Researchers in Silicon Valley are using strategy games, such as Starcraft II, to teach systems how to solve complex problems on their own.

But artificial intelligence (AI) programs can then “be readily adapted” to wage cyber-warfare, the MoD (Ministry of Defence) says.

Officials are particularly concerned about the ability of rogue states and terrorists to mount advanced persistent threat attacks, which can disable critical infrastructure and steal sensitive information.

“Not only will AI increase the variety and tempo of cyber-attacks, it will also decrease the cost and increase the variety of actors able to undertake this activity,” the report says.

“As the requirement for skilled specialists involved in the attack diminishes, the limitation will become access to the AI algorithms needed to conduct such an attack.

“In other words, any actor with the financial resources to buy, or steal, an AI APT (advanced persistent threat) system could gain access to tremendous offensive cyber-capability, even if that actor is relatively ignorant of internet security technology.

“Given that the cost of replicating software can be nearly zero, that may hardly present any constraint at all. This is likely to be a live issue by 2020 or soon thereafter.