Seven Russians sanctioned over ransomware cyber-crime
Seven Russian men have been sanctioned by the UK and US for having links to recent ransomware attacks.
The UK’s Foreign Office, along with US authorities, has released pictures of the men, frozen their assets and imposed travel restrictions.
US authorities have accused them of being members of loosely defined Russian-based hacking network Trickbot.
Ransomware strains Conti and Ryuk extorted at least £27m in ransoms from 149 British victims.
“This is a hugely significant moment for the UK and our collaborative efforts with the US to disrupt international cyber-criminals,” said National Crime Agency director general Graeme Biggar.
“The sanctions are the first of their kind for the UK and signal the continuing campaign targeting those responsible for some of the most sophisticated and damaging ransomware that has impacted the UK and our allies,” he said. BBC
Google’s Bard AI bot mistake wipes $100bn off shares
Google is searching for ways to reassure people that it is still out in front in the race for the best artificial intelligence technology.
And so far, the internet giant seems to be coming up with the wrong answer.
An advert designed to show off its new AI bot, showed it answering a query incorrectly.
Shares in parent company Alphabet sank more than 7% on Wednesday, knocking $100bn (£82bn) off the firm’s market value.
In the promotion for the bot, known as Bard, which was released on Twitter on Monday, the bot was asked about what to tell a nine-year-old about discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope.
It offered the response that the telescope was the first to take pictures of a planet outside the earth’s solar system, when in fact that milestone was claimed by the European Very Large Telescope in 2004 – a mistake quickly noted by astronomers on Twitter.
“Why didn’t you factcheck this example before sharing it?” Chris Harrison, a fellow at Newcastle University, replied to the tweet. BBC
Investors were also underwhelmed by a presentation the company gave about its plans to deploy artificial intelligence in its products. BBC
Twitter outage sees users told they are over daily tweet limit
Some Twitter users were unable to tweet on Wednesday after the website experienced technical problems.
Account holders received a message saying: “You are over the daily limit for sending Tweets.”
The outage-tracking website DownDetector reported the glitch at just before 22:00 GMT.
Elon Musk has slashed Twitter’s workforce over the last few months since he acquired the platform last October for $44bn (£36.5bn).
Last month the Tesla and SpaceX boss said Twitter had about 2,300 employees – down from around 8,000 when he took over.
For months experts have been warning that such deep cuts could cause technical issues, though it is not yet clear if the reduced headcount was to blame for Wednesday’s outage.
It appears part of the outage was soon fixed, with many users reporting they could tweet.
Some reported being notified by Twitter that they were over the 2,400-tweet-per-day limit, even if they had not posted on Wednesday. BBC
Netflix extends crackdown on password sharing to more countries
Netflix is introducing limits on password sharing in four more countries: Canada, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain.
Customers in those countries are being asked to pay an extra fee if they want friends and family who don’t live with them to share their subscription.
The move follows a crackdown on sharing passwords in South America, and will roll out in the UK by the end of March.
Netflix estimates 100 million people around the world use shared accounts.
The hit to revenues from the shared accounts was affecting Netflix’s ability to invest in new programming content, the firm said. It has said it is planning to extend the new approach to more countries in coming months.
“Over the last year, we’ve been exploring different approaches to address this issue in Latin America, and we’re now ready to roll them out more broadly in the coming months, starting today in Canada, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain,” it said in a blog post on Wednesday.
Up until now it has been easy for subscribers to share their login and password with friends outside their home.
Back in 2017 Netflix even appeared to be sanctioning the practice when it tweeted “Love is sharing a password”.
But growing competition in the streaming market, and customers cutting back on subscriptions due to the rising cost of living, have prompted Netflix to focus on shoring up its revenues.
The firm said that allowing accounts to be used by several people within households had “created confusion” about when and how people could share. BBC
ChatGPT frenzy sweeps China as firms scramble for home-grown options
Microsoft-backed OpenAI has kept its hit ChatGPT app off-limits to users in China but the app is attracting huge interest in the country, with firms rushing to integrate the technology into their products and launch rival solutions.
While residents in the country are unable to create OpenAI accounts to access the artificial intelligence-powered (AI) chatbot, virtual private networks (VPN) and foreign phone numbers are helping some bypass those restrictions.
At the same time, the OpenAI models behind the ChatGPT programme, which can write essays, recipes and complex computer code, are relatively accessible in China and increasingly being incorporated into Chinese consumer technology applications from social networks to online shopping.
The tool’s surging popularity is rapidly raising awareness in China about how advanced U.S. AI is and, according to analysts, just how far behind tech firms in the world’s second-largest economy are as they scramble to catch up.
“There is huge excitement around ChatGPT. Unlike the metaverse which faces huge difficulty in finding real-life application, ChatGPT has suddenly helped us achieve human-computer interaction,” said Ding Daoshi, director of Beijing-based internet consultancy Sootoo. “The changes it will bring about are more immediate, more direct and way quicker.”
OpenAI or ChatGPT itself is not blocked by Chinese authorities but OpenAI does not allow users in mainland China, Hong Kong, Iran, Russia and parts of Africa to sign up.
OpenAI has never publicly explained those restrictions and did not respond to Reuters’ request for comments. Reuters
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates: ChatGPT ‘will change our world’
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates believes ChatGPT, a chatbot that gives strikingly human-like responses to user queries, is as significant as the invention of the internet, he told German business daily Handelsblatt in an interview published on Friday.
“Until now, artificial intelligence could read and write, but could not understand the content. The new programs like ChatGPT will make many office jobs more efficient by helping to write invoices or letters. This will change our world,” he said, in comments published in German.
ChatGPT, developed by U.S. firm OpenAI and backed by Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), has been rated the fastest-growing consumer app in history. Reuters
Facebook investors urge revival of Cambridge Analytica fraud case
Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) investors formally asked a U.S. appeals court to revive a proposed class action accusing the Facebook parent of concealing a serious privacy breach that let a political consulting firm harvest users’ personal information.
The request came during oral arguments on Wednesday before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where data for up to 87 million users was accessed.
Investors claimed that Facebook, as the company was known, misled them in 2016 by describing data breaches as a mere “risk,” when it knew that Cambridge had accessed user data.
The investors said they incurred losses in July 2018 when Facebook’s share price fell after the company said user growth slowed after the magnitude of the breach became public.
U.S. District Judge Edward Davila ruled in 2020 that Facebook’s statements were not false because Cambridge’s data use had been in the news in 2015.
In Wednesday’s hearing, the investors’ lawyer Tom Goldstein told a three-judge panel that Davila’s ruling should be reversed because Facebook had downplayed the news reports and not taken strong action.
Meta’s lawyer Joshua Lipshutz countered that the company had adequately disclosed that cyberattacks had occurred and would occur in the future.
Circuit Judges Margaret McKeown and Jay Bybee appeared skeptical, calling those disclosures “boilerplate” and suggesting they might not be meaningful to investors.
“If they have one incident of phishing by some 18-year-old sitting in his parent’s basement it’s true,” Bybee said. “But it’s not helpful considering the nature of the leak to Cambridge.”
Lipshutz replied that even if there were misstatements, investors must still show Meta had wrongful intent.
“It’s not plausible that the company was trying to mislead the public about something the public already knew,” he said.
Facebook paid more than $5 billion in penalties to U.S. authorities over Cambridge Analytica. It agreed to pay $725 million to settle a lawsuit by Facebook users in December.