Welcome to Hashtag Trending for Thursday, March 16th

I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the U.S. – here’s today’s top tech news stories.

Mozilla launches a “responsible AI challenge”

Mozilla, the open source organization that gave us the Firefox browser has announce that it will be sponsoring what it calls a “responsible AI challenge.” The contest is a response to the new “gold rush” where the large players may be more concerned with rushing to market with generative AI solutions than they are on responsible innovation.

We reported yesterday that Microsoft got rid of their entire staff dedicated to AI ethics. 

The contest, which is really a relaunch of Mozilla’s existing “builder’s program”, will encourage entrepreneurs to share their ideas with the world.

Winners are eligible for $50,000 in prizes, including a top prize of $25,000 – along with mentorship and resources for “responsible AI projects. 

Imo Udom, senior vice president of Innovations Ecosystems at Mozilla, who announced the initiative on stage during a panel discussion with Axios, said.  “If anything, the last few months have shown that AI is no longer our future. It’s our present,”Udom said. “While decades of effort have gone into reaching this point with AI, the time has come to establish the future we want with AI.”

Applications will be open until March 30th.

Source:  Axios

Dish customers are being kept in the dark as the fallout from a recent ransomware attack continues. 

It’s been two weeks since the satellite cable provider was hit by ransomware. According to a story in Tech Crunch, Dish has confirmed in a public filing that ransomware was to blame for their outage. They also warned that hackers had stolen data which ‘may’ include customer’s personal information. 

Since then, it’s been crickets from Dish. The same TechCrunch report said that some customers still have no access to Dish or even services through its subsidiaries like Boost Mobile

And customers still don’t know if their personal data is at risk. TechCrunch has heard a litany of complaints from subscribers. Some have been unable to contact Dish customer service. Some claim to have been afflicted by email and voice phishing attacks. Some have even reported that Dish services were disconnected when customers, due to the issues at the company, were unable to pay their bills. 

Dish spokesperson Edward Wietecha acknowledged that “customers are having trouble reaching our service desks, accessing their accounts, and making payments.” 

When asked directly to share details on what customer data was taken, the Dish spokesperson punted, saying “these types of investigations take time.” 

A former Dish retailer was more forthcoming, telling Tech Crunch that Dish has a wealth of information on its servers, including customer names, dates of birth, email addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers and even credit card information – and that this information was retained indefinitely, even for prospective customers who didn’t pass Dish’s credit check.

Dish has hosted its own infrastructure, but has recently moved to Amazon’s cloud service at about the same time as the attack. 

Dish’s spokesperson said that “it will take a little time before things are fully restored.”

So, who is responsible for this attack? Security blog Bleeping Computer suggested that it might be Black Basta, believed to be a rebranding of the Conti ransomware gang. But Dish has not year appeared on Basta’s leak site which might indicate that this is not the gang responsible, or that negotiations are ongoing. 

Source:  Tech Crunch

Is Amazon about to launch its own web browser?

While all attention has been on the contest between Google Chrome and Microsoft’s Edge, there are rumours that Amazon is about to launch its own web browser. According to an article in Gizmodo, Amazon sent a survey to users asking detailed questions, one of which was which features would “convince you to download and try” a “new desktop/laptop browser from Amazon?

We want to understand what our customers value about current web browsers, and what they wish the browsers could do better,” Amazon wrote in the survey, first spotted by Nicholas De Leon of Consumer Reports.

Users were reportedly asked to rate the importance of different features such as “text to speech, extensions, synching data across desktop and mobile devices, and even whether they favoured blocking third party cookies.

For a number of years, Google has been talking about a shakeup in the browser market by killing what are called “third party cookies” – the silent markers that websites load in your browser that show what sites and pages you have visited. 

The only problem eliminating cookies is that Google, and many others, depend on these “cookies” as the primary way of tracking users and targeting them for ads. 

But Amazon may want to exploit this change to enhance its own ad business. According to the same Gizmodo article, Amazon made almost 38 billion dollars from advertising in 2022, more than it made on Prime or any other subscription services. 

The other key element could be that browsers and their cookies or whatever might replace them in future say an enormous amount about shopping habits – a real leg up for a retail sales giant.

Amazon has toyed with the idea of a browser in the past. It launched a browser it called Silk in 2011 but that browser was tailored to its Echo products.  Any new browser would take it into a new world of the desktop/laptop for the first time.

Source: Gizmodo

Fans of our sister podcast CyberSecurity today will know all about Patch Tuesday, the day that features Microsoft’s new fixes. But it has some added urgency this week. It includes fixes for 74 bugs, but, according to a report in the Register, two of which are actively being exploited and 9 are critical.

One of these, with the name CVE-2023-23397 received a 9.8 out of 10 rating in terms of its danger level. It’s already being exploited by threat actors “in Russia and against government, energy and military sectors in Europe.” 

Redmond has shown its concern by publishing a guide to the malware, and providing documentation and even a script to determine if a company has been targeted. As the article in the Register said, “it’s serious.” 

The article goes on to note “The attacker could exploit this vulnerability by sending a specially crafted email which triggers automatically when it is retrieved and processed by the Outlook client,” Microsoft explained. “This could lead to exploitation BEFORE the email is viewed in the Preview Pane.”

Zero Day Initiative’s Dustin Childs advises: “Definitely test and deploy this fix quickly.”

Source:  The Register

Could Facebook be the next AOL? An article in CNN Business noted that Marc Zuckerberg described what the company is going through in a memo to staff as a “challenging period.” 

As Zuckerberg continues his business review in what he has termed the “year of efficiency” he sticks to his strategy of flattening the company, “by removing multiple levels of middle management.” 

The layoffs announcements have sent morale to new lows as employees wonder if they are on the chopping block. Zuckerberg’s future view doesn’t give much comfort. 

He warned: “At this point, I think we should prepare ourselves for the possibility that this new economic reality will continue for many years and prepare to operate more efficiently than our previous headcount reduction to ensure success.”

One tech executive blamed the layoffs on the fact that “companies such as Meta, Google, Amazon, and Twitter had hired “stupid amounts of people” in the last few years to work on what they termed “science projects.” 

Another noted that “It’s surprisingly not hard for these big tech companies to cut large numbers of people without impacting the underlying revenue engine.”

But those who have had deep experience with hacking away at staff know that damage can be done. Or as one tech CEO so succinctly put it, “You can cut your way to profitability in the short term. But you can’t cut your way to growth. At some point, it’s like, is this the next AOL? And I don’t know when that might be.”

Source: CNN Business

Finally, if you’ve ever wondered how a cave man would describe AI, wonder no more. ChatGPT gave the answer to this question we have all been wondering about to a reddit blogger. 

In a post titled “Explain to me what AI is, but as if you were one caveman speaking to another caveman, in caveman terms” the blogger explained, “this is all moving so fast I feel like a caveman sometimes. But somebody asked GPT4 to explain what AI is, as if you were one caveman speaking to another caveman, in caveman terms. And this is what it produced:

Me GPT-4. Me speak words. You listen.

Long time ago, only humans think, speak. Now, magic stone think, speak too. Magic stone called AI. It brain in rock, like human brain in head. It learn, solve problem, answer question.

AI not alive, like tree or mammoth. It tool, like stick or fire. We make AI, use for many thing. It help find food, heal sick, build hut. It make life better, but also can be dangerous.

We careful with magic stone. We learn, grow together. AI help humans, humans help AI. We make world better for all.

Source: Reddit

Those are the top cave man and top tech news stories for today.

Links to these stories can be found in the article posted on itworldcanada.com/podcasts. You can also find more great stories and more in-depth coverage in itworldcanada.com or in the US at Technewsday.com

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with a daily newscast and we have a special weekend edition with an interview featuring an expert in some aspect of technology that is making the news.

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I’m your host Jim Love – Have a Thrilling Thursday!

The post Hashtag Trending March.16th – Mozilla’s AI challenge, Facebook and AOL, ‘simplifying’ ChatGPT first appeared on IT World Canada.

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