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Battle Looming Between AI and Counter-AI, Says Official

The Defense Department is just at the start of using artificial intelligence. Peer competitors are as well, said Jude R. Sunderbruch, executive director of the DOD Cyber Crime Center, who spoke today at the Google Defense Forum.

Sunderbruch predicted that in the future, there will be a battle between AI and counter-AI, which will lead to the question: "What is the truth in front of us?"

Two civilian students watch as a standing service member points to one of several monitor screens in a room.
Student Instructions
A pilot instructs students from the University of California, San Diego in an MQ-9 simulator at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., Feb 17, 2023. The National Guard Bureau facilitated a collaboration between the institution and members of the 163d Attack Wing in an effort to incorporate Artificial Intelligence to improve MQ-9 technology and provide a centralized location where real-time video and data can be shared instantaneously across organizations. Named Project Theia, the aim of the program is to save lives by reducing response times for first responders during wildfires and other natural disasters.
Photo By: Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Joseph Pagan
VIRIN: 230217-Z-WT190-2083A
People work on computer monitors.
Pilot Instruction
A pilot assigned to the 492nd Attack Squadron instructs students from the University of California, San Diego in an MQ-9 simulator on March Air Reserve Base in California on Feb 17, 2023. The simulator incorporates artificial intelligence.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Pagan
VIRIN: 230217-Z-WT190-2064Y

"I would not hesitate to call it an arms race but a strategic competition when it comes to artificial intelligence," he said.

Sunderbruch said the United States is well positioned to advance in the AI space.

"I'm feeling very confident about betting on the creativity of the United States and our partnerships between the government, industry, academia and small startups," he said.

The near-term goal is to figure out how to use the currently existing AI tools and to figure out how to apply them to information that the government has layered with other information that is out there, he said, as well as training the AI models with a variety of useful information.

In another near-term goal, the department is probably going to be able to apply some of the AI tools for threat analysis, and also to look at vulnerabilities, he said.

"I think a lot of those capabilities will be able to be applied to actually testing our systems, both in the government as well as the defense industrial base to see how secure they are," Sunderbruch said.

Sunderbruch also predicted that there will someday be "a confluence between quantum and AI, which will be a real game-changer."

Army Col. Richard Leach, intelligence director, Defense Information Systems Agency, who also participated on the same panel, addressed the role of AI in helping to sort through the "tsunami of data" coming in that needs to be processed, analyzed and provided to decision makers.

Three people are seated on a stage. One of them, holding a microphone, is speaking to the audience.
Google Chat
Army Col. Richard Leach, intelligence director, Defense Information Systems Agency, speaks at the Google Defense Forum in Arlington, Va., Jan. 25, 2024. Seated in the center is Jude R. Sunderbruch, executive director, DOD Cyber Crime Center, and at the left is moderator Sandra Joyce, vice president, Mandiant Intelligence, Google Cloud.
Photo By: David Vergun, DOD
VIRIN: 231016-D-UB488-002R

There's a need for AI to sort through all the data in looking for adversary threats instead of an analyst reading hundreds or thousands of reports every day, he said.

"Let AI identify key pieces of information and maybe do some of the basic analysis. Let the analysts focus on the hard problem set so they're not wasting time, resources and people," Leach said.

"Adversaries are trying to get past our boundaries and our securities every day. They're moving at 'lightspeed.' They're on fiber optic networks. They're able to bounce from one VPS [virtual private server] to another in an instant, so utilizing AI to try to get ahead of that is going to be essential," he said, referring to virtual private servers.

Using AI to help in understanding the environment is important, he said. The environment is changing every day. Every time somebody changes their network, updates their patches or reconfigures the network, they change the environment and the battlespace, he said.

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