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