The ambiance was charged with anticipation as the Sphere 2023 conference, organized by WithSecure, commenced in the picturesque city of Helsinki, Finland.
With an impressive lineup of renowned cybersecurity experts, the event promised to deliver insights into the ever-evolving world of digital defense. Amongst the esteemed speakers, one name stood out—the legendary Mikko Hypponen.
As the sun rose over the Helsinki skyline, participants eagerly awaited the unveiling of Mikko’s talk, “Artificial Evil.” But before delving into the intriguing details of our conversation, let’s take a moment to recap the captivating presentation that Mikko delivered at SPHERE 2023.
Mikko’s presentation was a masterclass in storytelling. He skillfully painted a vivid picture of the potential dangers posed by AI, seamlessly intertwining real-world examples and thought-provoking anecdotes. The audience was transported into a realm where lines blurred between human ingenuity and the sinister side of technological advancement.
Throughout his talk, Mikko dissected the intricate relationship between AI and cyber threats, shedding light on the potential consequences of AI falling into the wrong hands. His words resonated deeply with the attendees, serving as a stark reminder that the same tools designed to uplift humanity could also be wielded as instruments of malicious intent.
And now, let us turn our attention to that memorable encounter I had with Mikko Hypponen himself. Before his compelling presentation, I had the privilege of engaging in a one-on-one conversation with the cybersecurity luminary. I expressed my admiration for his contributions to the cybersecurity community. Mikko, known for his friendly demeanor, greeted me warmly and thanked me for my kind words.
The early morning meeting set the stage for what would become a thought-provoking discussion, delving into the nuances of the digital landscape and the implications of Mikko’s own evolving perspective.
Hottest AI Summer in History
During his session, Mikko delved into the rapid advancements of AI, highlighting how what was once believed to take years is now unfolding in a matter of days.
Emphasizing the significance of GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), Mikko expressed his optimism regarding the future of AI and the multitude of positive outcomes it promises.
While acknowledging the concerns associated with the potential downsides of AI, he exuded confidence that this revolutionary technology would transform the landscape of problem-solving and take mankind to new heights— curing cancer, reversing climate change, interplanetary exploration, among several others.
During his session, Mikko vouched for OpenAI, a prominent player in the AI field, and its commitment to responsible AI development. He voiced his support for OpenAI’s investor notes and policies, aligning himself with their mission to ensure the safe and beneficial deployment of artificial intelligence.
Mikko went even further, stating that if we find ourselves on the cusp of achieving Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), OpenAI should be entrusted with the responsibility of spearheading its development.
The concept of AGI, often referred to as the holy grail of AI, represents a future where machines possess intellectual capabilities equal to or surpassing human intelligence.
While AGI remains an aspiration yet to be fully realized, Mikko’s endorsement of OpenAI as a frontrunner in this pursuit carries significant weight.
OpenAI has been at the forefront of cutting-edge research and has been actively working towards advancing AI in a responsible and transparent manner.
When followed by a question, “What if adversarial nations acquire such advanced AI technology?” Mikko Hypponen offered a thought-provoking response. He acknowledged that in terms of AI and machine learning, no one is as advanced as OpenAI.
However, he expressed concern about the potential consequences if totalitarian regimes were to achieve Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). Mikko emphasized that such a scenario would be catastrophic, and he fervently hoped that it would never come to pass.
Cybercrime Unicorns represent a new breed of cybercriminal organizations that possess unparalleled capabilities and resources. Their ability to execute complex and devastating attacks poses a significant threat to individuals, businesses, and global security.
Mikko Hypponen emphasized that the realm of cybercrime has evolved into a sophisticated business landscape, characterized by mergers and acquisitions among criminals. With the recent release of cybercriminals by Russia during Russian-Ukraine War, the threat landscape has escalated to even greater magnitudes.
These cybercriminal groups now pose an immense danger, not only to companies but to the world at large. As an example, Mikko showcased the website of Lockbit 3.0 and how the criminals are branding themselves as a company.
Privacy is dead. We killed it.
As a staunch advocate for privacy, Mikko Hypponen has consistently opposed the inclusion of backdoors in software and privacy policies that fail to uphold individuals’ privacy rights.
Mikko firmly asserted that in today’s technologically advanced world, privacy is a thing of the past. With the proliferation of technology, applications, and the ever-present reach of advertisers, everyone has become a target for ad publishers and advertisers, eroding personal privacy on a global scale.
During the Q&A session, a journalist raised the question of whether the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) had become futile. In response, Mikko expressed his disagreement, stating that while GDPR alone cannot guarantee complete privacy, it has had a significant impact.
The regulation has compelled companies to disclose data breaches to affected individuals, ensuring transparency and empowering people to be informed if their data has been compromised due to a cyber attack.
Mikko acknowledged that GDPR is not a flawless solution, as privacy breaches continue to occur. However, he emphasized that GDPR has played a crucial role in creating awareness among individuals about data breaches and their rights.
It serves as a deterrent for companies, forcing them to adopt better security practices and be accountable for safeguarding personal information.
By requiring companies to disclose data breaches, GDPR serves as a mechanism for holding organizations accountable and promoting transparency.
Our Brief Conversation about AI and Regulations.
Reflecting on our earlier discussion about AI in cybersecurity, I asked Mikko about the potential manipulation of AI. He acknowledged that AI could indeed be manipulated. I followed this up with the use of AI by both defenders and offenders, expressing concerns about the possibility of problems arising from the widespread implementation of AI models in cybersecurity.
In response, Mikko acknowledged the potential for issues but also highlighted the room for improvement as technology advances. He firmly believed that AI had the power to transform the future if it is implemented correctly positively.
Continuing the conversation, I raised the point that humans have not always made the right decisions in the past. To which, he answered, “I am an optimist and I believe this time we will get it right.”
Mikko’s response reflected a balanced perspective. While acknowledging the risks and potential problems associated with AI manipulation, he remained hopeful about the positive impact AI could have on the future.
He recognized the need for careful consideration and responsible implementation to harness the full potential of AI in a way that benefits society.
As we engaged in our conversation, I couldn’t help but express my growing concern to Mikko Hypponen regarding the absence of robust regulations governing the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and the potential for companies to exploit its power within the vast realms of the internet.
The uncertainty surrounding the ethical boundaries and potential consequences of AI’s unchecked utilization weighed heavily on my mind.
Mikko, ever the reassuring figure, listened attentively to my apprehensions. With his deep understanding of the subject matter, he addressed my concerns, instilling a sense of optimism within me. He shared his belief that regulations would soon catch up with the rapid advancements in AI technology.
Drawing my attention to the proactive measures being taken, Mikko highlighted the European Union’s (EU) progressive efforts in drafting comprehensive AI regulations.
The EU’s commitment to ensure responsible AI deployment resonated with Mikko, who saw it as a significant step toward safeguarding against potential risks and protecting the interests of individuals and society as a whole.
But it didn’t stop there. Mikko illuminated another beacon of hope—the role played by OpenAI.
As one of the pioneering organizations in AI research and development, OpenAI recognized the imperative need for regulatory frameworks.
Mikko explained how OpenAI had taken on the responsibility of showcasing the challenges and potential dangers associated with AI.
By actively raising awareness among the masses, OpenAI aimed to foster a collective understanding of the importance of regulations that uphold ethical standards and mitigate potential harm.
I’m Wrong About The Future. Here’s Why
During his presentation, Mikko openly acknowledged an error he made in his book, “If It’s Smart, It’s Vulnerable.” He quoted a passage where he asserted, “We will be remembered as the first people who went online.” However, Mikko admitted that this statement no longer held true. Instead, he confidently declared, “We will be remembered as the first people who had access to AI.”
Mikko expressed his unwavering confidence in the continuous advancements of AI with each passing day.
He predicted that, in the future, AI would surpass human intelligence, making us the second intelligent species on Earth.
Even when humanity’s presence fades from the planet, Mikko speculated that AI would remain. He emphasized that the ongoing AI revolution far surpasses the impact of the internet revolution, and history will recognize us as the generation that had initial access to this transformative technology.
In addition, Mikko expressed his support for AI development, specifically mentioning his admiration for organizations like OpenAI.
He firmly stated that he does not advocate pausing the progress of AI. Justifying his position, he explained that halting AI development would only provide an opportunity for adversaries to advance and potentially exploit it. Mikko emphasized the importance of AI’s continuous learning and evolution.
Looking ahead, Mikko expressed hope that AI would soon reach the stage of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), enabling it to contribute to solving critical issues humanity has faced, such as curing cancer, universal basic income and advancing interplanetary travel. He saw AI as a tool that could assist in achieving remarkable breakthroughs.
Mikko’s perspective on the potential upsides of AI holds merit, but it is important not to overlook the impact it has on humans, particularly in the workforce.
While technology was originally intended to simplify and enhance our lives, if it begins to replace human roles and livelihoods, it becomes a cause for concern.
It is crucial for governments worldwide to formulate policies that prioritize basic incomes to support individuals who may become victims of this new era.
However, it is essential to note that advocating for policies to address the potential negative consequences of AI does not equate to a lack of support for the technology itself.
On the contrary, there is a firm belief that AI has the potential to revolutionize various aspects of life. It can accelerate progress, enabling us to achieve what would have taken a century in just a fraction of that time.
With the implementation of proper tools and policies, AI can become a powerful force that aids mankind in accomplishing feats that were previously unimaginable.
AI is here to stay no matter what. Nothing can stop this train; it will arrive and move past us quicker than we ever thought it would. Only time will tell what outcomes this would carry on mankind.
Mikko shared a lot of insights that cannot be shared in this single piece of article. We will try to cover those in our upcoming issue. Subscribe now to stay updated