From Departments of War to the Basement Next Door: The AI-Disinformation Threat to Companies

By neub9
4 Min Read

Evolving Threat of AI-Based Disinformation

The evolving threat of AI-based disinformation requires risk mitigation planning to avoid catastrophic reputational damage. As disinformation threats can materialize rapidly, companies must prepare in advance to ensure business resiliency, say Christopher Mason and Ian Oxnevad of Infortal.

A firm’s reputation is one of the most accessible points of attack for disinformation campaigns. In the age of emerging AI technology and complex algorithms, protecting your company’s reputation requires a carefully considered compliance program that accounts for emerging disinformation threats.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology defines disinformation as the “process of providing deliberately deceptive information to adversaries to mislead or confuse them regarding the security posture of the system or organization or the state of cyber preparedness.”

Originally dubbed maskirovka, early modern disinformation grew into the perfected art of “reflexive control” developed in the early days of the Soviet Union to condition the reactions of Russia’s enemies and help Moscow achieve its goals.

Until recently, disinformation campaigns required journalists, faked publications, and even bogus radio broadcasts. The emergence of AI technology, coupled with the increased influence of social media channels, has accelerated the evolution of disinformation into an easily accessible weapon that can quickly influence public opinion.

New generative AI models like ChatGPT and Claude can draft convincing copy, while AI image creators can develop hyper-realistic fictional images. In the wrong hands, these cutting-edge tools can create compelling content to maliciously target virtually any brand with harmful disinformation, ultimately impacting a company’s bottom line.

Inaccurate rumors, false accusations, or misleading information can tarnish a company’s image and erode customer loyalty, creating a reputational management nightmare.

Disinformation attack methodology

The U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency has recognized the emerging threat and determined that bad actors utilize the following tactics to spread disinformation:

  • Cultivating fake or misleading personas and websites
  • Creating deep fakes and synthetic media
  • Devising or amplifying conspiracy theories
  • Astroturfing and flooding the information environment
  • Abusing alternative platforms
  • Exploiting information gaps
  • Manipulate unsuspecting actors
  • Spreading targeted content

While the federal government primarily focuses on the disinformation threat to national security, bad actors can quickly adopt the same techniques to attack companies for financial gain.

Risk management and how to respond

Benjamin Franklin is credited with coining the expression that an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Rather than illness, Franklin was talking about risk. Like any risk, you can prepare for and mitigate your exposure to attacks by employing a robust risk management program that accounts for disinformation risk. This is now an essential part of business resiliency planning.

Having a disinformation risk mitigation plan in place with key individuals identified to respond is an essential first step that will allow your company to protect your hard-earned reputational value.

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