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AI robots capable of carrying out attack on NHS that would cause COVID-like disruption, expert warns


Robots run by artificial intelligence have the potential to attack the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) and cause a disruption on the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a cybersecurity expert.

Ian Hogarth, who works on the U.K.’s AI task force that was formed to help protect against the risks of AI, says that the growing technology is capable of an attack that could cripple the country’s NHS or even carry out a “biological attack,” according to a report in the Daily Star.

Hogarth noted that AI technology continues to improve at a rapid pace, something he warned would lower barriers to “perpetrating some kind of cyber attack or cyber crime.”

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A photo shows a sign of the London Ambulance Service of NHS in London. (Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Hogarth’s AI task force has received £100 million, roughly $124 million, in government funding, according to the Daily Star report, with the group’s work so far focusing on safety research that could help develop useful tools similar to ChatGPT. 

The U.K. “AI tsar” said it Is important for countries around the world to collaborate on mitigating the risks of AI. Hogarth specifically noted that it was also important to include countries like China in those discussions, something that has become even more critical after the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s just like pandemics. It’s the sort of thing where you can’t go it alone,” Hogarth said. “The kind of risks we are paying most attention to are augmented national security risks.”

brain image shown on hands in stock photo

Digital image of the brain on the palm using artificial Intelligence technology. (iStock)

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“These are fundamentally global risks,” he added. “And in the same way we collaborate with China in aspects of biosecurity and cyber security, I think there is a real value in international collaboration around the larger scale risks.”

Hogarth noted that much of the tech industry has begun to focus its attention on AI, something that has led to rapid improvement of the technology but also highlighted the dangers.

The AI expert pointed to the WannaCry cyberattack on NHS in 2017 that led to the cancelation of 19,000 patient appointments and costs the nation’s health service £92 million, or $114 million, arguing that the rapid advancement of AI technology could make such attacks easier.

openAI website on screen in darkened room

A man is seen using the OpenAI ChatGPT artificial intelligence chat website in this illustration photo on July 18, 2023. (Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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“A huge number of people in technology right now are trying to develop AI systems that are superhuman at writing code… That technology is getting better and better by the day,” Hogarth said. “And fundamentally, what that does is it lowers the barriers to perpetrating some kind of cyber attack or cyber crime.”



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