US National Security Agency unveils artificial intelligence security centre

NSA Director Paul Nakasone says US maintains advantage in AI development but capabilities can not be ‘taken for granted’, emphasising threat from China.

FILE - U.S. Cyber Command Commander Gen. Paul Nakasone testifies before the House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing on cyberspace operations, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 30, 2023. The National Security Agency is starting an artificial intelligence security center — a crucial mission as AI capabilities are increasingly acquired, developed and integrated into U.S. defense and intelligence systems. The agency's outgoing director, Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, made the announcement Thursday, Sept. 28, at the National Press Club. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
US Cyber Command's General Paul Nakasone testifies before the House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing on cyberspace operations in March 2023 [File: Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo]

The United States National Security Agency (NSA) has announced the creation of an artificial intelligence security centre that will oversee the development and integration of AI capabilities within US defence and intelligence services.

Director of the NSA and US Cyber Command, General Paul Nakasone, said on Thursday that US officials were aware of the increasing importance of AI in the national security landscape and the opening of the new centre was part of steps to “shape the future” of AI technology in the security, defence and intelligence sectors.

“We maintain an advantage in AI in the United States today. That AI advantage should not be taken for granted,” Nakasone said at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, where he spoke about the opening of the centre and the growing threat that China posed.

The AI centre will be incorporated into the NSA’s current Cybersecurity Collaboration Center, Nakasone said, where it will become the focal point for “promoting the secure adoption of new AI capabilities across the national security enterprise and the defence industry base”.

“AI will be increasingly consequential for national security in diplomatic, technological and economic matters for our country and our allies and partners,” Nakasone said, according to a statement from the US Department of Defense.

The NSA chief said it was imperative that the US maintains its leadership in AI development and that malicious foreign actors be prevented from obtaining US innovations in AI.

“We must build a robust understanding of AI vulnerabilities, foreign intelligence threats to these AI systems and ways to encounter the threat in order to have AI security,” he said.

Asked about the US using AI to automate the analysis of threats, Nakasone said that US intelligence and defence agencies already use AI though final decisions are still made by humans.

“AI helps us, but our decisions are made by humans. And that’s an important distinction,” he said. “We do see assistance from artificial intelligence. But at the end of the day, decisions will be made by humans and humans in the loop.”

Responding to reporters’ questions, Nakasone said the US security agency had not “yet” detected attempts by either Russia or China to influence the 2024 US presidential elections.

A number of elections will take place in other parts of the world before the US presidential vote, he said, and the US will work with partners and allies to help deter any such manipulation efforts.

The establishment of an AI security centre follows an NSA study that identified securing AI models from theft and sabotage as a key national security challenge for the US, especially as generative AI technologies emerge with immense transformative potential for both good and bad actors.

Cybersecurity researchers also say that China has in recent months stepped up cyber operations focused on US and allied institutions that may include pre-positioning malware designed to disrupt military communications.

On Thursday, the US and Japan issued an alert saying Chinese hackers were targeting government, industrial, telecommunications and other entities that support their militaries.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies