Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly being used in political campaigns to give candidates an edge over the competition. The many advantages of this approach were covered in Part 1 of this series . As with most powerful high tech applications, AI also comes with some serious security issues that candidates and their campaign staffs should be aware of.
The Security Issues of Using AI In Political Campaigns
Despite the many strategic advantages, a political candidate can gain by using AI in their election efforts, this approach does have some security-related issues to be aware of. For example:
- AI can be used to send fake messages. Just as AI can be used to intercept and stop fake messages, AI can also be used to send those same messages in the first place. A prime example of this occurred in the 2016 US Presidential campaign. Research conducted at the University of Washington discovered that automated Social Media bots were covertly transmitted to increase the flow of Twitter message traffic to the Trump campaign. This was estimated to be double the activity of the Clinton campaign. (Bots are automated tools that were, in this case, used to convey messages and content about a political candidate and their respective party.) It was also discovered that the Trump campaign hired the firm known as Cambridge Analytica to access the accounts and profiles of well over 87,000,000 Facebook users by using AI tools.1
- The use of Deepfakes. Deepfakes are audio or video generated by AI to show someone saying or doing something that they did not, in reality, say or do.2 A perfect example of this was a fake video or podcast of a former Presidential Administration making threats to China about invoking new tariffs, when in reality the Administration never recorded or aired such messages.
- AI and the Internet of Things (IoT). There is no doubt that the world is becoming more inter-connected all the time. Much of this has been catalyzed by the explosion of what is known as the “Internet of Things”, or “IoT” short. This refers to the way we are connected in both the physical and virtual worlds to all of the objects we interact with on a daily basis. Probably the most common examples of this are Siri and Cortana, the Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) that have been designed for both the iOS and Android platforms, respectively. Both of these tools can automatically recommend food choices when we visit a restaurant or turn on our stereo with a simple voice command. (These VPAs actually represent lower-level forms of AI.) But there is no doubt that the world of politics will soon enter into the IoT, because it will allow politicians to reach a much broader and larger group of voters and boost their popularity by issuing voice commands to quickly launch simultaneous video and audio content. The main drawback with this approach is that, due to the increased interconnectivity with the IoT, it increases the “attack surface” available to Cyberattackers. A Cyberattacker can then manipulate the AI tools so that they can automatically change the entire outcome of a Presidential Election.
This 2-part article series has examined what AI is, how it could be potentially used to win a US Presidential Election, and some of the security issues that go along with it. There is no doubt that AI will continue to play a role in many modern elections, no matter how large or how small. But AI still has a long way to go until it can completely replace human beings who monitor the polling stations in person.
In this regard, we will probably see AI being used more for the electronic means of voting, also known as “E-Voting”. But here is yet another aspect of AI that can be used in an interesting way: AI was used to mimic a candidate in recent Russian elections. Imagine a futuristic scenario in which the American public will no longer have to deal with human politicians because the candidates will be automated and virtual.
Ravi is a Cybersecurity Consultant and Business Development Specialist. He also does Cybersecurity Consulting through his private practice, RaviDas.Tech, Inc. He is also studying for his CompTIA Security+ Certification.