DHS ‘Roadmap’ Increases AI Sector’s Risk of Espionage by Foreign Nationals

Craig Bannister | April 1, 2024
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The day after DHS unveiled the Biden Administration’s plan to attract, and grant permanent residence to, foreign Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts, Axios published a report warning how “international spies posing as employees” are increasingly infiltrating the U.S. to steal AI technology secrets.

On March 18, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its first-ever “Artificial Intelligence Roadmap,” in order to comply with Pres. Joe Biden’s October 2023 executive order dictating “the development and use of artificial intelligence.”

In its Roadmap, DHS details its plan to bring AI experts, as well as their family members, into the U.S. and provide them “immigration pathways” to remain in the country:

“DHS will streamline processing times of petitions and applications for noncitizens who seek to travel to the United States to work on, study, or conduct research in AI or other critical and emerging technologies.”

“DHS will also clarify and modernize immigration pathways for such experts, including those for O-1A and EB-1 noncitizens of extraordinary ability; EB-2 advanced-degree holders and noncitizens of exceptional ability; and startup founders using the International Entrepreneur Rule.”

On March 19, Axios published “Insider threats are AI developers next hurdle,” an article warning that “U.S. artificial intelligence companies are likely already prime targets for nation-state adversaries' espionage campaigns.”

Because the U.S. has one of the world’s most advanced AI industries, it is has become a prime target for espionage, the article explains:

“But this advantage places more pressure on U.S. technology companies to track and detect insider threats — which can include international spies posing as employees and employees pressured into spying by their authoritarian home countries.”

“Experts predict that AI developers could become even bigger targets than chip manufacturers and biotechnology companies.”

Axios cites the Justice Department’s recent indictment of an ex-Google software engineer for stealing AI technology secrets and sharing them with two Chinese companies, as an example of the threat.

In its Roadmap, DHS reveals that it plans to use the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency to “adjust” the status of AI experts and their families to “lawful permanent residents”:

“USCIS continues to work on rulemaking to enhance the process for noncitizens, including experts in AI and other critical and emerging technologies, as well as their spouses, dependents, and children, to adjust their status to lawful permanent residents.”

Additionally, the Roadmap says DHS will make “USCIS enhancements” – one of which would exacerbate the very threat exposed by Axios: employment of foreign nationals at America’s AI companies:

“USCIS will publish updated policy guidance for international students, including how F-1 visa holding students seeking an extension of optional practical training OPT based on their degree in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field may be employed by startup companies.”

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