Android phones are being shipped with malware already installed, EU approved Microsoft-Activision deal, Google employees poke fun at AI products revealed at the I/O conference.
These top tech news stories and more for Tuesday, May 16th, 2023, I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada, and Tech News Day in the US.
According to a new Trend Micro report, millions of Android phones are leaving the factory with malware already installed.
This worrying supply chain attack targeted budget smartphones as well as smartwatches, smartTVs and other smart devices.
Cybersecurity researchers at Trend Micro believe that the issue comes from brutal competition among original equipment manufacturers.
Smartphones do not make all their components, so when the price of one component, firmware, for instance drops significantly, the provider is unable to charge money for their products.
The products, therefore, started coming with a little extra, in the form of “silent plugins”, capable of stealing sensitive information from the device, stealing SMS messages, taking control of social media accounts, using the devices for ad and click fraud, and the list goes on.
More alarmingly, there is a plugin that allows the buyer to take full control of a device for up to five minutes, and use it as an “exit node”.
Trend Micro suggests that close to nine million devices worldwide are affected by this supply chain attack, the majority of which are located in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe.
The fate of the biggest acquisition of all time edged a bit closer to the finish line after the EU Commissioner announced yesterday that it approved Microsoft’s $69 billion bid for Activision.
The approval by the EU is essential to closing the deal.
The EU competition commission previously announced that it was investigating the deal over console and cloud competition concerns.
Now it says that its approval is “conditional on full compliance”.
Basically, Microsoft pledged in multiple 10 year deals to ensure Activision’s Call of Duty would be available on competing cloud gaming platforms. European consumers will have a free license to stream all current and future Activision Blizzard games to “any cloud game streaming services of their choice”. Cloud gaming providers will also have a corresponding free license.
These measures come as a result of regulators’ concerns that ownership of Call of Duty would give the company an unfair advantage against more successful console rival Sony PlayStation.
The UK, which announced last month, that it seeks to block the deal, agrees that the deal would give Activision Blizzard too strong of a spot in the budding cloud gaming scene, where users play games that are streamed to phones, tablets and other screens from remote servers.
Microsoft’s bid for Activision still faces that giant hurdle from UK regulators and also from the U.S.’s Federal Trade Commission, which sued to block the deal, with a trial set for summer.
The acquisition expires in July, though parties will likely try to extend that date.
Should you pay up a ransomware operator to restore your systems?
The answer to that is unfortunately not a simple yes or no.
According to Richard Addiscott, a senior director analyst at Gartner, paying should be considered a business decision that takes into account risks including payments to offshore players that violate international sanctions and lead to fines.
Plus paying does not automatically mean you’re getting your data back.
In fact, Addiscott revealed in a conference on Monday that ransomware operators aim to encrypt really fast so that they spend the least amount of time in your systems. Doing so, they encrypt really poorly and even lose the data that they would try to sell back to you.
With this sort of crookedness, only four per cent of ransomware victims recover all their data. Only 61 per cent recover data at all. And if that’s not enough, victims typically experience 25 days of disruption to their businesses.
Cost control, revenue protection and risk minimization might get businesses to cough up the money. But Addiscott could not help shake his head as he recalled moments in which business leaders deny investments to prepare for a rapid post-ransomware recovery, but then authorize large and rapid ransom payments.
Addiscott maintains that a recovery plan is key, immutable backups, and an isolated recovery environment.
Because even if you plan to pay, ransomware attackers have found a way to stall payment negotiations. For instance, hit an organization with a DDoS attack while they are already impacted, so they’ll pay more to make at least one problem go away.
Or they could double-dip by seeking payment from organizations whose data they stole, then mining it to find other targets.
However, at the end of day, the decision to pay might not be yours. Cyber-risk insurers may decide if paying or funding a restore might be cheaper.
But Addiscott says beware of the ransomware operators that send sections of insurance policy to victims to point out any payments would be covered.
Yes, the tactics are that nasty.
Source: The Register
Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, thinks managers asking employees to come back to the office may not be quite so consistent when it comes to their own in-person work.
He said on The Verge’s “Decoder” podcast, “I guarantee you that many of these CEOs who are calling people back to the office in New York City are going away to the Hamptons for the summer or going to Europe in August.”
Previous surveys did reveal a divide in who gets to work from home. The Future Forum reported in an April 2022 survey that only 19 per cent of executives were commuting into the office each day, compared to 35 per cent of non-executives.
Big names in tech have also raised concerns about remote work. From Microsoft reporting that 85 per cent of employers reportedly feared employees working at home were less productive, to Salesforce’s Marc Benioff and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg suggesting that employees who joined their companies as remote hires were less productive.
Chesky strongly disagreed with that perspective. He asked, “Are you more productive having people physically in an office together and then constraining who you hire to a 30-mile or a 60-mile commuting radius to the office? Or by allowing your team to be able to hire people from anywhere?”
Airbnb made its Work from Anywhere policy permanent in April last year. This, Chesky claimed in an interview with Fortune, had encouraged a million people to visit the company’s job page.
And finally, a couple of quick stories to finish up.
The world’s first micro-modular reactor will be built in Chalk River, Ontario, Canada population 1,029. For those who don’t know Chalk River, it was built in the 1950’s and was once the home of one of the world’s most versatile nuclear research reactors. When it was shut down in 2009 for a year it caused a worldwide shortage of medical isotopes. Now it’s once again a research pioneer for a new smaller, safer, reactor technology. The micro-modular reactor is a nuclear-based power source that can provide power to 5,000 people for 20 years and generate about one metre cube of radioactive material. It is expected to be up and running by 2027.
Source: CTV News
According to Imperva’s Bad Bot Report, internet traffic coming from bots increased by 5 per cent from the previous year to 47.4 per cent. Human traffic, on the other hand, decreased to 52.6 per cent, its lowest level in eight years. Further, bad bot traffic, malicious automated software applications capable of high-speed abuse, misuse and attacks grew to 30.2 per cent, a 2.5 per cent increase over 2021. Travel, retail, and financial services experienced the highest volume of bot attacks. Gaming and telecommunications had the highest proportion of bad bot traffic on their websites and applications.
Source: Security Magazine
A federal appeals court rejected Elon Musk’s bid to modify or end his 2018 securities fraud settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that required a Tesla Inc lawyer to approve some of his tweets in advance. Musk claimed that the SEC exploited his consent decree to conduct bad-faith investigations which violated his free speech rights. Musk’s lawyer said his team will seek further review and will continue to raise the issue of government constraint on speech.
Artificial intelligence has dazzled the world, but has also been subject to a lot of public ridicule. Google’s no stranger to the jokes, especially after its own AI bot Bard, messed up badly in its own advertisement, hours after launch.
But now it seems like Google’s own employees are poking fun at the giant’s AI undertakings.
As Google unveiled a host of AI tools at the I/O conference last week, employees joked internally about playing a drinking game and taking a shot every time an executive said AI.
The messages and memes were revealed on the company’s internal Memegen communication system.
Reportedly, they also made up a song to the classic nursery tune of ‘Old MacDonald’ using the letters “AI-AI-I/O”
Last month, Insider reported that a group of executives including Sundar Pichai and Mark Zuckerberg said “AI” at least 168 times on their recent first quarter earnings calls.
But Google I/O was, regardless, a success for the tech giant. Apparently, the company’s stock has risen in the days since the event because of the positive reaction to the new features.
One employee even said, “as someone who expected to make snarky memes the whole time, it was nice to be wowed.”
That’s the top tech news for today. We go to air with a daily newscast five days a week, as well as a special weekend interview with an expert on topics relevant to today’s tech news.
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