Hashtag Trending Jul.26-Ransomware attacks up 180 per cent; Citizen Lab Toronto exposes WeChat data sharing; More AI price increase

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Ransomware attacks increase by 180 per cent, Citizen Lab in Toronto exposes We Chat data sharing and more price increase in software to pay for integrated AI.

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These are the top tech news stories on today’s Hashtag Trending.  

I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and Tech News Day in the US.

Ransomware attacks have increased by 180 per cent since last June according to researchers at security firm Cohesity.  This surge is partly attributed to a Russia-linked ransomware gang exploiting the MOVEit file-transfer tool.

In June, 456 companies were listed as victims on various dark web extortion sites run by ransomware gangs. Notably, the summer months usually see a decrease in such attacks as hackers take vacations, but this year appears to be an exception.

While 20 per cent of the alleged June victims were associated with the MOVEit breach. However, even without that campaign, there was a 128 per cent year-over-year increase in the number of victims.

A warning about these numbers. Ransomware gangs post the victims they’ve targeted after the victims fail to pay a ransom within a certain period of time. If an organization does pay, it’s often not listed. Moreover, ransomware gangs often inflate or exaggerate their claims.

But the rise in ransomware attacks underscores the growing threat of cybercrime and ransomware in particular.

Sources include: Axios

A recent study by Citizen Lab Toronto has revealed a significant privacy concern within the WeChat ecosystem, particularly in relation to data sharing practices that exceed user expectations. WeChat, China’s largest social media platform with about 1.2 billion users, has expanded its functionality to include payment and ride-sharing systems, as well as a vast collection of “mini programs” that install and run through the platform.

The study found that the data privacy experience on WeChat varies depending on whether a user signs up with a mainland China phone number or not. But, even for non-mainland users, the installation of mini programs could lead to unexpected data sharing with WeChat and the program developer. 

These programs have access to sensitive device operating system functions, user contact, and stored payment information. Furthermore, any operating system permission granted to a mini program must also be granted to WeChat by default.

The study also noted that non-mainland users have first-party analytics data shared directly with Weixin, WeChat’s parent company, something that is not necessary for the operation of the app. 

Citizen Labs recommends that foreign users of WeChat avoid any in-app features labeled with the Weixin name and make use of Android’s inherent permission restriction system to manually request these permissions as needed. 

This study underscores the importance of understanding the data sharing practices of the apps we use, particularly those with expansive ecosystems like WeChat. 

Sources include: CPO Magazine

And in a related story, TikTok is reportedly planning to launch an e-commerce platform in the United States in early August. This platform will primarily sell China-made goods, according to sources familiar with the plan. This move is seen as a strategic expansion of TikTok’s business model, leveraging its massive user base to tap into the lucrative e-commerce market.

However, the launch of this e-commerce platform could potentially raise concerns about data privacy and the quality of the goods sold, given the ongoing scrutiny of Chinese tech companies by US regulators. It also marks a significant shift for TikTok, which has primarily been a platform for entertainment and creative expression.

This is the second major expansion for TikTok. Yesterday we covered a story about TikTok adding text messaging to its offering.  At this rate, TikTok might get to be the “all purpose app” that Elon Musk wants the company formerly known as Twitter to be, before they even take down the Twitter signs on their head office.

Sources include: Reuters

Christian Klein, the CEO of SAP, Europe’s largest software vendor is betting that businesses will be willing to pay more for enterprise software that incorporates generative AI. Klein believes that the benefits of integrating AI with the types of information stored in SAP’s systems are significant, including potential reductions in inventory, increased sales, and improved carbon emissions.

A case in point is the German retailer Schwarz Group, which has been using a combination of historical business data, consumer sentiment, inflation data, and weather forecasts, along with generative AI, to better predict demand at its Lidl and Kaufland stores. The results have been impressive, with a 15 per cent improvement in inventory management, a 20 per cent decrease in waste, and an increase in total sales due to having the right products on shelves.

Klein warns that businesses with data spread across many silos will need to better organize their information to reap such benefits. He says, “Without that, AI will have only minimal positive impact.”

SAP plans to charge 30 per cent more, on average, to customers who use its AI features. The company also sees AI as a way to double the size of its addressable market, which Klein predicts should reach $1 trillion by 2028. Additionally, SAP is using AI as an incentive to convince businesses running SAP or other software on their own servers to move to an SAP cloud subscription, as it is only offering the AI features as part of its cloud.

This is in line with a recent Gartner prediction that says that CIOs are looking to purchase AI that is already integrated with corporate applications. 

Sources include: Axios

Google’s water consumption has seen a significant increase, according to the company’s 2023 environmental report. The tech giant reported using 5.6 billion gallons of water in 2022, primarily for cooling its data centers. This represents a 20 per cent increase from the previous year, equivalent to the water usage of 37 golf courses.

This surge in water consumption is largely driven by the expansion of Google’s compute capacity, particularly due to the rise of AI. As the AI arms race intensifies, the environmental cost of running massive data centers, which require substantial amounts of water for cooling, is becoming increasingly apparent.

How sustainable is this increase in water consumption?  

Google says it aims to replenish 120 per cent of the freshwater it consumes across its offices and data centers by 2030. Currently, it’s replenishing just 6 per cent, according to its own report. 

As water shortages become a growing concern worldwide, the tech industry’s increasing water consumption is an issue. 

Google’s data center in Mesa, Arizona, which initially had a guarantee of up to 4 million gallons of water a day, will now use “air-cooled technology” due to Arizona’s water shortage.

It’s easy to target Google but they are only part of the world’s data centres. The real question is that as cloud computing, AI and crypto mining increase the need for large data centres and huge increases in computing, can we find innovative solutions to reduce their water consumption? 

If only you could find water with a Google search.

Sources include: Business Insider 

These are the top tech news stories for today.  Hashtag Trending goes to air 5 days a week with a special weekend interview show called “the Weekend Edition.”

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I’m your host, Jim Love. Have a Wonderful Wednesday!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Lovehttp://www.itworldcanada.com/
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO of a great company - IT World Canada - Canada's leading ICT publisher.

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