UN chief warns of rising cyber threats and AI risks

UN Secretary General António Guterres has raised alarms over the growing prevalence of cyber threats, describing them as “disturbingly common.” Speaking to the UN Security Council, Guterres highlighted the escalating dangers of weaponized digital technologies, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. He noted the proliferation of malware, wipers, and trojans, alongside the rising threat of AI-enabled cyber operations.

Guterres expressed particular concern about quantum computing’s potential to compromise encryption and disrupt entire systems. Despite these threats, he acknowledged that digital advancements are transforming society, enhancing connectivity, and facilitating access to information and government services. However, he warned that this instant connectivity also leaves people, institutions, and governments vulnerable.

The UN Secretary-General detailed the widespread impact of cybersecurity incidents, citing disruptions to health, banking, and telecommunications services. He pointed to the relentless illicit activities of criminal organizations and cyber-mercenaries, and decried the spread of fear and division by hate groups online. Additionally, he noted the growing integration of digital tools with autonomous weapon systems, creating new vulnerabilities.

Guterres emphasized that software vulnerabilities are being exploited, with methods for doing so readily available on the internet. He warned that malicious cyber activities erode trust in public institutions, undermine electoral processes, and could incite violence and conflict.

Calling for global regulatory efforts, Guterres invited UN members to a summit during the General Assembly in September to address the regulation of cyberspace and AI.

Photo credit: Wikipedia