Chinese authorities have taken a significant stride in combating the misuse of ChatGPT, with four individuals arrested for developing ransomware using the banned chatbot.
The arrests do not come as a shock, considering the persistent attempts by cybercriminals to exploit the AI chatbot for nefarious purposes. For those unable to exploit it directly, alternative versions such as WormGPT and FraudGPT have emerged, gaining notoriety.
As reported by the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the cyber attackers came to the attention of authorities when an unidentified company in Hangzhou reported a cybercrime. The hackers, in their ransom demands, sought 20,000 Tether to restore access to the compromised systems.
In late November 2023, the police detained two suspects in Beijing and two in Inner Mongolia. The individuals admitted to developing ransomware versions, optimizing the malware with the widely used chatbot, conducting vulnerability scans, infiltrating networks to gain access, implanting ransomware, and engaging in extortion.
ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is prohibited in China as part of Beijing’s efforts to restrict access to foreign generative artificial intelligence products. In response, China introduced its version, Ernie Bot. However, the SCMP report lacks clear information on whether utilizing ChatGPT is legally punishable in China.
According to SCMP, three of the detainees had previous involvement in criminal activities, including spreading misinformation and selling stolen CCTV footage through deep fake technology.
Despite OpenAI blocking internet protocol addresses in China, Hong Kong, and sanctioned regions like North Korea and Iran, some users manage to bypass these restrictions using VPNs and obtaining phone numbers from supported areas. However, engaging in such circumvention practices may expose users to potential legal consequences.
China has witnessed a rise in legal cases related to the use of generative AI, driven by its widespread popularity and the potential for criminal activities. In May 2023, a man was reportedly detained in Gansu province for allegedly using ChatGPT to spread fake news about a train crash.