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Oh, good: Machines are learning how to hack us now

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What does a fight between an artificial intelligence hacker and an artificial intelligence antivirus program look like? This:

Hyrum Anderson is a principal data scientist at Endgame, a cybersecurity software firm. His company created both of the combatants in the fighting code above. Why would an antivirus company make a machine-learning hacker program, you ask?

"We maintain a defender needs to think like an adversary," Anderson told Circa at a meeting during the DEF CON 2017 hacker convention in Las Vegas.

And thinking like an adversary means developing A.I. offensives, since Anderson and Endgame believe that's where cybercrime is headed.

Does this mean sentient software will soon be hacking your devices or putting you out of a job if you’re in the cybercrime business? Not quite.

"Most broadly, A.I. as a large fill is being used by the good guys ... for malware detection and prevention," Anderson explained.

"What we’ve presented ... is how [A.I.] can be used by the bad guys, and that’s by actually training an artificially intelligent agent to attack a next-gen AV product and learn through a series of games how to defeat it – with low success rates."

Anderson said that Engame's A.I. hacker "agent" was able to evade its anti-malware software "one to five" percent of the time, and even that success rate was aided by the fact that the hacker A.I. "knew" a lot of about the antivirus model it was sicced on.

And if the very thought of machines learning to hack other machines frightens you in a Muskian kind of way, you should know that these A.I. hacker agents aren't actually standing up on two legs and deciding to hack. Anderson said to think of it more like a "malware factory" that can be pointed at a target, with the idea that it will save hackers labor.

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"We have an agent that’s learned specifically how to ... invents new malware to attack that, but that malware is not sort of morphing on the fly," he said.

When asked to clarify whether Endgame's new security bot research is any kind of signal that hackers could soon be losing their jobs to machines, Anderson chuckled.

"Certainly not. We would be very lost without our hacker friends."

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