Hashtag Trending Feb.21- LockBit website goes down; Microsoft takes on Nvidia; Online backlash against OpenAI

An international effort has brought down the notorious LockBit ransomware gang, Microsoft has developed its own tech to replace Nvidia and a huge backlash against OpenAI on social media. 

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All this and more on the “Jeez, you take one long weekend and the world explodes” edition of Hashtag Trending. I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US. 

In a landmark operation dubbed “Operation Cronos,” global law enforcement agencies have struck a significant blow against the notorious ransomware gang, LockBit, signaling a major victory in the fight against cybercrime. 

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), in collaboration with the FBI and an international task force, has successfully seized the gang’s website, replacing its contents with a message indicating the site’s new control under law enforcement. This collaborative effort featured contributions from Europol and agencies from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, France, Switzerland, Canada, Sweden, and Finland, showcasing an unprecedented level of international cooperation.

LockBit is infamous for its prolific and malicious attacks—including targeting a children’s hospital and major corporations like Infosys and Subway. It has been a formidable force in the cybercrime world. The group’s operations, marked by at least 1,700 attacks in the U.S. alone by mid-2023, have been a significant contributor to the global ransomware threat, accounting for almost a quarter of all ransomware attacks in some regions. 

They are reputed to be the pioneers of ransomware-as-a-service, a model allowed affiliates to carry out attacks, negotiate ransoms, and then share the proceeds with the gang, a system that had to be adjusted in late 2023 to demand larger ransoms due to waning efficiency.

The disruption of LockBit’s operations is not just a technical achievement but also carries substantial geopolitical weight, given the group’s believed connections to Moscow. This raises the operation’s significance beyond mere cyber defense, hinting at broader efforts to counteract campaigns aimed at disrupting Russia’s adversaries.

The collaborative success of Operation Cronos may serve as a blueprint for future actions against similar threats, marking a pivotal moment in the ongoing battle against ransomware gangs and their increasingly sophisticated networks. 

In the meantime, score one for the good guys.

Sources include: The Register  and ITWorldCanada.com

Microsoft is reported to be developing a new network card designed to enhance the performance of its Maia AI server chip. This initiative, spearheaded by Pradeep Sindhu, co-founder of Juniper Networks and head of the acquired server chip startup Fungible, marks a potential shift in Microsoft’s reliance on Nvidia, a leading chip designer known for its pivotal role in AI model training.

This new network card, likened to Nvidia’s ConnectX-7, aims not only to improve the efficiency of Microsoft’s servers but also to make the process of training OpenAI’s models faster and less costly. 

The implications of this development are vast, promising to accelerate Microsoft’s capabilities in AI and potentially alter the competitive dynamics with Nvidia.

Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, has already positioned it as a frontrunner in the AI domain, integrating cutting-edge technology into its suite of products. The introduction of the Maia chip last November further underscored Microsoft’s commitment to leading in AI computing infrastructure. This latest development to reduce dependency on external chip designs like those of Nvidia’s shows Microsoft’s ambition to control more of the AI technology stack, making AI training more efficient and possibly reshaping the economic landscape of AI development.

Sources include: Reuters

 Yesterday we covered the reaction from the AI community to OpenAI’s new Sora – a text to video offering that was simply astonishing in terms of its quality and light years ahead of many other offerings in terms of its ability to solve some of the problems that had plagued AI generated video – from the simple errors that generate people that have extra hands to the lack of permanence and continuity where characters and backgrounds keep changing.

Sora blew all of that away and was able to produce some astonishingly complex videos.

And it woke a lot of people up. I guess when it was primarily text, people had some anxiety, but once they could see what amounts to a simulation of real life, it got a reaction – and not a good one.  

The unveiling of OpenAI’s latest text-to-video model may have catalyzed a significant public backlash, evidenced by a wave of social media outcry. 

It was clear that OpenAI anticipated a reaction – but they’ve always gotten a positive reaction in the past. Were they anticipating anything this negative? Maybe. 

There was a tweet from an OpenAI employee, which stated, “We very intentionally are not sharing it widely. Yet the hope is that a mini public demo kicks a social response into gear.” This tweet was later removed, but it makes you wonder if Sora was announced to compete with Google’s Gemini launch – or was it to prepare the public for just how far AI has developed?

Google’s Gemini 1.5 was a game changer. Gemini 1.5 Pro can take in 700,000 words, or 30,000 lines of code  35x the amount Gemini 1.0 Pro can handle. And it’s not limited to text. Gemini 1.5 Pro can analyze up to 11 hours of audio or an hour of video in a variety of different languages. 

And Sora knocked it out of the park. 

But maybe not in a good way.

There have been a number of reports of some very negative social media posts. 

One example was from a YouTuber MoistCr1TiKaL, who tweeted  I’m struggling to think of a single positive thing making realistic AI generated videos like this will bring. It’s all just net negative and dystopian.

He is popular and he gets a couple of hundred thousand views on his tweets but that one got 153,000 likes, 11,000 retweets and 8 million views. 

Another twist to this came from comments from an insider known as Jimmy Apples who indicated that Open AI has had Sora since March and only just chose to release it now. 

Apples has been notoriously accurate in predicting what OpenAI will do next. 

But this negative reaction is something to watch. We’ve seen negative reactions to the advance of advanced tech – recently self-driving cars have become targets. Now we have this unveiling of Sora and a public backlash. 

There are fairly reliable predictions that show that Artificial General Intelligence will be here not in 2030 but perhaps as early as 2026. 

I did a piece last week on autonomous agents – these are, as the name implies, autonomous AI agents that can learn complex tasks and process them in the real world – from interacting with websites to operating your PC for you. 

Even if you don’t believe we will get to AGI, the impact that these autonomous agents will have on our world in the coming months will be staggering. And they are real and here today. 

If they were combined with AGI, I’m not sure what happens.

I’m not raising any alarms, I’m not predicting doom and I’m not saying the world is coming to an end. Our world is changing, more rapidly than we ever thought possible. 

But it seems like it took a video to really bring this to public attention.

This could fade out. It could intensify. Or it could be the start of the discussion that we’ve needed to have all along about how we will adapt to what is undoubtedly – for good or bad – you decide – but what is undoubtedly the biggest business and social transformation of the past several hundred years. 

We live in interesting times. 

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with daily newscast and a weekend interview show that we creatively called – the weekend edition. 

I got comments on my story yesterday on the growth in C level titles. Thanks. I am really interested in what you think about AI and your reaction to the story today. 

I like to keep it real and knowing what you think is a big help. 

Send us a note at [email protected] or drop us a comment under the show notes at itworldcanada.com/podcasts – look for Hashtag Trending. 

Thanks for listening and have a Wonderful Wednesday.

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