With an estimated 180 million global users, security professionals cannot afford to ignore ChatGPT. Or rather, the risks associated with ChatGPT. Whether it’s the company’s workforce accidentally pasting sensitive data, attackers leveraging ChatGPT to target the workforce with phishing emails, or ChatGPT being breached and user information being exposed – there are multiple risks to organizational data and systems that need to be taken into consideration.

In this guide, we dive deep into the various risks all organizations potentially face from ChatGPT’s security vulnerabilities. But we’re not here to scare you. This guide offers practices and solutions for minimizing those risks while letting employees enjoy the productivity benefits of generative AI. To make the most out of this guide, we recommend reading through the risks and best practices, comparing them to your stack and overall plan, highlighting any gaps that should be addressed, and working towards closing those holes.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an AI chatbot that can understand and generate human-like text based on the input (prompts) it receives. This allows ChatGPT to perform a wide range of versatile tasks, like composing emails, coding, offering insightful advice and engaging in nuanced conversations across various subjects. As a result, ChatGPT has become widely popular, and is in use by millions of users worldwide.

ChatGPT is powered by an LLM (large language model) called GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer). GPT models are models that process information like a human brain. This allows them to derive context, relevance and data relationships. Since GPT models were trained on diverse datasets, their outputs are applicable across a wide range of applications.

Both ChatGPT and GPT were developed by OpenAI. The latest GPT model released by OpenAI is GPT-4, which is capable of interpreting both text and image inputs. ChatGPT can run on GPT-4, for paid users, or on GPT-3.5, for non-paid plans, among other options.

Despite its innovative capabilities, there are also growing concerns about ChatGPT security and its potential risks. Let’s see which ones.

Why ChatGPT Security is a Growing Concern

The rising concern over ChatGPT security stems from its expansive capabilities in processing and generating human-like text coupled with the vast amounts of data inputted by users. This makes it one of the most powerful modern tools for innovation, but also for exploitations. The ChatGPT security concern is not unfounded. In early 2023, OpenAI identified and fixed a bug that allows users to see titles and content from other users’ chat history. If this content included sensitive data, it was revealed to external users.

The issue with ChatGPT is the need to balance productivity with security. Businesses and individuals increasingly rely on ChatGPT for various applications, from customer service to content creation. However, this means the potential for misuse also becomes more widespread. Therefore, it’s important to ensure no sensitive or confidential information is inputted.

Employee training and relevant security tools can address these ChatGPT concerns. They can protect against misuse and data leaks and help increase vigilance to attacks and hallucinations. In addition, it’s important to introduce ethical and security guidelines to enterprises, regarding which types of data can be inputted and which cannot. Together – tools, training and processes, can ensure enterprises enjoy ChatGPT productivity without the security risks.

ChatGPT Security Vulnerabilities

There are three primary scenarios in which ChatGPT could become a vector for data breaches:

1. Misuse by Organization Employees

When employees interact with ChatGPT, they might unintentionally type or paste sensitive or proprietary company information into the application. This could include source code, customer data, IP, PII, business plans, and more. This creates a data leakage risk, as the input data can potentially be stored or processed in ways that are not fully under the company’s control.

For one, this data could be stored by OpenAI or used for model retraining, which means adversaries or competitors could gain access to it through prompts of their own. In other cases, if attackers breach OpenAI, they might gain access to this data.

Unauthorized access to sensitive data could have financial, legal and business implications for the organization. Attackers can exploit the data for ransomware, phishing, identity theft, selling of IP and source code, and more. This puts the company’s reputation at risk, could result in fines and other legal measures and might require significant resources for mitigating the attack or paying ransoms.

2. Targeted Attacks Using ChatGPT’s Capabilities

Even organizations whose employees do not use ChatGPT are not exempt from its potential security impact on them. Attackers can use ChatGPT as their own productivity booster and use it to attack the organization. For example, they can use it to craft sophisticated phishing emails, for social engineering attacks, to gather information that could be used in further attacks against an organization, or for malicious code development or debugging.

3. Attacks on ChatGPT Itself

In ChatGPT we trust? Millions have turned to ChatGPT with their most important work tasks and personal considerations, sharing confidential data. But what happens if OpenAI security is compromised? Successfully breaching OpenAI through ChatGPT vulnerabilities could mean attackers access sensitive data processed by the AI system. This includes the prompts inputted by users, chat history, user data like email and billing information, and prompt metadata like the types and frequency of prompts. The result could be privacy violations, data breaches, or identity theft.

4. Legal and Compliance Risks

Many organizations use ChatGPT in environments regulated by data protection laws (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA). However, organizations might inadvertently breach these regulations if ChatGPT processes personal data without adequate safeguards, leading to legal penalties and reputational damage.

ChatGPT Security Risks for Enterprises

ChatGPT Security refers to all the security measures and protocols implemented to ensure safety and security related to ChatGPT use. These are required to protect against the following risks:

1. Data Integrity and Privacy Risks

Data Breaches/Data Theft/Data Leak

ChatGPT’s ability to process vast amounts of information raises the risk of data breaches. If sensitive information is input into the model, there’s a potential for data leaks. This could occur if the platform’s security measures are compromised or if this data is used for training the model and is then provided as a response to a prompt by a competitor or attacker. 

Information Gathering

Malicious actors could leverage ChatGPT to gather sensitive information by engaging in seemingly innocuous conversations that are designed to extract reconnaissance data. This could include information about systems and network components companies use, security practices in use as a means to overcome them, practices about how to attack systems, information about user preferences, user metadata and more.

Dissemination of Misinformation

ChatGPT might inadvertently spread false information, misleading facts, or fabricate data. This could occur due to hallucinations or if attackers advertently input false information into ChatGPT, so it is included in model training and provided in other responses. This could lead to decision-making based on inaccurate information, affecting enterprise integrity and reputation.

Automated Propaganda

As an example of the above, the ability to generate persuasive and tailored content can be misused for spreading propaganda or manipulating public opinion on a large scale.

Fabricated and Inaccurate Answers

Similar to dissemination of misinformation, this one involves ChatGPT generating false or misleading responses that could be mistakenly considered as factual, affecting business decisions and customer trust.

2. Bias and Ethical Concerns

Model and Output Bias

Inherent biases in the training data can lead to skewed or prejudiced outputs. For example, if responses distinguish between ethnic groups or genders when making decisions about hiring or promotions. This could lead to unethical decision-making and potentially lead to public relations issues and legal ramifications.

Consumer Protection Risks

Enterprises must navigate the fine line between leveraging ChatGPT’s capabilities for productivity and ensuring they do not inadvertently harm consumers through biased or unethical outputs. They should also ensure employees do not include PII or sensitive customer information in prompts, potentially violating privacy regulations.

Bias Mitigation

While efforts are made by OpenAI to reduce bias, the risk remains that not all biases are adequately addressed, leading to potentially discriminatory practices or outputs.

3. Malicious Use Cases

Malware Development and Ransomware

ChatGPT can be misused to develop sophisticated malware or ransomware scripts, posing significant security threats to enterprises. While it’s against OpenAI policy to use ChatGPT for attacks, the tool can still be manipulated through various prompts, like asking the chatbot to act like a pen tester or write or debug seemingly unrelated code scripts.

Malicious Code Generation

As mentioned above, ChatGPT can be used to generate code that can exploit vulnerabilities in software or systems, facilitating unauthorized access or data breaches.

Malicious Phishing Emails

Attackers can use ChatGPT to create highly convincing phishing emails, increasing the likelihood of successful scams and information theft. With this AI tool, they can create emails that simulate tones and voices, like publicly-known figures, make themselves sound like enterprise professionals, like CEOs and IT, eliminate grammar mistakes, which are one of the telltales of phishing emails, and write in a wide range of languages, allowing them to broaden their attack spectrum.

Social Engineering Attacks

Similar to phishing emails, ChatGPT can generate contextually relevant and convincing messages. This means it can be weaponized to conduct social engineering attacks, tricking employees into compromising security protocols.

Impersonation

ChatGPT’s advanced language capabilities make it a tool for creating messages or content that impersonates individuals or entities, leading to potential fraud, and social engineering. and misinformation.

Bypassing Content Moderation Systems

Sophisticated language generation can be used to craft messages that evade detection by standard content moderation systems. This poses a risk to online safety and compliance, since traditional security tools are less effective than before.

4. Operational and Policy Risks

Intellectual Property (IP) and Copyright Risks

The generation of content by ChatGPT could inadvertently infringe on existing intellectual property rights. If ChatGPT creates content that mirrors or closely resembles existing copyrighted materials, the result can be IP infringement,  posing legal and financial risks to enterprises.

Intellectual Property Theft

The other side of the coin is when ChatGPT provides responses based on your own proprietary information or creative content, leading to financial loss and a competitive disadvantage.

Jailbreak Attacks (Attacks on ChatGPT)

Malicious actor attempts to bypass or exploit OpenAI’s built-in safeguards, with the goal of making it perform tasks outside its intended or ethically permissible boundaries. This could range from generating content that violates usage policies to manipulating the model into revealing information it’s designed to withhold. Such attacks could compromise the data integrity of enterprises who use ChatGPT and have inputted sensitive information, and make them susceptible to business and legal consequences if they put incorrect data from ChatGPT responses to use.

ChatGPT Privacy Bugs (Attack on ChatGPT)

Vulnerabilities or flaws within the system that could potentially compromise user privacy. These could be glitches that accidentally expose sensitive user data or loopholes that malicious actors exploit to access unauthorized information. These could compromise enterprise integrity, revealing business plans, source code, customer information, employee information and more.

OpenAI Company Policy Changes

Changes in OpenAI’s policies regarding the use of ChatGPT could have implications for enterprises relying on its technology. Such changes might include modifications to user privacy guidelines, data usage policies, or the ethical frameworks guiding its AI development and deployment. Misalignment between these new policies and user expectations or legal standards, which could lead to privacy concerns, reduced user trust, legal and compliance challenges, or challenges with operational continuity.

ChatGPT Extension Risks

The use of ChatGPT extensions, which are add-ons or integrations that expand the capabilities of the ChatGPT, is also a ChatGPT security risk. Here are some of the key ones:

  • Security Vulnerabilities – Extensions can introduce security weaknesses, especially if they are not developed or maintained with strict security standards. This can include introducing malicious code to the user’s browser, exfiltrating data, and more.
  • Privacy Concerns – Extensions that handle or process user data can pose privacy risks, particularly if they do not comply with data protection laws or if they collect, store, or transmit data in insecure ways.
  • Access to Identity Data – With malicious extensions, attackers can gain access to identity data – passwords, cookies, and MFA tokens. This enables them to breach the system and progress in it laterally.

How to Use ChatGPT Safely

We’ve reached our favorite part – what to do? There is a way to empower your workforce to leverage ChatGPT’s immense productivity potential while eliminating their ability to unintentionally expose sensitive data. Here’s how:

Develop Clear Usage Policies

Determine the data you’re most concerned with: source code, business plans, intellectual property, etc. Establish guidelines on how and when employees can use ChatGPT, emphasizing the types of information that should not be shared with the tool or should only be shared under strict conditions.

Conduct Training and Awareness Programs

Educate employees about the potential risks and limitations of using AI tools, including:

  • Data security and the risk of sharing sensitive data
  • The potential misuse of AI in cyber attacks
  • How to recognize AI-generated phishing attempts or other malicious communications

Promote a culture where AI tools are used responsibly as a complement to human expertise, not a replacement.

Use an Enterprise Browser Extension

ChatGPT is accessed and consumed through the browser, as a web application or browser extension. Therefore, traditional endpoint or network security tools cannot be used to secure the organizations and prevent employees from pasting or typing sensitive data into GenAI applications.

But an enterprise browser extension can. By creating a dedicated ChatGPT policy, the browser can prevent the sharing of sensitive data through pop-up warnings or blocking use altogether. In extreme cases, the enterprise browser can be configured to disable ChatGPT and its extensions altogether.

Detect and Block Risky Extensions

Scan your workforce’s browsers to discover installed malicious ChatGPT extensions that should be removed. In addition, continuously analyze the behavior of existing browser extensions to prevent them from accessing sensitive browser data. Disable extensions’ ability to extract credentials or other sensitive data from your workforce’s browsers.

Fortify Your Security Controls

Given attackers’ ability to use ChatGPT to their advantage, make cybersecurity a higher priority. This includes:

  • Fortifying controls against phishing, malware, injections, and ransomware
  • Restricting access to your systems to prevent unauthorized use that could result from attackers’ ability to, like MFA
  • Keeping your software patched and up-to-date
  • Implementing endpoint security measures
  • Ensuring password hygiene
  • Continuously monitoring to detect suspicious behavior and make sure to develop and practice your incident response plans.

Introducing ChatGPT DLP by LayerX

LayerX is an enterprise browser solution that protects organizations against web-borne threats and risks. LayerX has a unique solution to protect organizations against sensitive data exposure via ChatGPT and other generative AI tools, without disrupting the browser experience.

Users can map and define the data to protect, such as source code or intellectual property. When employees use ChatGPT, controls like pop-up warnings or blocking are enforced to ensure no secure data is exposed. LayerX ensures secure productivity and full utilization of ChatGPT’s potential without compromising data security.

For more details, click here.