PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

Report: Hacker Stole Details of OpenAI’s Tech

OpenAI was reportedly hacked last year, raising security fears at the artificial intelligence company.

The hacker accessed the company’s in-house messaging system and made off with details about its artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the New York Times reported Thursday (July 4), citing two sources familiar with the incident.

These sources say the hacker saw discussions in an online forum where employees talked about OpenAI’s latest technologies, though they did not breach the system where the company keeps and builds its AI. PYMNTS has contacted OpenAI for comment but has not yet gotten a reply.

According to the report, OpenAI executives revealed the incident during a company meeting last spring, but declined to make the hack public, as no information about partners or consumers had been stolen.

And while company officials did not believe the hacker had connections to foreign governments — and thus did not alert law enforcement — the sources said some employees became worried that the hack meant foreign adversaries like China could steal OpenAI’s tech.

Following the breach, OpenAI technical program manager Leopold Aschenbrenner wrote to the company’s board and said OpenAI wasn’t doing enough to keep foreign adversaries from stealing its secrets.

Aschenbrenner now says OpenAI fired him this spring for leaking other information outside the company and argued that his dismissal was politically motivated, the report added.

“We appreciate the concerns Leopold raised while at OpenAI, and this did not lead to his separation,” OpenAI spokesperson Liz Bourgeois told the NYT.

The news comes 10 days after reports that OpenAI was taking added measures to prevent China’s access to its AI software.

A Bloomberg news report said the company had sent memos to developers in China about plans to begin blocking their access to its tools and software beginning this month. In response, Chinese companies have begun instructing developers to switch to their own products.

“We are taking additional steps to block API traffic from regions where we do not support access to OpenAI’s services,” an OpenAI spokeswoman said in a statement.

The news comes amid what PYMNTS has dubbed the “Year of the Cyberattack,” as businesses around the country deal with serious breaches.

“This heightened emphasis on cybersecurity coincides with a broader debate surrounding data security in the connected economy, particularly in connected workplaces and smart homes, where the growing use of connected devices highlights new vulnerabilities, given the vast amounts of personal data they gather,” PYMNTS wrote earlier this week.