Top 10 Ways Hackers Use AI in Hacking

Top 10 Ways Hackers Use AI in Hacking

The cost of a data breach is at an all-time high, averaging more than $4.3 million in 2022.

Artificial intelligence is here to help us, but it also helps hackers. Now, in 2023, AI-powered hacking tools pose a new kind of threat to every business with an internet connection. Under the new normal, nobody is safe.

Keep reading to learn how malicious actors are exploiting AI in hacking to make their attacks more effective, intrusive, and dangerous.

Use Case #1: Intelligent Malware Creation

Hackers can use generative AI in the creation of intelligent malware.

For hackers, the core problem with designing malware is that once someone finds it, they can remove it. But intelligent malware can learn and adapt to its environment. It can change its characteristics to evade detection.

This makes it difficult for malware removal software to detect and neutralize.

AI-powered malware can analyze the target system and exploit vulnerabilities on the fly to gain access. Crucially, it learns from its mistakes. If something doesn't work, it can simply modify its approach and try again.

Use Case #2: AI-Powered Phishing

Phishing emails are a ubiquitous hacking method.

That's because - as in all matters of cybersecurity protection - the human element is often the weak link in the chain. Phishing emails are fake but look genuine. Often, they contain harmless-seeming links that lead unsuspecting users to malicious websites.

For example, a phishing email might try to send a victim to a cloned website of their bank. The cloned website then records their personal data - usernames and passwords - allowing the hacker to gain access.

So, how can AI help a hacker with a phishing email?

It's the personal element. By analyzing a target's online behavior and preferences, a generative AI can develop convincing phishing emails. It can even mimic the writing style of a trusted contact to make the phishing email more convincing.

This level of personalization makes AI-powered phishing emails a powerful tool of malice in any hacker's toolbox.

Use Case #3: Generating Infinite Deepfake Data

Deepfakes have been around for almost a decade. In that time, deepfake creators have learned how to make them more realistic. Many are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing in 2023.

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), the technology deep fakes rely on, were first invented in 2014. But their history dates back to the 1990s. Hackers can use deep fake data to launch attacks - often exploiting the human element.

Yet deep fakes need not rely on targeting single users.

For example, hackers can use machine learning tools to create a deep fake video of a CEO making a damaging statement. Then, they can take advantage of the fallout to turn a profit as the company's stock prices nose dive. Spreading artificially generated deep fakes to cause a scandal is no longer science fiction.

Use Case #4: Cracking CAPTCHAs

CAPTCHA is a common security measure that internet users come across every day. It distinguishes humans from bots.


However, many hackers have learned that AI-powered tools are adept at cracking CAPTCHAs quickly in order to launch automated attacks.

AI algorithms can analyze the CAPTCHA image, identify characters (or images), and input the correct response. This effectively nullifies CAPTCHA protection, allowing hackers to make their attacks faster and more efficient.

Use Case #5: Generative Adversarial Networks

We mentioned GANs above. GANs involve two neural networks. One generates fake data, and the other evaluates it.

The generator tries to fool the evaluator, and the evaluator tries to catch the fake data. In doing so, the algorithm can learn from its own mistakes and successes. You might think of it as "a computer learning chess by playing against itself."

In the context of hacking, people can use GANs to generate fake data, create intelligent malware, launch phishing attacks, and more. The potential applications of GANs as hacking tools are vast, concerning - and still being uncovered.

Use Case #6: AI-Powered Social Engineering

Social engineering doesn't refer to one "type" of hacking the way a phishing or brute force attack does. Instead, it's commonly a part of all hacking attempts that involve manipulating people into revealing sensitive information.

Often, such information is known only to the target, and as cybersecurity services have evolved, that part of the equation can be critical for a hacking attempt to succeed. Passwords, for instance, are used all over the internet to protect sensitive user data.

In most cases, passwords aren't known by the website or company you're logging into. That's because they're not stored as plain text but encrypted using a salted hash. It's a one-way algorithm that's impossible to reverse.

In short: Nobody knows your password but you.

So now, hackers are resorting to AI tools to impersonate humans and trick their targets into letting sensitive information slip. AI can analyze the target's communication style, mimic it, and create convincing messages.

This level of sophistication makes AI-powered social engineering a significant threat to cybersecurity.

Use Case #7: Brute Forcing

Password cracking is a common hacking method. But it's rarely glamorous or ingenious; instead, it's time-consuming and requires considerable computing power. A "brute force" hacking attack is an attempt to crack a password by trying every possible combination of numbers, letters, and symbols.

The time to crack a password increases exponentially the longer (and more unpredictable) a password is.

Yet AI is changing the game. Hackers can use it to analyze a target's online behavior, identify potential password patterns, and then guess the password. It's faster and more efficient than traditional password-cracking methods, and it's only a matter of time until AI-powered hacking tools master the craft.

Use Case #8: Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing is a hacking method that involves using stolen credentials to gain unauthorized access to systems. Now, hackers are using AI to automate this process.


AI can analyze the target system, identify the login mechanism, and automate credential stuffing. This ability allows hackers to launch massive attacks in rapid succession, overwhelming the target faster and increasing the chances of a successful attack.

Use Case #9: Autonomous Botnet Management

Hacking is an intensive task for computers. To get around hardware limitations, some hackers resort to botnets. These are networks of infected computers under partial or total control of the hackers.

Often, the intrusion goes undetected. And hackers using AI to manage their botnets work more efficiently and with a lower risk of detection.

As you'd expect, this is because of AI's ability to analyze and adapt. It can develop an understanding of the behavior of infected computers and identify patterns to remain under the radar for longer. It can also adapt to network changes and alter its approach.

Use Case #10: Spam

You might not think of spam emails as a traditional hacking tool. In fact, most are benign - if dubious - emails blasted to millions of inboxes in an attempt to attract buyers for products.

Yet spam emails can also be a significant threat. AI-generated spam emails, capable of writing elegant and convincing prose, are more likely to trick recipients into downloading malware-infected attachments or clicking on malicious links.

AI can analyze the recipient's online behavior on its own to identify potential hooks. It can learn what a target is interested in, study their Google searches and browser history, and generate personalized spam emails that are more likely to catch the target's attention.

As with phishing, this level of personalization makes spam emails another powerful vector for hackers to attack.

Understanding AI in Hacking

As complicated as it appears to the end user, AI isn't magic.

It won't "do" the hacking for a malicious actor; there is no "crack password" or "hack server" button. There never will be. Instead, hackers can harness the power of AI to expand their reach and amplify the potential damage they can cause.

Simply put, AI provides them with a flexible, autonomous tool that can learn and adapt based on the prompts and training data given to it by hackers.

The more data, the more dangerous the AI.

AI-powered tools aren't showing any signs of limiting their data sets any time soon. The end result is that data breaches become faster, more efficient, and capable of exploiting vulnerabilities more quickly.

And every business has to tread quickly and carefully to stay one step ahead of the hackers.

Preparing for the Future of AI in Hacking

The use of AI in hacking is here. It's a reality we can't ignore.

Hackers are already leveraging AI in innovative ways to launch sophisticated attacks that can bypass even the most robust security systems. The only way to combat this threat is to understand it and prepare.

Because now it's a technological arms race - and businesses are on the front lines.

Formed in 1998, SecPoint provides businesses across the globe with state-of-the-art cybersecurity software. Book a free demo of our software here.