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Press review EX - 7 February

Extrema Ratio focuses on the topics we work on, including cybersecurity, critical technologies, foreign interference, disinformation, international law, national security. Have feedback?


Hackers exploiting two-year-old VMware flaw to launch large-scale ransomware campaign | Kenyan court says Meta can be sued for psychological distress | Google reveals plans for chatbot ‘Bard’


  • Cybercriminals are actively exploiting a two-year-old VMware vulnerability as part of a ransomware campaign targeting thousands of organizations worldwide. France’s computer emergency response team CERT-FR reports that the cybercriminals have been targeting VMware ESXi servers since February 3, while Italy’s national cybersecurity agency ACN on Sunday warned of a large-scale ransomware campaign targeting thousands of servers across Europe and North America. TechCrunch

  • A Kenyan judge on Monday rejected an effort by Facebook’s parent company, Meta, to be removed from a lawsuit alleging worker abuse, exploitation and union-busting at its Nairobi content moderation hub, which was run by a contractor. The Washington Post

  • Google revealed plans on Monday to launch a chatbot to rival OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT, as it seeks to make up lost ground in the race to bring powerful new language artificial intelligence to the internet search business. Financial Times


World

Hackers exploiting two-year-old VMware flaw to launch large-scale ransomware campaign TechCrunch Carly Page Cybercriminals are actively exploiting a two-year-old VMware vulnerability as part of a ransomware campaign targeting thousands of organizations worldwide.

Australia

Dating apps must share information about threatening behaviour, says Australia’s eSafety watchdog The Guardian Josh Butler Dating apps must cooperate to share information about “bad actors” using their services to abuse and harass other users, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner said, as new data shows three-quarters of Australian adults reported at least one negative online experience in the last year.

  • Online abuse ‘hits three in four of us’ The Australian Sarah Ison New data from the eSafety Commissioner revealed an explosion of harmful online experiences over the past year, with 75 per cent of adults reporting at least one incident in that time, compared to 45 per cent in 2019.

China

Huawei turns to patents for a lifeline — including those in the U.S. CNBC Evelyn Cheng Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is turning to patents for a lifeline as the company seeks to forge a path forward in advanced chip technology — the prized tech which the U.S. is trying to cut off from China.

USA

Balloon incident reveals more than spying as competition with China intensifies The New York Times David E. Sanger It may be months before American intelligence agencies can compare the audacious flight of a Chinese surveillance balloon across the country to other intrusions on America’s national security systems, to determine how it ranks. The entire incident speaks volumes about how little Washington and Beijing communicate, almost 22 years after the collision of an American spy plane and a Chinese fighter about 70 miles off the coast of Hainan Island led both sides to vow that they would improve their crisis management.

What the U.S. can learn from India’s TikTok ban Rest of World Russell Brandom and Nilesh Christopher In June 2020, TikTok had more than 200 million Indian users (then ByteDance’s largest market outside China) when the Indian government abruptly banned it, citing issues of privacy and national sovereignty. TikTok was one among over 200 Chinese apps that were blocked from operating within the country. India’s ban really did result in a long-term split from Chinese technology, as some in the U.S. have worried. But otherwise, Indians have largely taken the restrictions in stride — and there’s been no meaningful political effort to overturn them.

At this school, computer science class now includes critiquing chatbots The New York Times Natasha Singer Across the United States, universities and school districts are scrambling to get a handle on new chatbots that can generate humanlike texts and images. But while many are rushing to ban ChatGPT to try to prevent its use as a cheating aid, teachers are leveraging the innovations to spur more critical classroom thinking. They are encouraging their students to question the hype around rapidly evolving artificial intelligence tools and consider the technologies’ potential side effects.

Americas

Balloon sighted over Latin America is from China, Beijing says Al Jazeera Beijing has confirmed that a balloon spotted flying over Latin America is Chinese, two days after the United States shot down a similar device that American officials described as a spy balloon.

North Asia

Japan probing links between Chinese balloon, past flying object Kyodo News Japan is examining whether there are links between a suspected Chinese spy balloon that the U.S. military shot down and reports of a flying object spotted in the northeastern area of the nation a few years ago, a government spokesman said Monday.

Taiwan tells start-ups to shun mainland China and go to Japan instead, amid supply-chain decoupling South China Morning Post Ralph Jennings Taiwan is nudging its small and burgeoning companies to expand in Japan rather than mainland China, in a fresh sign of global supply-chain decoupling amid Sino-US tensions. The island’s domestic start-ups are being encouraged to enter the Japanese consumer market or partner with companies from the neighbouring Asian economy, according to the heads of two Taiwanese government-backed organisations who spoke with the Post.

Southeast Asia

Digital infrastructure propels new SE Asian Tigers Asia Times David P. Goldman Southeast Asia’s 700 million people stand at the cusp of an economic transformation comparable to the rise of the “Asian Tigers” – Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore – during the 1980s and 1990s. China’s leading position in digital as well as physical infrastructure has created a natural economic partnership with Southeast Asia, which represents a vast pool of young workers to replace China’s aging and shrinking industrial labor force.

  • Localization and China’s tech success in Indonesia Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Gatra Priyandita, Dirk Van Der Kley, and Benjamin Herscovitch Despite ambivalence about Chinese intentions in Indonesia’s political and defense establishment, Chinese telecoms firms have successfully used strategies of localization to position themselves as trusted cybersecurity providers to the country.

South & Central Asia

India blocks Kissht and PayU’s LazyPay in fresh crackdown TechCrunch Manish Singh Fintech Kissht and PayU’s LazyPay are among the apps that India’s IT Ministry has blocked in the ongoing crackdown as New Delhi moves to curb the misuse of consumers’ data and protect the nation’s integrity.

Ukraine - Russia

Inside safe city, Moscow’s AI surveillance dystopia WIRED Masha Borak Under the guise of smart city technology, authoritarian and democratic governments have rolled out huge networks of security cameras and used artificial intelligence to try to ensure there is no place to hide. Cities have touted the ability of such systems to tackle crime, manage crowds, and better respond to emergencies. Privacy campaigners say such systems could be used as tools of oppression.

Europe

Police hacked Exclu 'secure' message platform to snoop on criminals Bleeping Computer Bill Toulas The Dutch police announced on Friday that they dismantled the Exclu encrypted communications platform after hacking into the service to monitor the activities of criminal organizations.

Africa

Kenyan court says Meta can be sued for psychological distress The Washington Post Katharine Houreld A Kenyan judge on Monday rejected an effort by Facebook’s parent company, Meta, to be removed from a lawsuit alleging worker abuse, exploitation and union-busting at its Nairobi content moderation hub, which was run by a contractor.

Middle East

Saudi Arabia says tech giants to invest more than $9 billion in kingdom Reuters Aziz El Yaakoubi Saudi Arabia has attracted more than $9 billion in investments in future technologies, including by U.S. giants Microsoft and Oracle Corp, which are building cloud regions in the kingdom, a government minister said on Monday.

The Taliban can’t stop TikTok WIRED Ali M Latifi Naijib is one of a few dozen urban twentysomething Afghans who have built massive followings on TikTok, which more and more Afghans across the country now use. There are no official figures for the app’s penetration, with estimates ranging from 325,000 to upwards of 2 million users, but influencers’ videos routinely record hundreds of thousands of views. Over the past couple of years, the app has become a source of escapist entertainment, a place for debate, and a platform for businesses—one that has managed to withstand the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, sanctions, banking restrictions—and even being banned by the new regime.

Big Tech

Musk pledged to cleanse Twitter of child abuse content. It’s been rough going. The New York Times Michael H. Keller and Kate Conger Under Mr. Musk’s ownership, Twitter’s head of safety, Ella Irwin, said she had been moving rapidly to combat child sexual abuse material, which was prevalent on the site — as it is on most tech platforms — under the previous owners. “Twitter 2.0” will be different, the company promised. But a review by The New York Times found that the imagery, commonly known as child pornography, persisted on the platform, including widely circulated material that the authorities consider the easiest to detect and eliminate.

Artificial Intelligence

Google reveals plans for chatbot ‘Bard’ as AI tech race heats up Financial Times Richard Waters Google revealed plans on Monday to launch a chatbot to rival OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT, as it seeks to make up lost ground in the race to bring powerful new language artificial intelligence to the internet search business.

Misc

Stop passing the buck on cybersecurity: Why companies must build safety into tech products Foreign Affairs Jen Easterly and Eric Goldstein Despite a global multibillion-dollar cybersecurity industry, the threat from malicious cyber-activity, from both criminal and state actors, continues to grow. While many cyber incidents are never reported by their victims, Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report noted that ransomware attacks rose 13 percent that year—more than the past five years combined. These breaches included attacks that threatened public health and safety, with several hospitals across the United States forced to cancel surgeries and divert patients because they were locked out of their systems.


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