Nation-state threat actors from Russia [3] [5] [6], China [1] [2] [3] [6] [9], North Korea [1] [2] [3] [4] [6] [7] [9], and Iran have been detected and disrupted by Microsoft and OpenAI for their use of generative AI tools in offensive cyber operations. These threat actors employ AI to support their campaigns [3], assess the current capabilities and security controls of AI [3], and gather crucial information before launching attacks [8].


Nation-state threat actors [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9], including Forest Blizzard from Russia, Emerald Sleet from North Korea [6], Crimson Sandstorm from Iran [4] [6], and Charcoal Typhoon and Salmon Typhoon from China [3] [6] [8], have been identified by Microsoft and OpenAI for their use of generative AI tools in offensive cyber operations. Forest Blizzard uses generative AI for reconnaissance and scripting techniques [4], while Emerald Sleet employs AI-enhanced spear-phishing emails [4]. Crimson Sandstorm uses generative AI to enhance phishing emails and scripting techniques [4], and Charcoal Typhoon and Salmon Typhoon are also beginning to use AI technologies in their attacks [4].

To counter AI-powered cyber operations [3], organizations should implement cyber hygiene best practices such as multifactor authentication (MFA) and zero trust architecture. Microsoft’s research [4] [7], in collaboration with OpenAI [8], sheds light on the specific applications of large language models (LLMs) by each group, ranging from reconnaissance to scripting tasks and enhancing phishing emails [3]. The report also highlights the limitations of traditional security tools in combating evolving threats and emphasizes the increasing speed, scale [5], and sophistication of cybercriminals.

Microsoft recommends ongoing employee education and the use of security tools like Microsoft Security Copilot to mitigate the potential risks of AI in social engineering, including the use of deepfakes and voice cloning. They also propose principles for the usage of AI platforms, including transparency [5] [8], vendor assessment, and strict input validation [5] [8]. While AI currently serves as a tool for threat actors, Microsoft believes it will significantly enhance their effectiveness in the future. Microsoft detects over 65 million cybersecurity signals daily [7], using AI to analyze and stop threats [7]. The report also highlights other AI-enabled security measures employed by Microsoft [7], such as behavioral analytics [7], machine learning models [7], and Zero Trust models [7]. The importance of employee and public education in combating social-engineering techniques and the significance of prevention in addressing cyber threats are emphasized in the report [7].

Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) and OpenAI are working together to track these threat actors and share intelligence [6]. They are also collaborating with MITRE to integrate new tactics and techniques into the MITRE ATT&CK framework [6]. The MSTIC has identified five nation-state advanced persistent threat (APT) groups that have been experimenting with generative AI tools. These APT groups have used LLMs to support their cyber operations [6], such as developing malware [6], conducting spear-phishing attacks [6], and gathering intelligence [6]. Microsoft and OpenAI emphasize the importance of implementing strong security controls and hygiene practices to defend against potential AI-based attacks [6]. Microsoft has invested billions in OpenAI and warns that generative AI could enhance malicious social engineering [1], leading to more sophisticated deepfakes and voice cloning [1] [2].


The use of generative AI tools by nation-state threat actors poses significant challenges in cybersecurity. Microsoft and OpenAI’s efforts to detect and disrupt these actors highlight the need for organizations to implement strong security controls and hygiene practices. Ongoing employee education and the use of advanced security tools are crucial in mitigating the potential risks of AI in social engineering. As AI continues to evolve, it is essential to stay vigilant and adapt security measures to address emerging threats.