Terrorist exploitation of artificial intelligence is at the centre of a study published by Pool Re, the UK’s government-backed public-private reinsurance backstop for terrorism risk.

Cyber attack

A newly published report by Pool Re, the insurance industry’s mutual for reinsuring terrorism risk in Great Britain, has warned that terrorists and violent extremists (TVEs), will likely find novel ways to exploit the changing risk and technological landscape by using artificial intelligence (AI).

The new report is a collaboration between Pool Re and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a UK-based defence and security think tank,

Written by Simon Copeland, research fellow in RUSI’s terrorism and conflict research group, the report emphasises that AI has already provided large and transformational societal benefits that include counterterrorism and threat detection.

However, like all technology, the paper warns that AI can be misused by TVEs.

The report explores ‘propaganda production’ and distribution, the potency of AI-powered software applications which fuel radicalisation.

It assesses the use of AI both in operations and activities, and goes on to analyse the outlook for AI over the next 10 years as it moves out of an experimental phase in its evolution.

Key takeaways included:

  • There is clear evidence that TVEs hold an interest in AI and, in many cases, are actively experimenting with this technology;
  • AI promises to provide TVEs with significant efficiencies for conducting a broad range of activities and operations in certain other situations;
  • AI is likely to offer significant benefits to support TVE’s operations and activities, including the planning, facilitation, and execution of violent attacks;
  • AI holds many promising applications for counterterrorism. This technology is likely to speed up time and labour-intensive processes by helping investigators gain access to secure electronic devices seized from potential suspects;
  • Although AI continues to develop at a rapid pace, understanding how existing AI models work can help assess how and where they are likely to be beneficial to TVEs;
  • TVE uptake is likely to be incremental and will be dictated by multiple factors including actors’ own perceptions of AI technology as well as changing societal and counterterrorism trends.