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Navigating AI Security: Risks, Strategies, and Tools

Discover strategies for AI security and learn how to establish a robust AI security framework. In this guide, we discuss various risks, and propose a number of best practices to bolster the resilience of your AI systems.

Lakera Team
December 1, 2023
November 16, 2023
Learn how to protect against the most common LLM vulnerabilities

Download this guide to delve into the most common LLM security risks and ways to mitigate them.

In-context learning

As users increasingly rely on Large Language Models (LLMs) to accomplish their daily tasks, their concerns about the potential leakage of private data by these models have surged.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming countless sectors with its ability to enhance efficiency and drive innovation.

Yet, this rapid advancement comes with significant security concerns that must be heeded.

With AI's growing role, including the rising use of Language Model-based Systems (LLMs), the potential for security breaches amplifies. 

Global initiatives, like the EU AI Act, underscore the importance of a collective approach to AI security.

This guide spotlights the security risks linked to AI, offering strategies and tools vital for risk mitigation, focusing particularly on the vulnerabilities associated with LLMs.

Here's what we cover:

  • Understanding AI security
  • Recognizing and mitigating risks
  • Best practices for protecting AI systems

Understanding AI Security

AI security refers to safeguarding algorithms, data, and AI-centric systems against a spectrum of threats that can emerge at any stage of their lifecycle.

As adversaries devise new tactics, the security terrain frequently shifts, necessitating a proactive and adaptive defense. 

A well-rounded strategic approach can be conceptualized as:

Protecting AI Systems

Guarding AI systems against intrusions is paramount. Measures must be taken to fend off unauthorized access and protect AI integrity from compromise or illicit modifications.

Countering Malicious AI Use

AI's potency can, unfortunately, be wielded to amplify cyber threats. Identifying these risks and devising countermeasures is critical to thwarting AI-based attacks.

Leveraging AI for Better Security

On the flip side, AI itself can reinforce security strategies, bolstering traditional protections and offering advanced threat detection capabilities.

**Explore OWASP's Top 10 for Large Language Models and learn about the most prominent LLM vulnerabilities.**

Securing Language Model-Based Systems

Given the prevalent use of LLMs, their security vulnerabilities cannot be overlooked. Comprehensive safeguards must be in place to address these challenges at every phase of their operation.

As reliance on LLMs intensifies, the tools designed to protect them are becoming more sophisticated, focusing on preemptively addressing any potential weak spots.

Through an understanding of AI security, we build resilience against the possibility of cyber threats in an AI-dependent era.

Lakera’s Contribution to AI Safety

Lakera has developed Lakera Guard to enhance the security of applications that use large language models (LLMs).

Our tool is designed to address a wide range of AI cyber threats. It reflects an effort to provide organizations with the defenses they need to protect against the current and future vulnerabilities associated with AI technologies.

Lakera Guard aims to enable organizations the secure adoption of AI, helping to mitigate potential risks as organizations navigate this technological domain.

AI Security: Recognizing and Mitigating Risks

As artificial intelligence (AI) permeates more areas of our lives, recognizing the security risks inherent in its use becomes vital.

From industries harnessing AI for innovation to everyday applications, the potential for security breaches and privacy concerns looms large.

Adversarial Machine Learning Attacks

Adversarial attacks are designed to deceive AI models, causing incorrect outcomes.

Attackers may feed misleading data or exploit model vulnerabilities, resulting in unpredictable AI behavior.

These breaches can have far-reaching consequences, so it’s essential to understand and protect against them.

Data Poisoning

Training AI models with manipulated data can lead to skewed learning and unreliable outputs, especially in systems like Language Models (LLMs) used in natural language processing.

Types of data poisoning:

  • Label Modification Attacks: Subsequently altering dataset labels to impact AI predictions, while avoiding detection.
  • Data Injection Attacks: Adding deceitful data to training sets to disrupt the model's learning and decision-making.
  • Data Modification Attacks: Corrupting existing training data subtly alters the AI’s learning input.
  • Logic Corruption Attacks: Directly tampering with the learning algorithm itself, compromising the model’s core decision-making.

Safeguarding AI from data poisoning requires robust security mechanisms.

Membership Inference Attacks

These attacks aim to determine whether specific data was used in training an AI model, potentially revealing sensitive information.

The process:

  • Focused Investigation: Attackers scrutinize particular data items, suspecting their inclusion in the training set.
  • Model Analysis: They observe the model's responses to glean clues about the training data.
  • Information Breach: Confirming the data’s inclusion risks exposing associated sensitive details.

Such violations are particularly troublesome in sectors like healthcare and finance, where personal data is prevalent. Implementing privacy approaches such as differential privacy is critical.

Input inference

Input inference attacks target AI models to guess sensitive or confidential information based on the model's outputs.


In these attacks, the adversary is not altering the model’s performance.

Instead, they are trying to figure out what data went into the model by looking at what comes out. They analyze the model's responses to uncover patterns and infer details about the input data which might be private or sensitive.

When input inference attacks succeed, they can break privacy and expose people to data breaches. It's pivotal to strengthen AI systems' security and privacy to guard against such risks.

Parameter Inference Attacks

These attacks are focused on discovering an AI model's internal setup, such as the architecture of its neural networks, their weights, and the type of activation functions used.

Attackers reverse-engineer these details without direct access to the model's source code. The information obtained can reveal the model's weaknesses and vulnerabilities, which can be exploited. Hence, securing AI models and having defenses in place against such attacks is essential.

Input Manipulation Attacks

Attackers modify the input to AI models, like changing pixels in images or altering text, to provoke incorrect outputs from AI systems.

These changes might be tiny, but they can significantly impact the model's conclusions.

With AI being integral to many decision-making processes, these attacks can damage the integrity and trust in AI applications. Detecting and preventing these attacks is necessary to ensure the reliability of AI-driven processes.

Evasion attack

An evasion attack is when adversaries adjust input data to mislead AI models, leading to incorrect outcomes.

Changes in the input, such as tweaking images or text, may look minor to us, but they can cause an AI to make mistakes. Attackers target the weak spots in a model's decision-making, resulting in false predictions or categorizations


These attacks are particularly risky in areas like image recognition and security systems, where accurate results are critical. Strong defense strategies and continuous model checks are key to keeping AI systems secure.

Types of Evasion Attacks:

  • White-Box Attacks: Attackers know everything about the AI model, which lets them create highly targeted and damaging attacks.
  • Grey-Box Attacks: Attackers have limited knowledge of the model and use what they know to craft attacks. These are tougher than white-box attacks but can still be dangerous.
  • Black-Box Attacks: Attacker knowledge is minimal, so they guess and check to find vulnerabilities. These attacks take more time and may be less successful but are still a threat.
  • Adversarial Reprogramming: A sophisticated tactic, attackers change the AI model's parameters, altering its function entirely. This is alarming because it can completely change what the model does.

Model Supply Chain Attack

This attack targets the full lifecycle of AI model development.

Attackers may interfere with data, model training, or distribution, creating vulnerabilities or inserting malicious elements.

The goal is to undermine the model’s integrity, leading to security risks. Safeguarding the entire process, from start to finish, is vital to prevent such attacks and ensure the trustworthiness of AI applications.

Model Theft

Model theft involves stealing or duplicating AI models without permission.

Attackers could use the stolen models for profit, competitive advantage, or harmful activities.

It puts businesses and creators at risk of losing their proprietary advancements. Security strategies to combat model theft include strict access controls, encryption, and vigilant monitoring.


In backdooring, attackers hide vulnerabilities or harmful functions within an AI model.

These backdoors are undetectable under normal operations but can be exploited later. Attackers can insert backdoors at any development stage, posing a threat to the model's security.

Defending against backdooring entails thorough security practices, like testing, code reviews, and continuous monitoring, to maintain model integrity.

Data Security Breaches in AI Systems

Data security breaches can undermine the safety of AI systems at any stage.

These breaches pose risks like data exposure, confidentiality violations, and data loss. They could lead to identity theft, legal issues, and serious financial and reputational damage.

To combat these risks, it's crucial to use strong encryption, enforce strict access controls, and monitor data consistently. Following data protection laws can also minimize both risks and legal consequences.

AI Supply Chain Attacks

AI supply chain attacks disrupt the creation and use of AI models by targeting each phase.

Attackers may manipulate data collection or training data, or plant backdoors during development and distribution. Even after deployment, AI models require maintenance, which presents additional risks.

Vigilant security practices, including secure development and continuous monitoring, are essential to guard against these attacks.

Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks on AI

DoS attacks aim to overload AI systems with traffic, causing disruptions in service availability and effectiveness.

These can be costly and hinder essential services. Protection strategies include regulating traffic, implementing distributed networks, and diligent system monitoring. 

Legal compliance in protective measures can help prevent DoS attacks, especially as advanced persistent threats (APTs) evolve.

IoT Security Threats

IoT networks increase security risks due to device vulnerabilities and potential flaws in authentication and data encryption.

Software vulnerabilities, DoS attacks, and physical threats add to the risks. Addressing these concerns involves robust security measures, timely device updates, and adherence to industry regulations.

Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks exploit human psychology, convincing people to compromise security or divulge sensitive information.

Techniques include phishing, pretexting, baiting, and quid pro quo, among others. Combating these attacks requires a mix of awareness training, vigilant policies, and careful verification.

AI Code Maintainability

Maintaining AI code is critical for security.

Neglected code may have unnoticed bugs or become incompatible with new technologies. Regular updates, refactoring, and staying alert to threats are necessary for safeguarding AI applications.

To sum up, the AI landscape is fraught with security challenges, demanding a layered and conscientious approach to defense. By understanding the variety of risks and investing in preventative measures, we can cultivate resilience in AI-driven technologies.

Protecting AI Systems: Best Practices

As artificial intelligence (AI) technologies deepen their roots in various industries, security risks inevitably rise in tandem.

Best practices in AI security not only mitigate these risks but strengthen the overall cyber resilience of AI systems.

Establish a Robust AI Security Program

  • Security Framework: Construct a comprehensive AI Security Program, detailing security measures, strategies, and response actions.
  • AI Inventory Management: Keep an up-to-date record of all AI assets to manage security risks throughout the system's ecosystem effectively.
  • Clear Accountability: Designate a team or leader tasked with AI risk management, equipped with the necessary expertise to protect AI systems efficiently.

Engage in Comprehensive Stakeholder Involvement

  • Leverage Expertise: Involve AI professionals in the security discussion to exploit their insights into system vulnerabilities.
  • Deliver Specialized Training: Offer security training to AI teams to foster an environment ripe for threat identification and prevention.
  • Set Security Benchmarks: Define stringent security requirements tailored to each AI application to ensure resilient defenses.
  • Promote Code Security: Conduct frequent code audits adhering to security best practices, searching for possible weaknesses.

Implement Advanced Technical Safeguards

  • Data Encryption: Protect data at rest and in motion via robust encryption methods to prevent unauthorized data breaches.
  • Selective Access Control: Implement strict access protocols, such as multi-factor authentication, to AI systems to limit entry to authorized personnel.
  • Guard Data Integrity: Take measures to certify that data, especially for model training, remains untampered.
  • Enhance Monitoring Capabilities: Employ sophisticated monitoring tools to identify abnormal activities and potential threats swiftly.

Conduct Regular Security Assessments

  • Penetration Testing: Proactively unearth AI system vulnerabilities through simulated cyberattacks.
  • Vulnerability Scanning: Continuously scan for potential security weaknesses within AI infrastructures to foster a proactive security posture.

Stay Aligned with Legal and Regulatory Standards

  • Regulatory Adherence: Remain current with regulations like the GDPR and CCPA to uphold data privacy and user trust.

Devise an Incident Response Protocol

  • Streamlined Response Plan: Draft an organized incident response plan highlighting immediate reactions to potential breaches, including communication and rectification steps.

Maintain and Upgrade AI Systems Diligently

  • Routine Updates: Set up a scheduled update and patching system to secure AI systems against known exploitable issues.

Cultivate Continuous Improvement

  • Remain Informed: Stay updated with the latest AI security threats to adjust and upgrade defensive measures.
  • Nurture Security Awareness: Educate stakeholders, encouraging a culture of security mindfulness and immediate issue reporting.
  • Promote Ethical Practices: Highlight the importance of ethical considerations in AI to foster a responsible AI community.
  • Limit Access Thoughtfully: Enforce strict access policies and periodic reviews to minimize the risk of unauthorized system ingress.
  • Apply Encryption throughout the System: Secure AI systems' data and communication channels with proactive encryption implementation.
  • Leverage External Security Tools: Integrate third-party monitoring tools to augment in-house security protocols for comprehensive threat management.

By integrating these best practices into the AI lifecycle, organizations can meaningfully reduce the attack surface of their AI systems and enhance their security against sophisticated cyber threats, ensuring the longevity and reliability of AI deployments.

AI Security: Key Takeaways

To protect AI systems, we must prioritize security in this era of growing artificial intelligence reliance.

Start with a well-structured AI security strategy. Involve all relevant parties. Limit who can access critical systems. Use encryption to protect data. Utilize specialized tools, for instance, Lakera Guard, to bolster your security posture.

Promoting education and awareness is crucial.

Initiatives like Gandalf help stakeholders understand and address AI-specific concerns. Cultivating a security-centric culture, staying ahead of new threats, and being proactive with security solutions.

Finally, Collaboration among developers, data scientists, and security experts, coupled with cutting-edge tools, is essential to unlocking AI's potential safely.

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