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The Crucial Role of the AI Red Team in Modern Cybersecurity


In the fourth chapter of navigating AI/ML security concerns, let’s explore Protect AI’s Threat Researchers, Dan McInerney and Marcello Salvati's lightning talk at the 2024 RSA Conference, on the critical roles and responsibilities of an AI Red Team, and why they are indispensable for Modern Cybersecurity. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) continue to revolutionize industries, a new type of cybersecurity specialists is emerging. Enter the AI Red Team the experts bridging the gap between traditional pen testing and the unique vulnerabilities present in AI systems. You can watch the full talk in the video below.

The AI Red Team: Guardians of the Future

AI Red Teams are made up of penetration testers who have a deep understanding of ML engineering pipelines. Their knowledge goes beyond that of typical pen testers, allowing them to recognize and take advantage of vulnerabilities unique to AI and ML environments. Here's an outline of their main areas of focus:

  • Model Input Security

    • Jailbreaks and Prompt Injections: AI Red Team members need to be skilled at identifying and exploiting prompt injection vulnerabilities. For example, if an LLM is scanning emails within your network, a malicious actor could send a prompt injection through an email, causing the LLM to execute harmful commands.
    • Nuanced Attacks: These attacks are often subtle and not easily detected by traditional security measures. The AI Red Team's understanding of how inputs can be manipulated to compromise AI systems is crucial.
  • Model File Security

    • Serialized Data Vulnerabilities: Model files, often serialized in formats like pickle, can be targets for command injections. A phishing email containing a malicious model file can compromise a machine learning engineer's system upon opening.
    • Overlooked Threats: This aspect of AI security is frequently neglected, making it a ripe area for exploitation. The AI Red Team ensures these vulnerabilities are not overlooked.
  • Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

    • Tooling and Dependencies: The supply chain supporting AI and ML models, which includes tools such as Ray, MLflow, and Gradio, often contain significant vulnerabilities. The AI Red Team must have a good understanding of these tools in order to effectively identify and address risks. 
    • Comprehensive Monitoring: Using platforms like Huntr, which partners with thousands of researchers to find vulnerabilities, the AI Red Team stays ahead of potential threats in the supply chain.


Building a World-Class AI Red Team

Creating a robust AI Red Team involves selecting the right personnel and equipping them with the necessary tools and knowledge. Here's how to transform the security squad into AI-busting superheroes:

  • Identify the Champions: Identify internal red teamers with an interest in AI/ML security.
  • Specialized Training: Provide specialized training on AI/ML vulnerabilities and attack vectors.
  • Bridge the Gap: Encourage collaboration between red teamers and ML engineers. This collaboration ensures a deep understanding of the entire ML lifecycle, from model creation to deployment and beyond.
  • Equip with Precision Tools: Provide your team with advanced tools like ProtectAI’s Guardian for comprehensive model file scanning.
  • Constant Learning: The AI threat landscape evolves rapidly. Keep your team ahead of the curve with ongoing education and updates on the latest vulnerabilities and attack strategies with communities like


Overcoming Common Misconceptions

A common misconception is that AI security requires deep mathematical expertise. In reality, it’s about leveraging familiar pen-testing skills with a focus on AI-specific nuances. Many vulnerabilities exist in the web applications and APIs that support ML pipelines. While AI security does involve unique challenges such as code injections and model file threats, the underlying principles are extensions of traditional pen testing.



As AI and ML technologies become more integrated into daily operations, the potential areas for cyber threats are increasing. The rise of AI Red Teams marks a new chapter in the ongoing story of cybersecurity. These teams aren't just protecting data, they're safeguarding the future of artificial intelligence.  Don’t wait for a breach to realize the importance of AI security. Build your AI Red Team today and step confidently into the future, knowing your digital assets are protected by the best in the business. Invest in establishing and training an AI Red Team to ensure that your organization's security stance is strong, adaptable, and resilient in the face of evolving AI-related threats.