14 Febbraio 2024

Cyber Signals: Navigating cyberthreats and strengthening defenses in the era of AI

The world of cybersecurity is undergoing a massive transformation. AI is at the forefront of this change, and has the potential to empower organizations to defeat cyberattacks at machine speed, address the cyber talent shortage, and drive  innovation and efficiency in cybersecurity. However, adversaries can use AI as part of their exploits, and it’s never been more critical for us to both secure our world using AI and secure AI for our world.

Today we released the sixth edition of Cyber Signals, spotlighting how we are protecting AI platforms from emerging threats related to nation-state cyberthreat actors.

In collaboration with OpenAI, we are sharing insights on state-affiliated threat actors tracked by Microsoft, such as Forest Blizzard, Emerald Sleet, Crimson Sandstorm, Charcoal Typhoon, and Salmon Typhoon, who have sought to use large language models (LLMs) to augment their ongoing cyberattack operations. This important research exposes incremental early moves we observe these well-known threat actors taking around AI, and notes how we blocked their activity to protect AI platforms and users.

We are also announcing Microsoft’s principles guiding our actions mitigating the risks of nation-state Advanced Persistent Threats, Advanced Persistent Manipulators, and cybercriminal syndicates using AI platforms and APIs. These principles include identification and action against malicious threat actors’ use notification to other AI service providers, collaboration with other stakeholders, and transparency.

In addition, Microsoft is helping the wider security community to understand and detect the emerging prospects of LLMs in attack activity. We continue to work with MITRE to integrate these LLM-themed tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) into the MITRE ATT&CK®framework or MITRE ATLAS™ (Adversarial Threat Landscape for Artificial-Intelligence Systems) knowledgebase. This strategic expansion reflects a commitment to not only track and neutralize threats, but also to pioneer the development of countermeasures in the evolving landscape of AI-powered cyber operations.

This edition of Cyber Signals shares insights into how threat actors are using AI to refine their attacks and also how we use AI to protect Microsoft.

Cybercriminals and state-sponsored actors are looking to AI, including LLMs, to enhance their productivity and take advantage of platforms that can further their objectives and attack techniques. Although threat actors’ motives and sophistication vary, they share common tasks when deploying attacks. These include reconnaissance, such as researching potential victims’ industries, locations, and relationships; coding, including improving software scripts and malware development; and assistance with learning and using both human and machine languages. Our research with OpenAI has not identified significant attacks employing the LLMs we monitor closely.

Microsoft uses several methods to protect itself from these types of cyberthreats, including AI-enabled threat detection to spot changes in how resources or traffic on the network are used; behavioral analytics to detect risky sign-ins and anomalous behavior; machine learning models to detect risky sign-ins and malware; Zero Trust, where every access request has to be fully authenticated, authorized, and encrypted; and device health to be verified before a device can connect to the corporate network.

In addition, generative AI has incredible potential to help all defenders protect their organizations at machine speed. AI’s role in cybersecurity is multifaceted, driving innovation and efficiency across various domains. From enhancing threat detection to streamlining incident response, AI’s capabilities are reshaping cybersecurity. The use of LLMs in cybersecurity is a testament to AI’s potential. These models can analyze vast amounts of data to uncover patterns and trends in cyberthreats, adding valuable context to threat intelligence. They assist in technical tasks such as reverse engineering and malware analysis, providing a new layer of defense against cyberattacks. For example, users of Microsoft Copilot for Security have shown a 44% increase in accuracy across all tasks and a 26% faster completion rate. These figures highlight the tangible benefits of integrating AI into cybersecurity practices.1

As we secure the future of AI, we must acknowledge the dual nature of technology: it brings new capabilities as well as new risks. AI is not just a tool but a paradigm shift in cybersecurity. It empowers us to defend against sophisticated cyberthreats and adapt to the dynamic threat landscape. By embracing AI, we can help ensure a secure future for everyone.

Cyber Signals

See how Microsoft is protecting AI platforms from attempted abuse by nation-state cyberthreat actors.

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1What Can Copilot’s Earliest Users Teach Us About Generative AI at Work? Microsoft. November 15, 2023.

© 2024 The MITRE Corporation. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of The MITRE Corporation.

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Source: Microsoft Security