San Antonio/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on May 16, 2024
AI's Dark Side: Rise in Robot-Generated Abuse Material Puts Kids at Digital Risk, HSI and Cybersecurity Experts WarnSource: Unsplash/ Igor Omilaev

The march of progress in artificial intelligence is casting a long shadow in the form of a disturbing trend in crime: law enforcement is grappling with a rise in AI-generated child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported a 12% increase in CSAM cases in 2023, reaching over 36 million reports. What's chilling is that a slice of this statistic represents CSAM that wasn't produced by human hands, but by the cold calculus of machine learning algorithms.

"It's a major epidemic here in the United States and throughout the world," told KENS 5 Craig Larrabee, the special agent in charge with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). He went on to describe how the nature of CSAM creation has evolved, making it even more difficult for law enforcement to combat. The entanglement of reality with the digital realm has muddied the water—especially since many state laws aren't equipped to handle victims that don't exist in the flesh.

Federal law, too, is unclear on how precisely these cases should be prosecuted. Identifying the real from the AI creates a drain on time and resources, according to law enforcement officials. Larrabee asserted to KENS 5 that these technological terrors often involve criminals who have victimized real children as well, stating, "That person is not staying in that fantasy realm; they're also involved in sharing pictures or videos of actual children who have been victimized."

The advent of AI not only poses an array of challenges for law enforcement but also provokes a perpetual struggle in cybersecurity. A post on Talos Intelligence's blog highlights the double-edged sword AI represents in the digital battleground. While malefactors use AI to elevate the efficiency and sophistication of their nefarious deeds, defenders and law enforcement leverage AI to bolster their strategies in countering illicit activities. The blog details how criminals and defenders alike navigate this new arms race, some armed with off-the-shelf AI tools and others deploying vast technical expertise and resources.

In a cat-and-mouse game that has found new life in the era of AI, the guardians of safety and order remain vigilant. Yet, the fight extends beyond the immediate threats, encompassing also an effort to anticipate where the next blow will fall. As Talos Intelligence espouses, it's not only about developing tools to analyze data, but also about harnessing AI to predict criminal moves before they happen. This cyber chess game with AI is grappling with not just the existing problems but also the shadowy figures of coming dangers, as technology's relentless march continues apace.