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Think tank Urges Vigilance Against North Korea’s AI Rise


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In an effort to bolster its AI capabilities, North Korea has become a growing concern for international security, prompting the Stimson Center’s think tank, 38 North, to call on cloud computing service providers to take preventative action.

As North Korea focuses on advancing its artificial intelligence capacities, concerns arise over its potential ability to rent infrastructure from cloud providers, allowing it to sidestep existing sanctions. Hyuk Kim of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies sheds light on these developments in his recent report, “North Korea’s Artificial Intelligence Research: Trends and Potential Civilian and Military Applications.”


North Korea’s AI Pursuits and National Priorities


The report highlights North Korea’s keen interest in artificial intelligence, making it a national priority. Kim emphasizes that despite international sanctions preventing the acquisition of hardware for AI infrastructure, the nation has demonstrated considerable expertise through scientific publications. Notably, North Korea has delved into various applications, including nuclear energy safety, wargaming, and battle simulation, showcasing a multifaceted approach to AI development.


Warning Against the Proliferation Risks


Kim’s primary concern centers on the potential for North Korea to exploit cloud computing services to advance its AI capabilities. He warns of the “intangible transfer of technology (ITT),” where the nation could leverage cloud providers to rent infrastructure surreptitiously. Given North Korea’s track record of supporting overseas IT operatives and disguising them as remote workers, the risk of utilizing cloud services for military-oriented AI efforts becomes plausible. This “ITT” poses a challenge to existing sanctions and export controls that primarily focus on physical goods, creating a need for increased vigilance in monitoring intangible transfers.


Cloud Providers Called to Action


The Stimson Center’s call to action urges cloud computing service providers to enhance their vigilance and implement measures to prevent unintentional support for North Korea’s AI ambitions. As clouds often lack visibility into the specific workloads their customers execute, Kim emphasizes the importance of implementing more stringent verification processes to identify potential misuse. Strengthening security protocols and monitoring for suspicious activities could mitigate the risk of North Korea exploiting cloud services for its military AI initiatives.


Mitigating Collaboration Risks in Academic Circles


Beyond cloud providers, Kim draws attention to the potential collaboration risks associated with academic conferences. He suggests that conference organizers play a role in educating scholars about the risks tied to international collaborations. By raising awareness and implementing measures to ensure academic freedom is preserved while safeguarding against undisclosed military applications, the academic community can contribute to mitigating the proliferation risks associated with North Korea’s AI pursuits.


In conclusion, as North Korea continues to invest in AI, the international community, cloud providers, and academic institutions must collaborate to address the emerging security threats. By implementing proactive measures and fostering awareness, stakeholders can work together to prevent unintended support for North Korea’s military AI efforts, thereby upholding global security

Saeed Minhas
Saeed Minhas
Saeed Minhas is an accomplished journalist with extensive experience in the field. He has held prominent positions such as Editor at Daily Times and Daily Duniya. Currently, he serves as the Chief Editor (National) at The Think Tank Journal

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