Government tech tsar warns of AI cyber threat to NHS
Ian Hogarth, the government’s new AI tsar, has warned that artificial intelligence could be used by cyber criminals to attack NHS.
The industry expert also warned that the disruption could rival that the COVID-19 pandemic, as he set out his priorities for his £100mn task force.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Ian Hogarth, Chair of the UK government’s ‘Frontier AI’ task force, said that weaponising the technology to hobble the National Health Service or to perpetrate a “biological attack” were among the biggest AI risks his team was looking to tackle.
He said: “These are fundamentally global risks. 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.
“It’s just like pandemics. It’s the sort of thing where you can’t go it alone in terms of trying to contain these threats.”
Hogarth said it was the largest amount any nation-state has committed to frontier AI safety. Hogarth likened the scale of the threat to the NHS to that of the Covid pandemic, which caused years of disruption to the UK’s public health service, and the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, which cost the NHS an estimated £92mn and led to the cancellation of 19,000 patient appointments.
“The kind of risks that we are paying most attention to are augmented national security risks,” said Hogarth, a former tech entrepreneur and venture capital investor.
He added: “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.”
He has been closely involved in planning the UK’s first global AI safety summit at Bletchley Park at the beginning of November.
Cyber expert Oseloka Obiora, CTO, RiverSafe added: “Once cyber criminals fully master the art of AI cyber attacks, organisations like the NHS will be under serious threat if radical action isn’t taken. The truth is that much of our critical infrastructure, including schools, councils, and hospitals, will struggle to defend against such threats, both in terms of technology and skills.
“The government is quite rightly putting these threats to the very top of the agenda, but technology leaders need to heed the warning and get moving, to better prepare for the next inevitable attack.”