Spies Really Like Artificial Intelligence

AI research is underway in the fields of intelligence collection and analysis, logistics, cyber operations, information operations, command and control and in a variety of semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles.

Already, AI has been incorporated into military operations in Iraq and Syria. But before the US various intelligence agencies  can use AI to its full potential, it must be hardened against attack. The humans who use it, analysts, policy-makers and leaders, must better understand how advanced AI systems reach their conclusions.

The field of AI research began in the 1940s, but an explosion of interest in AI began around 2010 due to the convergence of three enabling developments:

  1. Availability of “big data” sources,
  2.  Improvements to machine learning approaches,
  3. Increases in computer processing power. 

Now US intelligence agencies are using AI to scan the news for dangerous developments, send alerts to ships about rapidly changing conditions, and speed up the NSA’s regulatory compliance efforts.  

When you think of nations using artificial intelligence (AI) and enhanced surveillance technologies, China probably comes to mind as the place where facial recognition is used to find their targets. However, at least 75 out of 176 countries globally are actively using AI technologies for surveillance purposes, including smart city/safe city platforms, now in use by 56 countries; facial recognition systems, being used by 64 countries; and smart policing, now used by law enforcement in 52 countries.

AI is also helping the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, notify sailors and mariners around the world about new threats, like pirates, or new navigation information that might change naval charts. It’s a mix of open source and classified information. 

The NSA has begun to use AI to better understand and see patterns in the vast amounts of signals intelligence data it collects, screening for anomalies in web traffic patterns or other data that could portend an attack. NSA analysts and operators are also using AI to make sure they are following the many rules and guidelines that govern how the NSA collects intelligence on foreign targets. 

In the future AI will make analysts work easier as it can prove instantaneous machine translation and speech recognition. This will allow analysts to review different types of collected data, corroborate intelligence, and reach firmer conclusions. 

There  are also big problem is making AI models more secure. In the commercial world, this isn’t a big problem, or at least it isn’t seen as one yet, because there’s no adversary trying to spoof the system. But concern is rising, in 2017, researchers at MIT showed how easy it was to fool neural networks with 3D-printed objects by just slightly changing the texture. 

An even a bigger problem is that humans generally don’t understand the processes by which very complex algorithms like deep learning systems and neural nets reach the determinations that they do. 

That may be a small concern for the commercial world, where the most important thing is the ultimate output, not how it was reached, but national security leaders who must defend their decisions to lawmakers, say opaque functioning isn’t good enough to make war or peace decisions. 

DefenseOne:           Naked Security         EMERJ:        NextGov:      US Congress Research Service:  


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