Hashtag Trending Mar.14th- Regulators rush in to save failing banks, DOJ investigating AI and Australian researchers create electricity out of ‘thin-air’.

Regulators rush in to save failing banks, DOJ investigating AI and Australian researchers create electricity out of ‘thin-air’.

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Welcome to Hashtag Trending for Tuesday, March 14th

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

Governments in the U.S, Canada and the UK are trying contain the damage done by the failure of Silicon Valley Bank.  SVB failed on what might be termed a “run on the bank” when depositors, alarmed by the banks financial position started what became a massive amount of withdrawals leading to the ultimate failure and subsequent action by the government agencies responsible for banking regulation.

The Treasury Department, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve in the U.S. announced that the FDIC’s insurance funds will be used to prevent depositors who had more than the $250,000 guaranteed by deposit insurance at the Silicon Valley Bank from losing money.    

The joint statement from the three agencies said, “Depositors will have access to all of their money starting Monday, Mar.13. But they were careful to add – no losses associated with the resolution of Silicon Valley Bank will be borne by the taxpayer.”

These extraordinary actions, the likes of which were last deployed in the early days of the pandemic and during the 2008 global financial crisis, are clearly being put in place to prevent cascading bank failures and a subsequent financial crisis.

The Fed also said that these actions will reduce stress on the financial system and mitigate impact on any businesses, households or taxpayers.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden affirmed in a statement that his administration will hold those responsible for the failure accountable.

Despite that assurance there will certainly be and outcry over any attempt to insulate what might be seen as -affluent tech investors – from losses. 

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman CEO of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management tweeted his support of the fast government action. Ackman tweeted that SVB was not a bailout: The people who screwed up will bear the consequences. And he noted, that the government “did the right thing by protecting depositors.”

Ackman further warned that there may be additional failure beyond SVB and two other banks that have also fallen into liquidity problems. 

In this light, there will no doubt be more discussion of the regulation of midsize banks and the $250,000 cap on deposit insurance.

Also expect regulators to move aggressively to prevent a repeat episode where banks are left without a cash cushion if customers take out their deposits.  

Source: Axios

The New-York based crypto-bank, Signature Bank was another casualty of the banking crisis, as regulators struggled to prevent further fallout from the collapse of SVB.

Signature Bank, once known as one of the most crypto-friendly institutions on Wall Street, had 40 branches in five states: New York, California, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Nevada.

As of December 2022, Signature Bank had total assets of roughly $110 billion and total deposits of about $83 billion.

All its deposits and nearly all of its assets were transferred to a new entity called  “Signature Bridge Bank” now operated by the FDIC, which says it took control of the institution to “maximize the value of the institution for a future sale and to maintain banking services in the communities formerly served by Signature Bank.” 

It is expected that depositors at Signature Bank will also receive the same deposit protection provided to SVB customers.

Source: Axios 

The U.S. Department of Justice has its eyes on Artificial Intelligence.  That’s according to DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter when he spoke at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

Known for his aggressive antitrust cases against Google, Kanter offered a warning that the growth and application of AI “won’t escape regulatory scrutiny” according to a report by Axios., 

He also said during a taping of the New York Times’ Hard Fork podcast that “When we think about AI, we think about it as a tool… it’s really important that we understood that, so we’ve (meaning the DOJ)  hired data scientists and are bringing in expertise to make sure we have the ability to understand that technology,”

Kanter said the DOJ is calling its AI effort “Project Gretzky” after hockey legend Wayne Gretzky — known for his famous line about not skating to where the puck is, but “skating to where the puck is going.”  

Source: Axios

A fake-ChatGPT Chrome extension has been found which is capable of hijacking Facebook accounts. 

The extension can create rogue admin accounts, one of the key methods that cybercriminals have been using to distribute malware.

The browser add-on, promoted through Facebook-sponsored posts does give the user the ability to connect to ChatGPT but also surreptitiously harvests cookies and Facebook account data using the active, authenticated session.

It makes use of two bogus Facebook applications – portal and msg_kig – to maintain backdoor access and obtain full control of the target profiles.

Guardio Labs researcher Nati Tal said in a technical report that “by hijacking high-profile Facebook business accounts, the threat actor creates an elite army of Facebook bots and a malicious paid media apparatus.”

The extension, branded as “Quick access to ChatGPT” is said to have attracted 2,000 installations per day since Mar. 3, 2023 and has since been pulled by Google from the Chrome Web Store as of Mar. 9, 2023.

With the viral success of ChatGPT, the Google Play Store and App Store have been plagued by a number of fake and malicious extensions.

Last month, Cyble also revealed a social engineering campaign that relied on an unofficial ChatGPT social media page to direct users to malicious domains that download information stealers, such as RedLine, Lumma, and Aurora.

Source: The Hacker News

Imagine someone being able to see all of the areas in your company you are trying to protect and spy on you by turning your own security montoring against you. It sounds like the start to a movie, but according to a new report by cyber risk company, BitSight, it’s not fiction.  One in 12 organizations with internet-facing webcams or similar devices have failed to properly secure them, leaving them vulnerable to compromise.

Three per cent of the organizations tracked by BitSight had at least one internet-facing video or audio device. Among those, nine per cent had at least one device with exposed video or audio feeds, giving someone the ability to directly view those feeds or eavesdrop on conversations.

BitSight analyzed organizations in the hospitality, education, technology and government sectors. The education sector was the most vulnerable with one in four using internet-facing webcams and similar devices susceptible to video or audio compromise.

The devices examined included mostly webcams but also network video recorders, smart doorbells, smart vacuums.

The internet-facing devices were neither behind a firewall nor a VPN, some were improperly configured, some lacked a password, or having an obvious password – others stuck with a security flaw, particularly what is called a specific access control vulnerability  insecure direct object references vulnerability (IDOR).

IDOR is the most worrisome, according to BitSight,  as it allows a hacker to grab information from any device ID regardless of the user account signed into the device.

At the very least, the video or audio feed should be protected by access control measures. Any savvy hacker could view video feeds or spy on conversations or worse, alter the exposed feeds to spread false information.

BitSight recommends organizations using internet-facing webcams to analyze the security of these devices, put them behind a firewall or VPN, set up access controls and, for devices with vulnerabilities, a developer needs to step in to patch these vulnerabilities and protect the devices from attacks.

Source: TechRepublic

Australian researchers claim to have achieved what they called a “beautiful” moment, creating electricity out of thin air.

Using a common soil bacterium that consumes small amounts of hydrogen from the air to help power its metabolism, the researchers managed to isolate and harness the enzyme that enables this process.

The researchers showed that the enzyme, named Huc, was able to turn even the smallest amounts of atmospheric hydrogen into an electrical current.

The bacterium from which the enzyme is extracted is nonpathogenic, grows quickly and is easy to work with in the lab, according to the research author Rhys Grinter. The enzyme he says is stable and long lasting and can endure extreme temperatures.

Because it draws on hydrogen from the air, a battery based on Huc could theoretically last indefinitely, or at least as long as the enzyme does.  And the scientist say they’re hoping to engineer it to last for years.

Talking about the use cases for this discovery, Grinter explained that “The real niche for this technology are things that need a sustained, relatively low amount of power. He added that there’s an exciting potential especially for things that are difficult to access or needs power 24/7 like biometric and implanted medical devices or remote sensors.

Researchers also discovered that when they put Huc in a circuit, the more hydrogen they feed it, the more electricity it produces. This could open exciting pathways for engineers to develop ways to integrate the enzyme into hydrogen-based fuel cells — the kind that might power an electric car.

Those days however remain well in the future, the researchers, but the possibility for further study is immense.

Source: Toronto Star

Those are the 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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Thanks to you who have written to me, I take every piece of advice and treasure your comments. 

I’m your host Jim Love – Have a Terrific Tuesday!

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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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