Essays Tagged "Atlantic"
Page 1 of 4
Just Wait Until Trump Is a Chatbot
Artificial intelligence is already showing up in political ads. Soon, it will completely change the nature of campaigning.
Earlier this week, the Republican National Committee released a video that it claims was “built entirely with AI imagery.” The content of the ad isn’t especially novel—a dystopian vision of America under a second term with President Joe Biden—but the deliberate emphasis on the technology used to create it stands out: It’s a “Daisy” moment for the 2020s.
We should expect more of this kind of thing. The applications of AI to political advertising have not escaped campaigners, who are already “pressure testing” possible uses for the technology. In the 2024 presidential-election campaign, you can bank on the appearance of AI-generated personalized fundraising emails, text messages from chatbots urging you to vote, and maybe even some deepfaked campaign …
How to Decarbonize Crypto
The sins of FTX aren’t the only problem the crypto world needs to pay for.
Maintaining bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies causes about 0.3 percent of global CO2 emissions. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s more than the emissions of Switzerland, Croatia, and Norway combined. As many cryptocurrencies crash and the FTX bankruptcy moves into the litigation stage, regulators are likely to scrutinize the crypto world more than ever before. This presents a perfect opportunity to curb their environmental damage.
The good news is that cryptocurrencies don’t have to be carbon intensive. In fact, some have near-zero emissions. To encourage polluting currencies to reduce their carbon footprint, we need to force buyers to pay for their environmental harms through taxes…
Why Vaccine Cards Are So Easily Forged
Sometimes a little security theater isn’t the worst thing.
My proof of COVID vaccination is recorded on an easy-to-forge paper card. With little trouble, I could print a blank form, fill it out, and snap a photo. Small imperfections wouldn’t pose any problem; you can’t see whether the paper’s weight is right in a digital image. When I fly internationally, I have to show a negative COVID test result. That, too, would be easy to fake. I could change the date on an old test, or put my name on someone else’s test, or even just make something up on my computer. After all, there’s no standard format for test results; airlines accept anything that looks plausible…
The Twitter Hacks Have to Stop
Twitter was hacked this week. Not a few people’s Twitter accounts, but all of Twitter. Someone compromised the entire Twitter network, probably by stealing the log-in credentials of one of Twitter’s system administrators. Those are the people trusted to ensure that Twitter functions smoothly.
The hacker used that access to send tweets from a variety of popular and trusted accounts, including those of Joe Biden, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk, as part of a mundane scam—stealing bitcoin—but it’s easy to envision more nefarious scenarios. Imagine a government using this sort of attack against another government, coordinating a series of fake tweets from hundreds of politicians and other public figures the day before a major election, to affect the outcome. Or to escalate an …
Bots Are Destroying Political Discourse As We Know It
They’re mouthpieces for foreign actors, domestic political groups, even the candidates themselves. And soon you won’t be able to tell they’re bots.
Presidential-campaign season is officially, officially, upon us now, which means it’s time to confront the weird and insidious ways in which technology is warping politics. One of the biggest threats on the horizon: Artificial personas are coming, and they’re poised to take over political debate. The risk arises from two separate threads coming together: artificial-intelligence-driven text generation and social-media chatbots. These computer-generated “people” will drown out actual human discussions on the internet.
Text-generation software is already good enough to fool most people most of the time. It’s writing news stories, particularly in …
Nobody’s Cellphone Is Really That Secure
But most of us aren’t the president of the United States.
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that the Russians and the Chinese were eavesdropping on President Donald Trump’s personal cellphone and using the information gleaned to better influence his behavior. This should surprise no one. Security experts have been talking about the potential security vulnerabilities in Trump’s cellphone use since he became president. And President Barack Obama bristled at—but acquiesced to—the security rules prohibiting him from using a “regular” cellphone throughout his presidency.
Three broader questions obviously emerge from the story. Who else is listening in on Trump’s cellphone calls? What about the cellphones of other world leaders and senior government officials? And—most personal of all—what about …
The New Way Your Computer Can Be Attacked
Unprecedented computer-chip vulnerabilities exposed this month paint a grim picture of the future of cybersecurity.
On January 3, the world learned about a series of major security vulnerabilities in modern microprocessors. Called Spectre and Meltdown, these vulnerabilities were discovered by several different researchers last summer, disclosed to the microprocessors’ manufacturers, and patched—at least to the extent possible.
This news isn’t really any different from the usual endless stream of security vulnerabilities and patches, but it’s also a harbinger of the sorts of security problems we’re going to be seeing in the coming years. These are vulnerabilities in computer hardware, not software. They affect virtually all high-end microprocessors produced in the last 20 years. Patching them requires large-scale coordination across the industry, and in some cases drastically affects the performance of the computers. And sometimes patching isn’t possible; the vulnerability will remain until the computer is discarded…
Who Are the Shadow Brokers?
What is—and isn’t—known about the mysterious hackers leaking National Security Agency secrets
In 2013, a mysterious group of hackers that calls itself the Shadow Brokers stole a few disks full of National Security Agency secrets. Since last summer, they’ve been dumping these secrets on the internet. They have publicly embarrassed the NSA and damaged its intelligence-gathering capabilities, while at the same time have put sophisticated cyberweapons in the hands of anyone who wants them. They have exposed major vulnerabilities in Cisco routers, Microsoft Windows, and Linux mail servers, forcing those companies and their customers to scramble. And they gave the authors of the WannaCry ransomware the …
Online Voting Won’t Save Democracy
But letting people use the internet to register to vote is a start.
Technology can do a lot more to make our elections more secure and reliable, and to ensure that participation in the democratic process is available to all. There are three parts to this process.
First, the voter registration process can be improved. The whole process can be streamlined. People should be able to register online, just as they can register for other government services. The voter rolls need to be protected from tampering, as that’s one of the major ways hackers can disrupt the election.
Second, the voting process can be significantly improved. Voting machines need to be made more secure. There are a lot of technical details best left to the …
How Long Until Hackers Start Faking Leaked Documents?
There’s nothing stopping attackers from manipulating the data they make public.
In the past few years, the devastating effects of hackers breaking into an organization’s network, stealing confidential data, and publishing everything have been made clear. It happened to the Democratic National Committee, to Sony, to the National Security Agency, to the cyber-arms weapons manufacturer Hacking Team, to the online adultery site Ashley Madison, and to the Panamanian tax-evasion law firm Mossack Fonseca.
This style of attack is known as organizational doxing. The hackers, in some cases individuals and in others nation-states, are out to make political points by revealing proprietary, secret, and sometimes incriminating information. And the documents they leak do that, airing the organizations’ embarrassments for everyone to see…
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.