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It’s hard to think of a technology more impactful than Artificial Intelligence (AI). While it’s been around for a while, it’s only recently broken into the mainstream. Now that it has, it’s rewriting the playbook for much of the tech industry, especially open-source software (OSS).

As exciting as this new technological age can seem, it’s not without downsides. AI is a tool, so whether its impact is good or bad depends on how people use it. As you might expect, cybercriminals haven’t taken long to take advantage of this immense opportunity. Conversely, you can use open-source AI tools to fight against these threats and improve security in Linux environments. 

AI-Driven Security Threats Targeting Open-Source Ecosystems

AI-driven threats are cause for concern in any context, but open-source platforms are sometimes uniquely vulnerable. Attacks against the OSS supply chain grew by almost 280% between 2022 and 2023. You can’t blame AI for all this, but it likely played a role.

Open AI tools make it easier than ever to develop advanced threats. Given how much the world relies on OSS, open repositories make ideal targets for these attacks. Here’s a closer look at a few of the most common AI-driven threats amid this trend.

Contributor Spoofing

Ethical HackingThe collaborative nature of OSS makes it particularly prone to spoofing attacks. While you don’t need AI to impersonate a trusted contributor and inject backdoors into open-source code, generative models make it much easier.

Security researchers have proven tools like GPT-3 can craft more effective phishing attacks than humans, even when the victims are cybersecurity pros. The danger here for OSS is criminals can use AI to spoof contributor profiles. Once they do that, they can add malicious code into otherwise secure open repositories.

OSS’s collaboration also means spotting these attacks is more accessible, but that doesn’t always work out how you’d hope. You may remember how Linux narrowly avoided a massive security breach after a contributor found a backdoor that had gone unnoticed by many people for far too long.

It’s unclear if this backdoor was the product of AI, and, thankfully, someone caught it before it caused any damage. But the incident is a chilling reminder of what such an attack could do. As AI makes it harder to catch malicious code and contributors, backdoors like this could become increasingly common.

Prompt Injection

AI prompt injection is a similar threat facing open-source environments. Interestingly, these attacks both use AI and target it. With the help of code-generating AI tools, cybercriminals can create malicious prompts that affect an open-source model’s output. While that’s possible without automation, using it boosts their chances of injecting something the target AI and its contributors can’t detect.

Prompt injection and data poisoning attacks have been a concern for almost as long as machine learning has been around. The industry’s move toward open-source models could make this threat all the more prominent.

A whopping 80% of IT leaders plan to use more open-source tools in their AI projects. That trend makes open machine learning models a more promising target for prompt injection attacks. A single successful incident could affect multiple companies’ AI applications, and these injections will get more complicated to spot as generative AI makes it easier to ramp up their complexity.

AI technology on the defensive side has also improved. You can use tools like Recon-ng and others in the OSINT Framework to scour the web for information on developing trends and found vulnerabilities. Using these proactive monitoring tools to stay ahead of evolving attacks can help you spot malicious code or compromised AI models before you deploy them.

Over-Reliance on AI Coding Tools

Container SecurityHow open-source contributors use AI can pose some risks, too. One of the most exciting use cases for AI in OSS is automated coding. With open AI tools to write and check code, you can develop apps in much less time, but over-relying on these technologies could leave you vulnerable.

For all of AI’s strengths, it’s not as good at programming as a human expert. That becomes a more significant concern if you take its output at face value and assume it’s giving you solid, safe code. What if you automate a few lines of code, don’t double-check it, and plug it into your software only to find it contains some glaring holes?

These concerns aren’t just hypothetical. A 2021 study found 40% of the code from one popular generative tool contained flaws or bugs that make it vulnerable to attack. These models have improved since then, but they’re still imperfect.

The solution here is to be cautious about AI-generated code, always double-checking it before using it. AI analysis tools can help find vulnerabilities, too. However, these security gaps could become more common as people become more comfortable with automation.

How Can I Leverage Open-Source AI Tools for Threat Detection on Linux?

AI-driven threats are likely more than a passing trend. Almost nine in 10 security experts expect them to remain relevant for the foreseeable future. It’s time for the open-source community to take AI threats seriously, which means fighting fire with fire.

Open-Source Threat Detection Tools Today

While opening software development to everyone can create risks related to backdoors and malicious code injection, you can develop effective security solutions faster. The community has already done a great job matching cybercriminals’ use of AI with AI-driven security. As a result, you have plenty of open-source AI threat detection tools to choose from today.

One of the most popular open-source AI frameworks — TensorFlow — has extensive threat detection applications. Because this platform is so well-liked, it gets a lot of attention from the security community. You can find plenty of threat detection models and how-to guides on TensorFlow to enable AI-driven vulnerability management tools in your Linux environment.

These tools can apply outside of threats targeting your operating system, too. One team built a TensorFlow solution that detected zero-day exploits on social media with an 80% success rate by scanning public conversations for signs of emerging issues.

Apache Metron was another popular open-source AI threat detection platform, though Apache has since retired it. However, some alternatives have taken its place. Some devs working on Metron-based tools transitioned their work to release similar but improved solutions like Seimbol and HELK.

Deploying These Tools Effectively

These tools let you spot and contain threats faster and more accurately than you could do alone. That’s a crucial advantage as attacks against Linux and other OSS applications rise. Remember, any tool requires proper usage to reach its full potential.

Deploying AI threat detection tools effectively starts with choosing the right one. Given the threat of contributor spoofing and prompt injection, you should only use platforms from trusted developers with plenty of ongoing community support.

Choosing one from a library you’re already familiar with is also best. Doing so helps avoid the human errors that play a role in 95% of cybersecurity incidents today.

As with all open-source platforms, you should emphasize the configuration and testing stages. Test and test again until you’re certain you’ve set these tools up correctly and their code doesn’t contain vulnerabilities.

How Can I Utilize AI to Strengthen Linux Security Auditing?

Security VulnsSimilarly, you can use open-source AI to perform ongoing Linux security audits. These are important because you probably won’t create an impenetrable system on your first try, and threats always change.

Like with threat detection, there are plenty of OSS solutions to automate security auditing. One option is Lynis, which has been around since 2007, and supports Linux and Unix-based operating systems. It also performs specific tests depending on the components it discovers, so it’ll automatically scale up and adapt to perform a comprehensive scan as your environment changes.

OpenSCAP is another option. This tool pulls information from vulnerability databases to keep up with emerging threat trends. It also lets you configure it to meet specific regulatory standards, so it’s a great alternative if compliance is a more pressing issue for your applications.

Once again, be sure to think about how you use these tools. Always match security auditing solutions to your existing OSS framework and ensure you configure them correctly before relying on them. Stay involved in their communities to catch word of necessary patches as soon as people discover them.

Advancement of AI-Powered Network Security in Linux

Network security is another area where AI can improve Linux security. Linux network intrusion monitors have been around for a while, but as AI has grown, these platforms have become more reliable.

Take Zeek, for instance, which first appeared as “Bro” in the 90s. Since then, more than 10,000 deployments, 3,000 tracked network events, and 240 community-provided packages have pushed it to become a powerful, comprehensive network traffic analysis tool.

You can also find more specific intrusion detection tools today. One great option is Suricata, which can automatically detect protocols, traffic anomalies, and policy violations to streamline network detection and response. Paid options like Snort sometimes offer further benefits, such as automatic traffic debugging.

Regardless of your chosen solution, these AI-driven tools help you detect network threats faster. You can stop breaches before they cause too much damage and minimize the related costs.

Open-Source AI Frameworks for Security Incident Response

Server SecurityOf course, detecting a potential breach is just the first step. You also need to respond to these alerts to ensure the safety of your Linux systems. Thankfully, open-source AI frameworks can streamline and improve this process, too.

While it’s possible to respond to events manually, the rise of AI-based threats means you’ll likely have to deal with much higher incident volumes. In fact, 75% of security pros say they’ve noticed an uptick in attacks, and 85% say generative AI is to blame. AI response management tools streamline operations enough so you can keep up with this spike.

One of the most popular solutions is to use Sigma rules to look for anomalies in your event logs. You can build your own OSS solution to apply Sigma or use an off-the-shelf app from an existing community.

The Hive Project’s Cortex is one popular solution. Cortex analyzes observables like IP addresses, domain names, and hashes to classify potential threats in one process instead of running multiple programs. That gives you more time to respond to threats instead of letting an attack spread as you try to figure out what it is.

Our Final Thoughts: Open-source Security Must Adapt to AI

AI is here to stay. That can both help and hinder open-source solutions in terms of cybersecurity. On one hand, attacks are more common and sophisticated than ever before. On the other, you have more powerful tools at your disposal to stop them.

Cybercriminals are already using AI to target OSS. It’s now up to the good guys to match them and use the same technology to build stronger defenses.