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Chinese Individuals Arrested for Developing Ransomware with ChatGPT

China Takes Firm Action Against Misuse of OpenAI's Chatbot as Cybercriminals Exploit AI for Malicious Purposes

NEWS  Security  December 31, 2023  Reading time: 2 Minute(s)

mdo Max (RS editor)

In a significant stride towards countering the illicit use of ChatGPT, four Chinese individuals have recently been apprehended for developing ransomware using the popular AI chatbot. This marks China's first major crackdown on the misuse of ChatGPT, which is officially banned in the country due to concerns over national security and cyber threats.

Cybercriminals have been quick to exploit the capabilities of ChatGPT for malicious activities, leading to the creation of unauthorized versions such as WormGPT and FraudGPT. The arrests come as a response to an incident reported by a company in Hangzhou, where hackers demanded a ransom of 20,000 Tether to restore access to the compromised systems.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that the police, responding to the cybercrime report, arrested two suspects in Beijing and two in Inner Mongolia in late November 2023. The suspects not only confessed to developing ransomware variations but also admitted to optimizing their programs using ChatGPT, conducting vulnerability scans, infiltrating networks, deploying ransomware, and engaging in extortion.

China has been actively discouraging the use of foreign generative artificial intelligence products, including ChatGPT, leading to the development of its own version named Ernie Bot. However, it remains unclear whether utilizing ChatGPT is explicitly subject to legal charges in China. Despite efforts by OpenAI to restrict access to ChatGPT by blocking IP addresses in China, Hong Kong, and sanctioned regions, some users manage to bypass these restrictions using VPNs and obtaining phone numbers from supported areas. Engaging in such circumvention practices, however, exposes users to potential legal consequences.

The report by SCMP highlighted that three of the detainees had previous involvement in criminal activities, including spreading misinformation and selling stolen CCTV footage through deep fake technology. The surge in legal cases related to the misuse of generative AI in China underscores the challenges posed by the mass popularity of such technologies and their potential for criminal exploitation.

One notable case in May 2023 involved the detention of a man in Gansu province for allegedly using ChatGPT to spread fake news about a train crash, further emphasizing the urgent need for robust regulations and legal frameworks to address the evolving landscape of AI-related crimes. As China takes decisive steps to curb the misuse of AI, the global community watches closely, recognizing the broader implications for AI ethics, cybersecurity, and legal accountability.




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