Sens. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., sent a letter to Acting National Cyber Director Kemba Walden last week, encouraging the White House to provide updates on efforts to reduce artificial intelligence’s potential threat to the nation’s cyber infrastructure.

“Our country will benefit enormously from broadening the technical skills across our workforce by making software development more accessible and secure,” the senators wrote on Sept. 7. “However, bad actors can also leverage generative AI technology to accelerate their attempts to undermine established cybersecurity protections.

“As a result, attackers could profit by stealing money, data, and intellectual property from everyday Americans and the small businesses that power our economy,” they wrote.

In their letter encouraging increased coordination between Congress and the White House on the emerging topic, the senators offered more than a dozen questions to Walden, including:

  • How can defenders of critical infrastructure leverage AI to secure their systems;
  • Since the public release of accessible open source large language models, has there been any increase in cybercrime activity that can be attributed to fine-tuned AI models;
  • What recommendations do you have for private and public industries that may fall victim to adversarial AI-enabled cyberattacks; and
  • How does the new National Cybersecurity Strategy address risks posed by generative AI?

The senators recognized in their letter that the Federal government has been conducting advanced research in the cybersecurity and AI fields, including through the White House’s new National Cybersecurity Strategy, the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s AI Risk Management Framework.

“Cybersecurity professionals have a long history of using tools and techniques supported by AI to prevent, and respond to, malicious cyber activity,” the senators wrote. “Protecting our nation’s cyber infrastructure requires leveraging all tools at our disposal, including applying AI techniques to improve cybersecurity defenses in organizations of all sizes and technical capacity.”

The senators’ letter to Walden comes a few weeks after the Biden administration announced its plans to develop an executive order and pursue bipartisan legislation to help America “lead the way in responsible innovation” of AI.

A White House official said in July that there is no timeline for President Biden’s AI executive order and bipartisan legislation, but that the nation should expect to see something soon.

The administration also noted that the Office of Management and Budget will soon release draft policy guidance for Federal agencies to “ensure the development, procurement, and use of AI systems is centered around safeguarding the American people’s rights and safety.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.