As businesses across the globe continue to embrace artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLMs) for various applications, concerns around security and vulnerability management have intensified. The Open Worldwide Application Security Project (OWASP) has identified ten critical issues that need to be addressed when utilising LLMs to ensure data integrity, protect against malicious attacks, and maintain secure operations.
- Prompt Injections: Prompt injections occur when an attacker manipulates the input prompts provided to a language model, leading to unintended outputs. This can result in responses that reveal sensitive information or foster discriminatory, offensive, or harmful content. To mitigate this threat, developers must carefully control and validate input prompts, ensuring that they align with organisational policies and ethical guidelines.
- Data Leakage: Data leakage is a pressing concern regardless of the technology used, and LLMs are no exception. Inadequate security measures may result in unauthorised access to sensitive data or the inadvertent disclosure of confidential information. Proper encryption, access controls, and data anonymisation techniques must be implemented to minimise the risk of data leakage, ensuring that only authorised individuals can access and utilise the generated content.
- Inadequate Sandboxing: Sandboxing refers to the isolation of code execution in a secure and controlled environment. Lack of effective sandboxing mechanisms can enable malicious actors to exploit vulnerabilities within LLMs. Developers must implement robust sandboxing solutions to prevent unauthorised access to system resources, limit the potential impact of malicious activities, and ensure the continuity of business operations.
- Unauthorised Code Execution: Unauthorised code execution refers to the potential for an attacker to inject and execute unauthorised code within the LLM. This could lead to the deployment of malicious scripts or the manipulation of sensitive data. Implementing strict access controls, regular security patches, and code review practices can help mitigate the risk of unauthorised code execution, protecting against potential breaches and unauthorised system access.
- SSRF Vulnerabilities: Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF) vulnerabilities pose a significant threat to LLMs. Exploiting these vulnerabilities allows attackers to make arbitrary requests to other internal or external systems, potentially exfiltrating sensitive information or escalating their attack. Implementing strong input validation, restricting network requests, and employing thorough security testing procedures can help mitigate SSRF risks and protect the integrity of LLM-generated content.
- Over-reliance on LLM-generated Content: While LLMs offer powerful capabilities, over-reliance on their generated content can compromise the quality, accuracy, and security of the output. Businesses should consider employing manual reviews, subject matter experts, and domain-specific context to evaluate and refine the generated content. A holistic approach that combines LLM capabilities with human expertise ensures the authenticity, reliability, and safety of the model-generated output.
- Inadequate AI Alignment: AI alignment refers to ensuring that the objectives and behaviour of an AI system align with human values and goals. Inadequate AI alignment in LLMs can lead to biased, discriminatory, or inappropriate outputs. A transparent and ethical approach to AI development, including diverse training datasets, continuous monitoring, and regular audits, can help align AI systems with organisational values and societal expectations.
- Insufficient Access Controls: Insufficient access controls create opportunities for unauthorised individuals to manipulate or misuse LLMs, potentially leading to data breaches, privacy violations, or malicious content propagation. Implementing strong access controls, including role-based permissions, multi-factor authentication, and regular access reviews, helps restrict access to authorised personnel only and prevents unauthorised usage or tampering.
- Improper Error Handling: Inadequate error handling within LLMs can expose vulnerabilities and provide valuable insights to potential attackers. Proper error handling practices like error code obfuscation, limited error detail disclosure, and proactive error monitoring can enhance security posture, preventing attackers from exploiting identified weaknesses and minimising the risk of system compromise.
- Training Data Poisoning: Training data poisoning involves manipulating the input data during the training phase of an LLM, leading to biased or compromised outputs. Organisations must ensure the integrity and quality of training data through rigorous data validation, proper data source selection, and continuous monitoring to minimise the risk of poisoned training data adversely impacting the LLM’s performance, biasing outcomes, or enabling harmful behaviour.
Ensuring the security and integrity of LLMs is an ongoing challenge that demands close attention from organisations utilising this technology. By addressing these ten critical issues identified by OWASP, businesses can better protect against potential vulnerabilities, malicious attacks, and unintended consequences, enabling them to leverage the power of LLMs while maintaining trust, reliability, and security in their operations.