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Israel says its government websites were hit by cyber attack

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Israel said its government websites were hit by a cyber-attack on Monday but that service had since been restored, Reuters reported.

The Communications Ministry described it as a “broad cyber-attack.” It did not accuse any group of carrying it out.

The government services and information website later tweeted that the attack had blocked access to “a number of websites, including government sites” but that full service had been restored.

According to Reuters the Israel National Cyber Directorate, which oversees cyber defenses, in a report published last year said it had witnessed “a dramatic increase” in the scale and quality of cyber-attacks worldwide and in Israel.

In some cases officials have pointed a finger at Iran or Iranian-backed groups.

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China leads the world in adoption of generative AI, survey shows

The SAS report also said China led the world in continuous automated monitoring (CAM), which it described as “a controversial but widely-deployed use case for generative AI tools”.

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China is leading the world in adopting generative AI, a new survey shows, the latest sign the country is making strides in the technology that gained global attention after U.S.-based OpenAI’s ChatGPT launched in late 2022, Reuters reported.

In a survey of 1,600 decision-makers in industries worldwide by U.S. AI and analytics software company SAS and Coleman Parkes Research, 83% of Chinese respondents said they used generative AI, the technology underpinning ChatGPT.

That was higher than the 16 other countries and regions in the survey, including the United States, where 65% of respondents said they had adopted GenAI.

The global average was 54%, read the report.

The industries surveyed included banking, insurance, healthcare, telecommunications, manufacturing, retail and energy.

The results underscore China’s rapid progress in the generative AI field, which gained momentum after Microsoft-backed OpenAI released ChatGPT in November 2022, prompting dozens of Chinese companies to launch their own versions.

Last week, a report by the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization showed China was leading the GenAI patent race, filing more than 38,000 between 2014 and 2023 against 6,276 filed by the United States in the same period.

While many leading international generative AI service providers, including OpenAI, face curbs in China, the country has developed a robust domestic industry, with offerings from tech giants such as ByteDance to startups such as Zhipu.

Enterprise adoption of generative AI in China is expected to accelerate as a price war is likely to further reduce the cost of large language model services for businesses, Reuters reported.

The SAS report also said China led the world in continuous automated monitoring (CAM), which it described as “a controversial but widely-deployed use case for generative AI tools”.

This technology can collect and analyze vast amounts of data on users’ activities, behaviour and communications, which can lead to privacy infringements as they are not aware of the extent of the data being collected or how it is used, said Udo Sglavo, vice president of applied AI and modelling at SAS.

“The algorithms and processes used in CAM are often proprietary and not transparent,” Sglavo added.

“This can make it difficult to hold the entities using CAM accountable for misuse or errors.”

He added, “China’s advancements in CAM contribute to its broader strategy of becoming a global leader in artificial intelligence and surveillance technologies.”

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Crypto hacking thefts double to $1.4 bln in first half of 2024, researchers say

The median theft was one-and-a-half times larger than the year before, the report said.

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The amount of cryptocurrency stolen in hacks globally more than doubled in the first six months of 2024 from a year earlier, driven by a small number of large attacks and rising crypto prices, blockchain researchers TRM Labs said on Friday.

Hackers had stolen more than $1.38 billion worth of crypto by June 24, 2024, compared with $657 million in the same period in 2023, TRM Labs said in a report.

The median theft was one-and-a-half times larger than the year before, the report said.

“While we have not seen any fundamental changes in the security of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, we have seen a significant increase in the value of various tokens – from bitcoin to ETH (ether) and Solana – compared to the same time last year,” said Ari Redbord, global head of policy at TRM Labs.

This means that cybercriminals are more motivated to attack crypto services, and can steal more when they do, Redbord said.

Crypto prices have generally recovered from the lows hit in late 2022 in the aftermath of the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange, FTX. Bitcoin hit an all-time high of $73,803.25 in March this year.

Among the largest crypto losses so far this year was the roughly $308 million worth of bitcoin stolen from Japanese crypto exchange DMM Bitcoin, in what the company called an “unauthorised leak”.

Cryptocurrency companies are frequent targets for hacks and cyberattacks, although losses of this scale are rare.

Stolen cryptocurrency volumes in 2022 were around $900 million, Redbord said, partly due to the more than $600 million stolen from a blockchain network linked to the online game Axie Infinity. The United States has linked North Korean hackers to that theft.

The United Nations has accused North Korea of using cyber attacks to help fund its nuclear and missile programs. North Korea has previously denied allegations of hacking and other cyberattacks.

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US lawsuit against TikTok to focus on children’s privacy

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The U.S. Department of Justice plans to focus an upcoming lawsuit against TikTok on allegations that the popular social media platform violated the privacy rights of children, rather than claims it misled adult users about its data privacy practices, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigated the potential violations by TikTok and its parent company ByteDance and referred the case to the Justice Department on Tuesday, Reuters reported. 

“The investigation uncovered reason to believe named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and that a proceeding is in the public interest,” the FTC said in a statement at the time.

Reuters in 2020 first reported the FTC and the U.S. Justice Department were looking into allegations the popular social media app failed to live up to a 2019 agreement aimed at protecting children’s privacy.

TikTok has said it strongly disagrees with the FTC’s allegations and is disappointed the agency decided to pursue a lawsuit.

The probe is separate from ongoing concerns in Congress about the potential that the data of TikTok’s 170 million U.S. users could be improperly accessed by the Chinese government.

TikTok denies the allegation.

TikTok is challenging a law passed in April that requires its Chinese-parent ByteDance to divest TikTok’s U.S. assets by Jan. 19 or face a ban.

ByteDance said in the case on Thursday that a ban would be inevitable without court intervention, and that a divestiture is “not possible technologically, commercially, or legally.”

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