Take just about any fictional monster, and somewhere there’s a fictional mad scientist who wants to make it even more dangerous. (Anyone remember Jurassic World?) Well, how about taking oh-so-real malware-nasty strings of code that cripple networks, steal data and generally wreak mayhem on the world … and imbuing it with artificial intelligence? Welcome to the world of self-replicating computer viruses.
Think about it. Computer viruses already replicate themselves, but the overall scope of their functionality is limited to the hateful little missions given to them by their creators. What if they could independently sort through your files to target only the valuable information, or plan their attacks for a time when your vulnerabilities are highest and risks are greatest? What if they could organize and coordinate with other malware to attack networks from many places at once? What if they could adapt to defensive protocols by shedding their own vulnerabilities and choosing new forms? What if they could assume the virtual guise of people you know to fool you into revealing … anything? Advanced A.I. malware might not just rewrite their own code, but expand it — hijacking an infected system’s computing power to further evolve and develop smarter and more destructive progeny.
With a little imagination, it’s easy to get into realm of science-fiction. Yet think of the telephones that were in homes just 30 years ago, and compare them to our modern smartphones. Or consider self-driving cars. An October article in Business Insider featured an interview with an IT security expert who thinks AI-directed malware is just a matter of time.
Indeed, one morning you may try to access your files, and suddenly a voice from your computer speaker might say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do that, Dave.”