AppWrap: Govt’s $17m AI spend-up, ID verification legislation passes, Nissan attack and modernisation headaches

Published on the 11/12/2023 | Written by Newsdesk

iStart News - AppWrap tech news in brief

Keeping you up to date with A/NZ and world tech news…

AppWrap aims to help you keep up to date with an easy to read collection of news and snippets published by other leading tech media publications that we trust.

AppWrap November 2023

13.12 A Sydney man has been charged with allegedly sending more than 17 million scam texts. 9News reports that the 39-year-old impersonated large businesses including Australia Post and Linkt, sending texts with links to fake websites aiming to scam people out of money.

08.12 Services Australia paid Infosys AU$191 million over four years for a welfare calculator, including more than $50m paid after a better  – Australian – solution was identified a year before the Infosys project was scrapped. The Infosys offering was written off as a failure after processing just 784 aged care claims. The Australian SecureFast solution had been tested and judged a ‘solution’ with a much higher success rate 12 months before the Infosys project was scrapped, the Guardian reports.

08.12 The Australian Government is spending $17m to establish up to five ‘AI Adopt’ centres across Australia in a push to encourage local businesses to adopt and integrate the technology safely into work practices. Training will be offered without charge to eligible businesses, Minister Ed Husic says.

08.12 Microsoft’s close partnership with ChatGPT developer OpenAI is being investigated by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority regulator, concerned about the partnership’s impact on competition. Microsoft was given a non-voting seat on OpenAI’s board following the recent management dramas as part of governance changes at the company. The CMA has called for comment on the partnership as part of the information gathering process ahead of the launch of a formal phase 1 investigation.

07.12 Controversial identity verification services legislation has passed with 38 privacy-enhancing changes. InformationAge says the amendments are largely in line with recommendations made by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee.

07.12 Nissan says its Australian and New Zealand operations have been hit by a cyber attack. The automotive giant says it is investigating the extent of the incident and whether any personal information has been accessed. The Australian Cyber Security Centre and NZ National Cyber Security Centre have both been notified, and the company is working to restore systems, Nissan says.

05.12 A/NZ CIOs and CTOs are struggling to balance IT modernisation efforts with business growth and profitability, according to a Rimini Street report. It found that while 88% of survey respondents are running an IT modernisation program, 61 percent admit to being behind schedule, with 68 percent saying they’re over budget. Nearly 60 percent said their modernisation programs were not succeeding beyond marginal improvements for the business.

04.12 Companies could be forced to develop and implement anti-scam strategies under regulations currently being canvassed, ITNews reports. The measures are part of a $86.5m scam-busting program, which includes the establishment of a National Anti-scam Centre and an SMS sender ID registry.

04.12 Applications for $18.5m in funding to establish the Australian Centre for Quantum Growth opened today. The funding will be awarded to an organisation to set up the centre, designed to support the growth of the quantum workforce and build relationships with key international counterparts, while increasing public understanding of the technology and how industries can benefit, Ed Husic says.

AppWrap November 2023

30.11 Queensland has passed a mandatory data breach notification scheme. The scheme, which will come into effect from mid-2025, will initially affect state agencies. Local governments will follow in mid-2026, IT News reports.

27.11 The ACCC is calling for new competition laws in response to the continued expansion of digital platforms such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft. It says platform’s expansion increases the risk of the platforms engaging in harmful behaviour such as invasive data collection practices and consumer lock-ins that reduce choice and stifle innovation. The ACCC has released a new report on the matter and says it is further evidence to support earlier recommendations that competition and consumer laws be updated to ensure consumers and businesses continue to benefit from opportunities created by digital platform services.

27.11 Google will begin deleting inactive personal accounts from December 1 as part of a new security plan. The purge will see accounts that have been inactive for two years closed off, is designed to prevent accounts from being compromised, Google says. The closures will be phased, with Google saying it will send multiple notifications to users before closing the accounts, CBS News reports.

23.11 NextDC has started work on its $80m Darwin data centre, with plans to launch in June 2024. Vocus, which is partnering with NextDC at the D1 facility, switched on its first international fibre-optic cable into Darwin – the Darwin-Jakarta-Singapore cable – in July. NextDC says the facility will have 8MW and 1,500 rack capacity, 3,000m2 of space, with 2,000m2 of mission critical space.

22.11 The federal government has set a zero trust target for Australia’s public sector, to be embedded by 2030. ITNews says uplifts in identity verification and privileged access management may be on the cards as part of the plan.

22.11 Australia will provide roving teams of cyber experts to help Pacific Islands deal with online threats. The teams will be led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but include private and public sector specialists, including from intelligence agencies. A further $16.7m has also been allocated by the federal government to help Pacific nations identify vulnerabilities and trial solutions, ABC says. The move comes amid concerns about the Pacific’s vulnerability to cyber attacks.

23.11 Australian companies won’t be banned from paying ransoms, but the federal government will provide a ransomware ‘playbook’ and require reporting of attacks. The $568m Cyber Security Strategy was unveiled on Wednesday, InformationAge reports, with the government planning to work with industry to develop legislation for the ‘no-fault, no-liability’ reporting obligations, which will be used to provide anonymised trends data.

22.11 Sam Altman is heading back to OpenAI as CEO, five days after being dumped from the company, with the board being restructured. The NYTimes says what appears to be emerging from the mess is a company better suited to handle the billions of dollars thrown its way – but potentially not as attuned to OpenAI’s earlier mission of creating AI that’s safe for the world.

22.11 Negotiations are underway – again – for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI. Altman’s abrupt firing on Friday following ‘a deliberate review process… which concluded he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its responsibility to exercise its responsibilities’ was followed by co-founder Greg Brockman announcing he was leaving the company too, in solidarity. Other senior staff were also reported to be resigning, and on Monday Altman and Brockman were hired by Microsoft – whose stocks had dropped following the Friday news of Altman’s departure from OpenAI, and hundreds of employees signed an open letter saying they’d resign themselves if the pair weren’t reinstated. Bloomberg reports discussions are now underway, with one scenario being Altman becomes a director on a transitional board.

21.11 Social media companies will be forced to crack down on ‘emerging harms’, including offensive and dangerous content created by generative AI services. The Guardian reports that updates to the Basic Online Safety Expectations on tech companies will ask them to ensure algorithms don’t amplify harmful content.

12.11 Australia’s second largest port operator, DP World, has suspended operations in several states after a cybersecurity incident described by the Australian government as ‘serious and ongoing’. Operations were halted on Friday with DP World, which manages nearly half of the goods in and out of Australia, reporting it was looking into possible data breaches and testing systems, Reuters reports.

11.11 Optus boss Kelly Bayer Rosmarin will front up at a Senate inquiry this week with the company facing threat of substantial fines over the inability of customers to call 000 during Wednesday’s outage. While details of the parliamentary probe haven’t been released yet, the SMH reports that leaked correspondence shows the committee will have a public hearing on Friday, with the Optus CEO attending. A post-incident review of the outage has also been announced by the federal government.

09.11 MyGov is looking to go passwordless from next year, harnessing pass-key technology instead. The move will see users able to log in using face scans, fingerprints and PINs. AFR reports the MyGov is the first government service in Australia to adopt the Fido standard, already in use by some private sector sites.

09.11 Optus is warning customers that phishing messages claiming to be from Optus about yesterday’s outage are circulating. The telco says it is not sending email or SMS communications about the outage with links.

09.11 Customer insights innovation platform Ideally has raised $2.15m in seed investment as it looks to expand services within Australasia. The self-service platform enables users to test concepts, ideas and messages with their target audience. The investment was lead by Icehouse Ventures alongside Brand Fund 1, Brandt notes.

08.11 Siemens and Swinburne University of Technology have teamed up on a $5.2m energy grid laboratory in Melbourne, complete with a digital twin of Australia’s energy market to enable users to run simulations or new solutions, Smart Energy says.

08.11 An outage at Optus has left around 40 percent of Australia’s population without internet or phone and raised questions about the fragility of the country’s core infrastructure. The outage was reported at 4am, with Optus saying at 4.35pm that most services should be back online. The outage threw payment, transport and health systems into chaos, Reuters reports.

08.11 Kiwi commercial real estate valuation software company Forbury is being acquired by Canada’s Altus Group for an undisclosed sum. Altus says the acquisition solidifies its Australia and broader APAC presence and provide market specific valuation capabilities. Forbury, which has 34 employees, was founded by former All Black Steve Surridge.

07.11 IBM is launching a US$500m venture fund to invest in early stage to hyper-growth AI companies to bolster enterprise-grade GenAI solutions. IBM says the startups will have the opportunity to work with IBM’s team, gaining operational expertise on product and engineering and go-to-market strategies.

04.11 The Records and Information Management Practitioners Alliance is calling for urgent changes to the Archives Act to fix Australian Public Service’s poor record keeping. RIMPA sent a letter to the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance saying federal record-keeping and data-retention practices within agencies are so bad, they face becoming the next Medibank while being unable to find documents needed, The Mandarin says. RIMPA says it hasn’t received any response to its letter yet.

03.11 The Australian Information Commissioner is taking Australian Clinical Labs to court over 2022 data breach. The Commissioner is alleging that from May 2021 to September 2022, ACL failed to take reasonable steps to protect personal informations and that those failures left ACL vulnerable to attack. It is also alleging that ACL failed to carry out a reasonable assessment following the data breach or to notify the Commissioner of the breach quickly. The February 2022 breach saw personal information including health and credit card information of more than 100,000 individuals, breached.

01.11 Australia and New Zealand have joined 25 countries including the US, EU and China in agreeing to work together to manage the risk from AI. The Bletchley Declaration includes a focus on identifying safety risks of shared concern, and building risk-based policies across countries.

01.11 The Reserve Bank of Australia has warned that cybersecurity, AI and cloud are posing operational risk for Australia’s financial stability. Assistant governor Brad Jones says while increasing digitisation has been a source of innovation, it also means operational risk is now ‘a first order enterprise-wide risk that demands the highest standards of management and governance’. He noted a building challenge from third-party technology dependencies, and moves by big tech seeking to move into payment services without the regulatory oversight typically imposed on other financial service providers.

AppWrap October 2023

31.10 The federal government has been urged to wait until privacy reforms are complete rather than continuing to try to retrofit laws on identity management. InformationAge says witnesses at a public hearing were largely supportive of the introduction of the legislative regime for ID matching services and changes made from earlier efforts, but were highly critical of the short timeframe for the inquiry and that the government has been using the services without legislative basis for several years.

30.10 President Joe Biden has signed a sweeping AI executive order in the US government’s most ambitious attempt to address concerns around the technology, The Washington Post says. It places new safety obligations on AI developers, requiring developers to perform safety tests and notify the government of results before rolling out products. It also directs the government to develop standards for companies to label AI-generated content and calls on federal agencies to mitigate the technologies risk while evaluating their own use of the tools.

30.10 The G7 are expected to this week agree an AI code of conduct for companies developing AI systems, Reuters says. The voluntary 11-point code of conduct will set a landmark for how countries govern AI and urges companies to take appropriate measures to identify, evaluate and mitigate risks as well as tackle incidents and patterns of misuse after AI products are in market. 

27.10 Australia and the US have formalised the Technology Safeguards Agreement, enabling US companies to carry out space launch activities in Australia and protect US tech, including rockets and satellites. The Department of Industry Science and Resources says the deal will create new high-skilled tech jobs and supply chains locally.

26.10 Innovation has become the fourth pillar alongside economic, defence and climate and clean energy cooperation, in the Australian-US alliance. InnovationAustralia says the two countries will work more closely on innovation and science with President Joe Biden saying he and Anthony Albanese had discussed opportunities to increase cooperation in areas including biotech, quantum and cybersecurity.

24.10 Australians are planning on doing 48 percent of their seasonal shopping online this year according to a Cisco report. The report says 33 percent of respondents expect to do more shopping online this year than last and those increasing their online shopping this year expect to make 72 percent of purchases online. Consumers cited more choices, avoiding the last minute rush in physical stores,  online’s anytime access and lack of time for extensive holiday shopping as the key reasons for online shopping, Bandt says.

26.10 The federal government paid out $1.34m over five weeks – or $35,000 per working day –  to McKinsey for work on the development of its 2023-2030 Cyber Security Strategy. The Department of Home did not go to market for the work and the tender was open for one week, with only one other company applying. The figures were revealed during Senate Estimates, InformationAge reports.

24.10 Microsoft is investing AU$5 billion into its Australian hyperscale cloud and AI infrastructure over the next two years. The company says the investment will also increase its data centre count from 20 to 29 and that it plans to extend its global skills programs to help more than 300,000 Australians gain ‘the capabilities they need to thrive in a cloud and AI-enabled economy’. An initiative with the Australian Signals Directorate to improve cyber protection for Australian residents, businesses and government entities was also announced.

24.10 A group of researchers have developed a tool which enables artists add invisible changes to the pixels in their art in order to ‘poison’ models using images to train AI. Nightshade can cause  the resulting model to break in chaotic and unpredictable ways, MIT Technology Review reports and could mean future iterations of models such as Dall-E and Stable Diffusion’s include useless outputs.

20.10 Australian-founded fintech Airwallex is expanding its Latin American business after acquiring rival Mexican payments provider MexPago. CNBC notes that Latin America is an attractive spot for fintech companies, largely due to a younger demographic. Mexico will provide something of a hedge for the company as it deals with geopolitical and economic uncertainty between the US and China. Airwallex says it has seen more than 460 percent year on year revenue growth in the Americas.

19.10 Kiwi and Australian tech companies have been warned about the ‘unprecedented threat’ China poses to innovation and the country’s targeting of businesses with activities including cyber intrusions. Five Eyes countries’ intelligence bosses came together to issue the warning and accuse China of IP theft and using AI for hacking and spying against nations, Reuters reports.

18.10 X is rolling out a US$1/year fee for new users in New Zealand and the Philippines in a move it says is aimed at combatting bots. The ‘Not A Bot’ subscription is a trial designed to reduce spam, manipulation of the platform and bot activity, X claims. Those who decline to pay will only be able to read posts, watch videos and follow accounts, Aljazeera reports. Existing users are not affected.

13.10 Queensland agencies will face mandatory data breach reporting with the state government introducing a bill to set up the scheme, requiring agencies to notify the Office of the Information Commissioner, as well as affected individuals, of data breaches. Queensland is only the second state, after NSW, to introduce such a scheme, GovernmentNews reports.

13.10 Australia’s Atlassian is buying Loom for US$975m (AU$1.5b) – some 36 percent below the US enterprise video chat and screen recording company’s last valuation. Atlassian says Loom will continue to be available as a separate product, but will also be it integrated into its Atlassian’s offerings, the SMH reports. The deal, Atlassian’s largest to date, is expected to be completed in the quarter ending March 2024.

12.10 PwC government contracts, along with new deals, can be delivered by PwC Australia spin-off Scyne Advisory after the company was approved by the Finance Department to take on the work. Allegro Funds acquired PwC’s government consultancy in July for $1, following scandal over PwC Australia’s misuse of confidential information. The Department of Finance issued an advisory green-lighting the work.

12.10 A ‘ripple effect’ from Optus’ data breach resulted in so many complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, that it tapped robotic process automation to meet the demand. More than 20,000 complaints were lodged against Optus according to the TIO’s latest report, with 6,800 received in October 2022 – the month after the breach. The TIO says it launched a new pre-conciliation tool to give it the ability to be flexible and meet higher demand in response to the surge in complaints. Overall complaints were down 16.5 percent, Information Age reports.

11.10 Telstra is acquiring Melbourne cloud consultancy Versent in a AU$267.5 million deal to scale its Telstra Purple tech services business. The deal also includes Versent subsidiary, self-serve cloud management platform Stax. Telstra says Versent, which has a team of more than 500 and offers professional and managed services, will provide additional depth for Telstra and help it met growing demand for specialised services in cloud-led transformation.

11.10 The Australian government has unveiled draft laws to regulate digital payment providers such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, enabling monitoring of digital wallet payments in the same way credit card networks and other transactions are monitored by the Reserve Bank. Reuters says Google and Apple have been opposing plans to designate them as payment providers.

09.10 Smart technology in mouthguards will be used to detect brain injuries suffered by rugby players on the field in a €2m initiative from World Rugby. The technology will provide in-game alerts to independent pitch-side doctors, debuting in the women’s WXV competition from this month, World Rugby says.

07.10 The Queensland government is trialling an AI learning platform which provides quiz-based learning. The trial involves 500 students and 25 teachers from 10 Queensland state schools, with the Cerego tool providing a ‘personalised, tailored learning experience while keeping teachers at the centre of the classroom, the CourierMail reports.

06.10 AWS will mandate MFA for all privileged accounts from 2024. Initially those signing into the AWS Management Console with the root user of an AWS Organizations management account will be required to use MFA, with the program expanding throughout 2024, Infosecurity Magazine reports.

04.10 Queensland is investing AU$76m in funding for quantum, with the government working with industry and universities to establish a Quantum Academy to introduce the topic into schools and Tafes. Announced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in her State of the State address, the funding will pour millions into commercialising the technology, Brisbane Times reports.

04.10 Australia is facing its most significant skills shortage in 60 years with almost 70 percent of ICT jobs experiencing shortages. The inaugural Job and Skills Report 2023 points to gender imbalance as a key issue, noting occupations with strong imbalance are more likely to be in shortage. The need for expert digital skills, and digital literacy, are highlighted, with digital transformation noted as a megatrend shaping the economy and workforce.

02.10 Bank of Queensland expects to recognise technology costs of around $14 million along with a $27m write-down in value for its ME core banking systems, ITNews reports.

02.10 Seventy-eight percent of respondents in an ISACA survey believe Oceania organisations are underreporting cybercrime. The report says just 42 percent of Oceania organisations surveyed conduct cyber-risk assessments at least annual, despite 56 percent reporting an increase in attacks in the past 12 months. Meanwhile,65 percent of Oceania cybersecurity teams say they’re understaffed, with soft skills, cloud computing and security controls among the biggest skills gaps.

AppWrap September 2023

27.09 Cloud-enabled SMEs could help unlock AU$9.3 billion in annual productivity gains and support 1.4m jobs across healthcare, education and agriculture by 2030, representing 10 percent of all Australian jobs according to an AWS commissioned report. The report puts current Australian cloud adoption at 48 percent for ‘basic’ adoption, such as use of email services or cloud storage, with intermediate (use of CRM or ERP tools) at 41 percent and advanced (such as AI and ML for fraud detection or supply chain forecasting) at just 15 percent.

28.09 OpenAI has been given real-time internet access, enabling it to provide up-to-date information and sources, fixing what has been a major limitation of the chatbot. Information was previously limited to pre-2021. The updated version will, however, only be available to Plus and Enterprise chatbot users, Interesting Engineering reports. The ability to search online will be made available through Microsoft’s Bin product.

27.09 Sixty-six percent of Australians believe social media and digital platforms aren’t doing enough to protect users from scams, according to Choice. The consumer watchdog says its own investigations had ‘no trouble’ finding ads on Google, Facebook and Instagram linking to fake websites. It notes there are also issues with Google’s own policies to prevent scams because some advertisers don’t appear to be verified before publishing ads.

26.09 KPMG Australia has invested $16 million into SME ERP platform Wiise, which was spun out of KPMG in 2018. The new funding, equivalent to a series B funding round, will be used to set up operations in New Zealand as well as furthering product development and sales and marketing, AFR reports. The company is on track for $10m in annual recurring revenue by the end of 2023.

25.09 Microsoft is looking at using small nuclear reactors to power its data centres in preparation for a future of AI – notoriously compute, and energy, intensive. The company has advertised for a principal program manager for nuclear technology to lead its technical assessment of integrating small modular nuclear reactors and microreactors to power the cloud and AI data centres, CNBC reports.

21.09 Medibank’s breakdown of its AU$46.4m data breach expenses from last year’s incident, reveals additional tech expenses accounted for just $7.5m of the costs. The health insurer’s annual report shows the company has spent $22m in administration costs, $15.6m in employee benefits and $1.2m in marketing as well. ITNews reports that another $35m in costs is expected in the coming year.

26.09 Australian executives estimate 39 percent of their workforce will need to reskill in the next three years as a result of AI and automation according to an IBM Institute for Business Value study. The report shows executives feel building new skills for existing talent it eh number one challenge for their organisation.

22.09 Ninety-five percent of those holding NFT collections are now holding worthless investments according to a new report by dappGambl. The Guardian reports that nearly 70,000 NFT collections have a market cap of 0 Ether following a drastic downward market shift.

22.09 Cisco is acquiring Splunk for US$28 billion. The deal is the the largest acquisition yet for Cisco – which is known for building its business through acquisitions – and signals a big push into software and AI-powered data analysis, Bloomberg notes.

22.09 The Australian Federal Police have revealed they’re using AI to analyse data obtained under surveillance warrants, but that use of technology has so far been ‘limited’. In a submission to the federal government discussion paper on responsible use of AI, AFP indicates AI could be used to analyse tranactional data to identify money laundering and potential fraud, The Guardian reports.

21.09 ASIC is suing Kraken crypto exchange provider Bit Trade for failing to comply with the design and distribution obligations for the margin trading product it offers Australian customers on the Kraken exchange. ASIC alleges the product is a credit facility as it offers credit for use in the sale and purchase of crypto assets and says its case focuses on Bit Trade’s failure to make a target market determination for the product, as required by law, before offering it to local customers.

20.09 Microsoft’s week just got even worse, with another major leak – this time of highly confidential, unredacted FTC filings detailing plans for the Xbox gaming platform out to 2030, along with confidential emails about potential acquisitions of Nintendo and other companies. The documents, part of the FTC action around Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of ActivisionBlizzard, show detailed timelines for offerings including gaming consoles and controllers, Endgadet notes. Earlier in the week, the company exposed 38 terabytes of private data on GitHub.

19.09 Consultations have opened on a draft digital ID bill to introduce a national digital ID system for Australia. Finance Minister Katy Gallagher says the Digital ID would be introduced and expanded in four phases with phase one establishing the ID in legislation and accrediting providers. State and territory digital IDs would be able to be used to access Commonwealth services in stage two, with MyGov used in the private sector in stage three, such as when opening a bank account or signing a telco contract or real estate lease. Stage four would see private sector Digital IDs used to access some government services. An exposure draft has been released.

19.09 Shareholders of ASX-listed cybersecurity company Tesserent have voted in favour of a $176m takeover by Thales. The deal will help Thales expand its cybersecurity services, with the addition of 500 Tesserent employees. AFR reports that the deal is still pending approval from the Foreign Investment Review board. 

18.09 Microsoft’s AI research team has accidentally leaked 38 terabytes of private data, including private keys, passwords and more than 30,000 internal Teams messages. Security company Wiz says the data was exposed while publishing open-source training data on GitHub using Azure’s SAS tokens feature.

18.09 Fujitsu is acquiring Australian digital transformation consultancy MF & Associates for an undisclosed sum, in a move it says will strengthen its management, technology and cybersecurity consulting capabilities, particularly within the government and healthcare sectors. MF & Associates will operate as a standalone Fujitsu company retaining all team members and continuing to operate under current MD Mat Franklin, Fujitsu says. The deal is Fujitsu’s fifth in A/NZ since 2021.

18.09 Dymocks has confirmed 1.24 million customer records have been leaked in a data breach it’s blaming on ‘unauthorised access’ of a third-party partner’s systems. Customer records have been published on the dark web, and Dymocks says it is working with forensic experts to monitor the dark web and take down data where possible. The OAIC and ACSC have also been notified.

14.09 A ‘design fault’ has seen an AI-powered road safety camera system in Queensland incorrectly ping nearly 2,000 drivers with demerit points for alleged non-wearing of seatbelts. Sanctions on the drivers may be reconsidered, as the Queensland government orders an urgent review and issues an apology, InformationAge reports.

07.09 There were 172 breaches from malicious or criminal attack reported to the OAIC for the six months to June, down 15 percent on the previous half. Human error accounted for a further 107 reports, with system faults contributing a further 14 the OAIC report shows.

07.09 Nearly 25 percent of Australian SMBs say their businesses wouldn’t survive the financial or reputational impact of a privacy breach, but an equal number admit they don’t understand what is expected of their business as part of recent Privacy Act changes. The Zoho survey found awareness is increasing, with 45 percent of those surveyed ranking data privacy as a top business priority, but less than half having a well defined, documented and applied customer privacy policy.

07.09 Australia’s boards are among the most nervous about cyber security breaches, with the spectre of generative AI further upping the ante with 71 percent viewing it as a security risk. Despite concerns, just 81 percent believe they have adequately invested in cybersecurity, InformationAge reports.

06.09 Russian hackers say they have stolen at least 4.95 terabytes of data from a number of Victorian companies, including pathology firm TissuePath, real estate agency Barry Plant, law firm Tisher Liner FC Law and Strata Plan, an owners corporation service provider. The same group were behind the HWL Ebsworth attach which saw 1.45 terabytes of data published on the dark web after ransom demands weren’t met. It is unclear exactly what data may be included in the latest theft, with AlphV threatening to again publish the data, ABC News reports.

02.09 Google has unveiled its AI tools and pricing for enterprise customers. Google Duet, which adds Ai smarts to Google offerings including Gmail, Docs, Meet, Sheets and Slides, will cost $30 per user per month – the same as rival Microsoft’s Office 365 Copilot tools. Pricing for consumers and smaller businesses has yet to be revealed, CNet reports.

01.09 Optus says it won’t release a report into last year’s data breach, citing confidentiality and saying it is the subject of a ‘legal professional privilege claim’. The report had been expected to be released in late May, ITwire notes.

01.09 Microsoft is unbundling Teams from its 365 suites in EU markets in October, to allay antitrust concerns. The unbundling will mean enterprise customers in those markets can buy Office 365 and Microsoft 365 without teams for €2/month less, and purchase Teams separately, for €5/month. Teams will remain in plans targeted at SMBs, the Verge says.

AppWrap August 2023

30.08 Macquarie Data Centres has expanded its plans for an upcoming Sydney data centre to help meet demand for AI workloads in Australia and ‘create the ideal home for hyperscale cloud customers. The expansion gives IC3 Super West the potential to increase IT load 41 percent to 45MW, Macquarie says.

30.08 Treasury is considering a ban on screen scraping of data shared by consumers in some sectors. Assistant treasurer Stephen Jones says a recent statutory revioew of the Consumer Data Right recommended screen scraping be banned where the CDR is a viable alternative, and the new discussion paper looks at how it is used and the feasibility of a ban. The discussion document follows the release of exposure draft rules expanding the CDR to the non-bank lending sector last week. CDR rules released in July will prevent businesses using automated processes to collect content and share it with third parties. 

29.08 While 76 percent of Australian organisations have suffered a cyber attack in the past year, just 27 percent have reported the incidents to authorities according to a CloudFlare survey. The report found 49 percent of respondents reported financial impact of $1.5m or more, while 25 percent of small businesses had been impacted to the tune of at least $3m, CybersecurityConnect reports. 

29.08 The majority of Australians, particularly women, older people and regional Australians, believe AI creates more problems than it solves. Respondents in the Roy Morgan survey cited the potential for job losses, followed by the need for regulation and the ability for AI to be misused as the most common reasons for believing it would create more hassle than benefit.

28.08 The business register modernisation program has been canned, after an independent review found the program was ‘way off course’ and would cost up to $2.8 billion – more than five times the original $480.5m estimate. The report also found the program, which has already cost $530m, could run five years late, AFR reports.

28.08 The Royal Flying Doctor Service says it has digitised and consolidated its medical records with a nationwide electronic health record running on Oracle and Azure. RFDS says the deployment has improved accuracy, accessibly and security of information for better continuity of care.

28.08 Australian AI training provider Appen has seen its shares slump to their lowest in more than seven years on the back of a much wider half year loss on weak demand. Appen says it could face continuing headwinds, Reuters reports.

24.08 Thousands of charity donors have had their details released on the internet after being caught up in a major data breach of a Brisbane telemarketer, Pareto Phone. The Australian Conservation Foundation, Fred Hollows Foundation, Canteen, the Cancer Council and MSF are among those impacted, the Institute of Community Directors Australia notes. The Fred Hollows Foundation has said they were not aware their data was still held by Pareto, in breach of privacy laws.

24.08 The OAIC has joined 11 other international data protection and privacy agencies outlining ‘global expectations’ of social media platforms and other sites to safeguard against unlawful data scraping. It is seeking information from platforms over how they currently comply, or intend to comply with the expectations and principles outlined in the joint statement.

23.08 Serious policy consideration of issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in Australia, is ‘still some years away’ according to a report following the Reserve Bank of Australia project into the digital currency. The report notes CBDC could potentially unlock benefits for the Australian economy, but there are potential issues, including legal, regulatory, technical and operational. The report identifies avenues for further research.

23.08 Eighty percent of small business owners are concerned AI development and adoption is outpacing regulation according to Xero research. Sensitive information disclosure and data privacy challenges were cited as the biggest ethical challenges faced from AI use in business, with 26 percent of those surveyed creating policies and guidelines, 25 percent providing training to employees to identify biases or inaccuracies and 23 percent seeking written consent from customers before using the tools, Xero says.

21.08 CISRO has launched a new round of the Innovate to Grow program to provide SMEs in cybersecurity and digital tech with R&D know-how. The 10-week virtual program links businesses to expert knowledge, resources and mentors to validate and develop R&D ideas that could lead to commercial outcomes. Successful participants can apply to work with CSIRO researchers and access dollar-matched R&D funding on competition of the program, CSIRO says.

19.08 X, aka Twitter, is removing the blocking feature in a move slammed by some concerned that it will make it hard for people to remove abusive posts from their timelines, the BBC says. Posts from blocked accounts don’t appear in the blockers timeline and blocked accounts can’t send messages to the blocker or view their posts. X’s Elon Musk says users will still be able to block people from directly messaging them.

17.08 Melbourne AI vector search engine startup Marquo has raised US$5.2m in a seed round led by Blackbird. The company, founded by two former Amazon employees is looking to improve online search for related objects, using machine learning to find semantic relationships, StartupDaily reports. The funding will be used to create a technology that continuously improves based on user engagement.

17.08 Generative AI has hit its hype peak, according to Gartner. The analyst firm says while the popularity of many new AI techniques will have a profound impact on business and society, CIOs and CTOs must also turn their attention to other emerging technologies with transformative potential. That includes tech enhancing developer experience, driving innovation through the pervasive cloud and delivering human-centric security and privacy.

17.08 Forty-one percent of Australian businesses are turning to automation in the face of rising costs, inflation and low unemployment according to SS&C Blue Prism research. That’s less than the global average of 44 percent. A quarter of Australian businesses use automation for data processing, with 28 percent using it to support customer-facing services and just 17 percent using it to help with sophisticated and complex operations – lower than the APAC average of 24 percent.

15.08 NextDC has launched an Edge data centre in Pilbara to support key sectors including mining. PH1 Port Hedland will support growing demand for direct connectivity to cloud services and critical infrastructure co-located in regional Australia, NextDC says. Partners include BHP, Vocus and Microsoft.

14.08 Sydney customer engagement startup Pendula has raised $14.5 million as it gears up to enter the UK market. AFR says Pendula, which says its software enables companies including Origin Energy to have conversations with customers and reduce churn and increase average revenue per user, will hire 10 staff in new London and Singapore locations.

14.08 Swinburn University has launched its $5.2m supercomputer. Dubbed Ngarrgu Tindebeek, it features 11,648 CPU cores and 88 GPUs and is powered by 150 Dell PowerEdge server nodes, DatacenterDynamics reports. The supercomputer will enable researchers and students to do in hours what used to take weeks or months on desktops and will be available to all Victorian universities for collaborative research projects.

14.08 Australia is a rising SportsTech hub, with several startups using tech to help enhance athletic performance and ensure player safety on the field. VueMotion and NeuroFlex are among those leading the charge CNN says.

10.08 More than 630 organisations have confirmed they have been hit by the zero-day attack on MoveIt file-transfer servers, including Deloitte, Ernst & Young and PwC.  At least 41 million individuals have been affected to date BankingInfoSecurity reports, with Russian-speaking Clip ransomware group stealing data including personal details.

09.08 The US White House has launched a US$20 competition to fix software vulnerabilities using AI. Anthropic, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI have partnered with Darpa (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the two-year competition. The White House says the competition will drive the creation of new technologies to improve security of computer code, finding and fixing vulnerabilities in an automated and scalable way.

08.08 Ninety-three percent of Australian organisations are implementing or considering bans on ChatGPT and other generative AI applications in the workplace – well ahead of the global average of 75 percent. The Blackberry research says 69 percent of Australian organisations looking to ban the apps say the measures are intended as long term or permanent.

08.08 Cybersecurity provider Arctic Wolf has opened a Sydney data centre using AWS cloud infrastructure. The company says the move opens up more opportunities for it to work with industries that stress the importance of data locality and will enable ‘faster innovations to local customers’.

08.08 New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has cleared Microsoft’s planned US$69b acquisition of gaming developer Activision Blizzard. The ComCom says it is satisfied the merger is unlikely to substantially lessen competition in any NZ market. The NZ clearance follows similar decisions by a number of regulators globally, including the EU, Japan and Brazil. In the US Microsoft won a court An Australian decision was put on hold in February while a UK decision is expected in the coming weeks. In the US, the FTC’s attempt to pause the deal was rejected by an appeals court.

07.08 Oracle has launched a secure hyperscale cloud platform for Australia’s government and defense. The offering is isolated from Oracle’s other public and government cloud regions and shares no backbone connections with them. Oracle says Oracle Cloud for Australian Government and Defense enables customers to deploy applications that  adhere to data sovereignty and residency regulations for locally hosted sensitive data.

07.08 Kilimanjaro Consulting, which supports the largest MYOB Exo install base of any partner in Australia and New Zealand, has been granted an interlocutory injunction against MYOB. The injunction prevents MYOB from taking any action for breach of contract or withholding licence codes for the use of MYOB Exo by Kilimanjaro end-user customers, Enprise Group says. It follows a dispute over reductions in MYOB Exo margins.

05.08 AWS’ revenue growth for Q2 dropped to 12 percent, continuing the downward trend of the last three quarters, but the company says there’s reason for optimism, particularly given the potential for future revenue from generative AI interest, TechCrunch reports.

03.08 Salesforce has patched the PhishForce vulnerability that exploited a weakness in Salesforce’s email service, sending phishing emails, appearing to be from Meta, to steal Facebook account details. Cyber and Fraud Centre Scotland warns that the issue with Facebook’s gaming platform, however still exists.

03.08 Threads is getting a little frayed with Meta’s Twitter-replica losing more than 80 percent of its daily active users. CNN reports just eight million users are accessing the app each day, down from a peak of 44 million. Users are also spending less time on the app.

03.08 The Australian Tax Office paid more than $557m to cyber criminals in less than two years according to an ABC report. Fraudsters exploited a weakness in the identification system used by the myGov portal, InformationAge reports.

01.08 The Select Committee on Foreign Interference Through Social Media final report has recommended social media companies should be required to meet legislated minimum transparency standard, or be banned or face fines. The AFR reports that the minimum requirements include requiring an Australian presence and disclosing directions from governments and any foreign interference.

AppWrap July 2023

31.07 Fifty-five percent of Australia’s digital tech workers are in a cluster, with clusters contributing to 62 percent of national growth according to CSIRO. Its research into clusters identified four tech ‘super-clusters’ – the Sydney Arc, Melbourne Diamond, Brisbane Corridor and Canberra Triangle. CISRO notes research showing clusters tend to grow faster, innovate more, gain access to a larger workforce pool and attract more investment.

31.07 Australian AI consultancy Max Kelsen Consulting has been acquired by Bain & Company for an undisclosed sum. Bain &Co says Max Kelsen’s full stack ML engineers will help deliver more powerful solutions for clients.

31.07 SAP is beefing up sovereign cloud capabilities across Australia and New Zealand, creating 70 new specialist roles. The new service can store and process protected-level workloads ensuring business critical and personal data are not transferred outside Australia, SAP says.

27.07 Microsoft is facing an EU antitrust investigation over its bundling of the Teams collaboration app with Office. Reuters says the action follows after Microsoft offer of remedies failed to address concerns following a 2020 complaint by Salesforce-owned Slack. Microsoft has been fined US$2.5 billion in EU antitrust fines in the past decade.

26.07 Meta’s Reality Labs has lost US$21.3 billion since January 2022 – with executives warning it’s going to get worse. The unit, which oversees VR and AR projects needed for the company’s metaverse push, logged a $3.7b loss in Q2 on $276 milion in sales. The losses were wider than analysts expected, the NYPost notes, but Meta’s CFO says the company will continue its investment and expects operating losses to increasing ‘meaningfully’ yoy.

26.07 Sam Altman’s eye-scanning crypto project, Worldcoin, is facing several inquiries, just days after launch. Decrypt reports that French and German watchdogs are co-ordinating on their investigation into the project, which gives people digital coins in exchange for a scan of their eyeballs in what the OpenAI founder has said the system could help confirm is someone is human or robot. He’s also claimed it could pave the way the way for an ‘AI-funded’ universal basic income, but hasn’t explained how. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office is also making enquiries.

26.07 A national Australian Digital ID could be live within 12 months. The digital ID won’t be a new card or number, but instead will enable ID forms such as driver’s licenses, Medicare cards and proof of age cards to be compiled into one system which could be used by external organisations to verify identities, 9News reports.

26.07 The Australian Federal Court has fined Meta AU$20 million for failing to disclose that users’ data would be used for other purposes. Subsidiaries Facebook Israel and Onavo – which provides VPN services – were both handed AU$10m fines for their actions. Onavo, which was installed 270,000 times by Australian users in 2017-2017 was promoted as a product that would keep data protected and safe but, along with Facebook Israel it shared personal activity data in anonymised and aggregated form with parent Meta for commercial benefit, the ACCC says. Meta must also pay $400,000 in legal costs to the ACCC.

25.07 Twitter is no more, with Elon Musk renaming the company X. The rebrand is another step in Musk’s plan for an ‘everything’ app (or superapp) called X enabling users to ‘basically live on’ the app, using it to communicate, shop, consume entertainment and more, CBS News reports. For more on superapps, check out our story.

24.07 Microsoft is reportedly cutting around 50 positions in Australia as part of its latest round of layoffs, which are expected to see 10,000 more staff cut globally. The layoffs are separate from the January cuts. Microsoft Australia has around 2500 staff, with the latest staff reductions meaning 200 Australian staff have been cut this year, Finance News Network says.

21.07 Tesla is spending US$1 billion on its Dojo supercomputer over the next year. Project Dojo, which includes ‘powerful’ machine learning features, aims to improve the software within Tesla’s autonomous vehicles and process the data they send back. Tesla will train the supercomputer, Quartz reports.

21.07 The World Ethical Data Foundation, whose members include Meta and Google, has released a voluntary framework for AI development. The framework includes a checklist of 84 questions for developers to consider when starting an AI project, the BBC reports.

20.07 Job listings for tech professionals in Australia dropped a further 2.3 percent in the June quarter. The Jobs Report says that fall, attributed to a decline in funding of early startups, is the fourth consecutive quarter and totals 25.4 percent year on year.

19.07 The GovERP program, based on SAP S4/Hana, has cost $265 million so far according to newly disclosed figures, ITNews reports.

19.07 Microsoft 365 Copilot, which integrates OpenAI’s ChatGPt into Office applications, will come with a hefty US$30 per user per month charge, Microsoft has announced. That’s on top  of the cost of the ‘eligible’ licenses for its E3, E5, Business Standard and Business Premium offerings. The company says it is also launching Bing Chat Enterprise – a privacy-focused version of the AI chatbot.

19.07 App providers could soon be able to bypass paying commission for in-app purchases to Apple and Google in Australia as part of the government response to ACCC’s consultation on a mandatory code of conduct for digital platforms, The Guardian reports.

18.07 Meta is open-sourcing its LLaMA2 large language model, making it free for research and commercial use as it tries to take on ChatGPT. Meta says Llama 2 was pretrained on two trillion tokens, with Llama2 chat models additionally trained on over one million new human annotations. It is available via the Azure platform.

19.07 Rapid Circle, Velrada, Arinco, FiveP, Data#3 and Volpara have taken out the local partner titles in the Microsoft A/NZ Partner Awards, Microsoft says. Volpara was earlier announced as the overall New Zealand Partner of the Year, with Insight taking out the Australian Partner of the Year.

17.07 Australian learning platform Secure Code Warrior has raised US$50 million in Series C funding, led by Paladin Capital Group. The funding is the largest investment since the company’s inception and brings its total funding to date to more than US$100m, Dynamic Business reports.

13.07 The Department of Finance has taken over control of the $600m+ digital identity program from the Digital Transformation Agency. InnovationAus notes the move is part of a carve up of DTA’s responsibilities, which has seen other tech and service delivery responsibilities removed.

13.07 The Federal Trade Commission has launched an investigation into OpenAI looking at whether the ChatGPT owner has breached consumer protection laws with unfair or deceptive data security practices, putting personal reputations and data at risk. The Washington Post reports the FTC is demanding records on how OpenAI addresses risks.

12.07 Optus has signed a deal to use Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite fleet too provide what it claims will be 100 percent mobile coverage of Australia. Optus says SMS coverage will be available in late 2024, with voice and data following in late 2025. Telstra has also signed a similar deal, bypassing the NBN.

12.07 A US company has filed a lawsuit against Google over its alleged scraping of publicly available data from the internet to train its AI products, including Bard. Clarkson Law Firm says the scraping of data was done without users consent and included creative and copywritten works, violated copyright laws. CNN reports that Google has called the claims ‘baseless’. Clarkson filed a similar suit against OpenAI last month.

11.07 KPMG is investing $2 billion in AI and cloud services in an expanded deal with Microsoft, which it says will bring in more than US$12b in revenue over the five years. The deal will see KPMG automating aspects of its tax, audit and consulting services. The Wall Street Journal says KPMG isn’t expecting to lay off ‘a lot’ of people with the tech used not to eliminate jobs but to enhance the workforce with AI skills. Staff will be moved to new roles or retrained.

10.07 The ACCC is calling for input on data broker services as part of its five-year digital platform services inquiry. The new issues paper focuses on the role of businesses collecting information from third-party sources and selling or sharing the data, rather than businesses collecting data on their own customers. Products and services supplied by CoreLogic, Experian, Oracle and Equifax are among those being ‘considered’ by the ACCC.

08.07 Ventia has taken some key systems offline after a cyber attack. The ASX infrastructure services provider, which has operations across Australia and New Zealand, says it is working with external cyber security experts, regulators and law enforcement after identifying a cyber incident affecting some of its systems.

07.07 The Royal Commission into the Robodebt scheme has made a number of recommendations around automation in government services and criticised at least seven public servants, referring some for criminal and civil prosecution Those include considering legislative reform to establish a legal framework for automation in government services, and establishing a body to monitor and audit automated decision making processes, Government News reports.

06.07 Sensitive personal and government data from a number of Australian Government entities was released following the attack on law company HWL Ebsworth in May. In a LinkedIn post, newly appointed National Cyber Security Coordinator Darren Goldie says he has sought briefings from both the Department of Home Affairs and HWL Ebsworth on the response to the incident.

06.07 Thirty-seven percent of Australian businesses suffered a breach in their cloud environment in the last 12 months according to a Thales study. The report says 65 percent of Australian businesses surveyed now store more than 40 percent of their data in the cloud, and just seven percent have more than 60 percent of their cloud data encrypted.

06.07 PwC Australia divulged confidential information about the start date of a new tax law to Google, according to Reuters. It is the first time a company has been directly linked to the scandal where PwC used the confidential information to drum up work. Last month PwC agreed to sell its government practice – which contributed around 20 percent of the business’ AU$3b revenue in fiscal 2023, for AU$1 to Allegro Funds, on the back of the scandal.

05.07 Meta’s Threads text-based messaging app has had five million signups within four hours of launching today. The Twitter rival allows users to post up to 500 characters and is linked to Instagram with users needing to have an existing Instagram account, CNBC reports. Its launch comes as Twitter suffers a wave of missteps.

05.07 Concerns over the use of facial recognition technology in Australian stadiums has flared with Choice warning sensitive biometric data is being collected. Consumers are largely unaware of the practice, Choice says.

01.07 Twitter is ‘temporarily’ limiting the number of tweets users can read, capping numbers at 10,000 for verified (read, paid) accounts and 1,000 for unverified. Owner Elon Musk says the limits are to prevent data scraping, but Twitter’s former head of trust and safety has said that rationale ‘doesn’t pass the sniff test’, BusinessInsider reports. The announcement came amid yet more outages for the service.

AppWrap June 2023

30.06 New Zealand’s Datacom Group has announced an 80 percent drop in profit for FY23 and a $2 million loss for the year, amid investment in its SaaS and infrastructure offerings. While revenue increased to $1.49 billion, up from $1.45b in FY22, befor tax profit slumped from $41m to just $8m and after tax profit . CEO Greg Davidson says the company has invested $80 million into its ‘strategic products businesses’ as part of its ‘highly strategic’ long term strategy.

29.06 Beverage behemoth PepsiCo is collaborating with Stanford Institute for Human Centred Artificial Intelligence on ethical and responsible AI in supply chains, forecasting, smart manufacturing, customer experience, sustainability. The company says it believes AI ‘will contribute to digitalisation efforts throughout the company’.

29.06 Salesforce has added new ESG reporting capabilities for Net Zero Cloud. The SASB Report Builder uses generative AI to build produce ESG disclosure reports in alignment with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) standards, Salesforce says.

28.06 Medibank has been hit with a $250 million capital charge following last year’s massive data breach which saw the data of nearly 10 million customers and former customers stolen. The Australian Prudential and Regulation Authority banking regulator told Medibank to set aside the capital as insurance against issues associated with the breach. At least three class action suits have also been filed against Medibank, Reuters reports. The capital adjustment is effective from July 1 and remains in place until an agreed remediation program is completed.

26.06 Phone scammers are getting a taste of their own medicine courtesy of a chatbot from Macquarie University’s cybersecurity team. The AI-driven Apate system – named after the Greek goddess of deception – has created convincing fake victims to waste the time of scam callers in an effort to reduce the number of real people losing money to the thieves, Macquarie University says.

26.06 IBM is acquiring software company Apptio in a US$4.6 billon deal to extend its finops and cloud management capabilities. Apptio offers financial and operational IT management and optimisation software, with customers including Amazon, Microsoft and Google, CNBC notes.

23.06 Australia has its first National Cyber Security Coordinator, with Air Marshal Darren Goldie appointed to the role. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Goldie will support Minister for Cyber Security, Clare O’Neil to lead the coordination of national cybersecurity policy, responses to major cyber incidents, work of whole of government cyber incident preparedness efforts and strengthening Commonwealth cybersecurity capability. Goldie’s secondment was through a cabinet process. He takes on the new role next month.

22.06 Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has issued a legal notice to Twitter requesting information on what the platform is doing to tackle online hate. The notice follows ‘a worrying surge in hate online’ with eSafety saying it has received more complaints about Twitter in the last 12 months than any other platforms, with increasing numbers of reports of ‘serious’ online abuse since Elon Musk’s October 2022 takeover of the company.

21.06 A proposed AU$1.8b network sharing deal between Telstra and TPG Telecom has again been given the thumbs down, with the Australian Competition Tribunal affirming an earlier decision by the ACCC not to grant authorisation for the deal. The Tribunal denied authorisation on the grounds it could substantially lessen competition, the ACCC says.

21.06 Macquarie Group’s banking and financial services group is planning ‘hyper-personalised’ services through use of an AI-first approach in its retail bank. The company has partnered with Google Cloud and plans to embed AI and machine learning across its customer service functions, including generative AI in its contact centre and individualised suggestions to make use of Macquarie’s mobile app functionality, InvestorDaily reports.

21.06 An IT incident impacting a third party’s unit registry system is being blamed for an ‘extended outage’ of some systems at ASX-listed fund manager Perpetual. The incident involved unauthorised access to the registry provider’s system, Perpetual says. Reuters notes that some funds were affected, but all client investments and Perpetual’s own systems are ‘unaffected and secure’.

20.06 ANZ bank has deployed 170 new algorithms to help combat scams targeting its customers. AI and ML capability to detect ‘mule’ accounts being used to receive funds from scam victims have also been deployed, detecting nearly 1,400 high risk accounts since April 2023, ANZ says. It is also preventing payments being made to high risk cryptocurrency platforms and putting measures in place to stop text scammers.

19.06 ANZ bank is establishing a ‘major’ digital, cloud and data tech hub in Brisbane – if its acquisition of Suncorp goes ahead. The bank announced plans to hire or place 700 people into the hub over five years as part of a joint agreement with Queensland government. Google cloud training and working with Queensland universities to drive research and training is also promised.

16.06 Australian and Kiwi customer data has been stolen in a ransomware attack on NZ payments solutions provider Smartpay, but the company says no card data was compromised in the hack. The company says it is working with cybersecurity specialists CyberCX and government authorities on the hack.

15.06 Megaupload coders Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk have each been sentenced to around two-and-a-half years in jail after pleading guilty to charges related to Megaupload’s copyright infringement, estimated by police to have cost copyright holders more than $500 million. The deal struck, which includes the pair testifying against Kim Dotcom, will see them serve their time in New Zealand, the NZ Herald reports. The US is still seeking to extradite Kim Dotcom. The sentencing comes 11 years after they were arrested.

15.06 Microsoft is adding more AI-powered assistance to ERP systems, via Copilot. Dynamics 365 Finance, Project Operations and Supply Chain Management have all had Copilot features added, Microsoft says.

15.06 Only around half of Queensland agencies responding to a recent survey have a data breach response plan. The survey, by the Office of the Information Commissioner found there is ‘more work to do’ before a mandatory data breach scheme commences in Queensland. Of those that had plans in place, the OIC report says ‘most’ had plans that addressed most elements that would make the plan effective.

14.06 Macquarie Technology Group is raising AU$130m to capitalise on the growth of AI and cloud. If successful, the fundraising will see Macquarie add a new data centre at the Sydney North campus, DataCenterDynamics reports.

13.06 French giant Thales is on track to acquire A/NZ cybersecurity company Tesserent in an effort to boost it’s A/NZ presence. Thales has made an offer, unanimously recommended by the board, to acquire all Tesserent shares. The deal values Tesserent at AU$176 million, AFR says.

09.06 The European Commission has approved €8 billion in state subsidies for semiconductor research, development and production. The funding, provided by 14 EU member states, follows the European Chips Act agreement in April, aiming to strengthen European competitiveness and supply chain resilience, InnovationAus reports. The projects will be backed by €13.7 billion in private funding.

09.06 Meta is planning an app to rival Twitter, taking a dig at Twitter boss Elon Musk with a comment that the Meta offering will be ‘sanely run’. Coding on the app, which could be named Threads, has been underway since January according to The Verge, with Meta saying the app will launch ‘as soon as we can’. Meta has been in discussions with ‘celebrities’ including Oprah and the Dalai Lama to use the app.

08.06 Barracuda has urged customers to replace vulnerable email gateway appliances after discovering they are being exploited. The company says patches for a critical zero-day vulnerability are insufficient and devices must be ‘immediately replaced regardless of patch version level’.

06.06 NCS Australia has launched an ERP for the fresh food supply chain. The company says FreshFocus includes ‘seamless integration and data exchange capabilities, end-to-end tracking of produce and a farm accounting module for real-time resource allocation and cost management to streamline operations and enhanced traceability for businesses in the fresh food industry.

05.06 The ASX will stress test its existing Chess system in December to check the system is capable of meeting trading volumes this year, ITNews reports. A blockchain-based replacement for the system was canned late last year, with the current system needing to be kept operational until a replacement is identified and implemented.

06.06 The ransomware gang behind the MoveIT hack affecting organisations including the BBC, Aer Lingus, the government of Nova Scotia, says it will publish stolen data on 14 June unless they begin negotiation with the gang via a darknet portal. More than 100,000 staff at the BBC, British Airways and Boots have been told payroll data may have been stolen by the Russian Clop, the BBC reports.

01.06 Australia’s Thinxtra has raised US$5 million in pre-IPO funding. The Massive IoT company says it will use the funds to expand and increase partner coverage in Australia and New Zealand, as well as Hong Kong and Macau, ahead of a public listing this year.

AppWrap May 2023

31.05 AI experts have issued a stark 23-word warning on AI saying ‘Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war’. The statement, published by the Centre for AI Safety, has been supported by dozens including bosses of OpenAI, Google DeepMind and Anthropic, BBC reports. Others however, suggest the fears are overblown.

28.05 Twitter has pulled out of the EU’s voluntary disinformation code, with the EU warning new laws will force compliance. BBC reports the EU says Twitter will be legally required to fight disinformation in the EU from 25 August. From that date platforms with more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU will need a mechanism for users to flag illegal content, act on notifications ‘expeditiously’ and put measures in to address the spread of disinformation.

26.05 Kiwi startup Yabble has launched a research plugin for ChatGPT, which works by combining ChatGPT knowledge with social media and trend data. The company claims the augmented approach delivers insights with ‘high degrees relevancy and accuracy’. The plugin has been given a spot on ChatGPT’s plugin store.

26.05 Neuralink has gained US FDA approval to test brain implants in humans. The Elon Musk startup, whose tech aims to let brains interface directly with computers, has been given the go ahead for its first clinical study. France 24 reports that Musk believes the implants could restore vision and mobility to users, including full body functionality to patients with severed spinal cords.

25.05 A/NZ organisations will gain better positioning and navigation benefits after Geoscience Australia and Land Information New Zealand signed a $187.4m deal with Inmarsat. The deal will see a new satellite providing augmented services from 2027. Inmarsat says the all major industry across A/NZ, from transport and construction to resources and agriculture, will benefit from the deal.

24.05 Australia and the US have reached an in-principle agreement on a technology safeguards agreement which will enable US space technology, including rockets and satellites, to be launched from Australia. The Department of Industry, Science and Resources says the agreement, subject to final domestic authorisations, will help the domestic launch sector and spaceports to grow and create jobs, while reducing the cost of access to space.

24.05 Fire and Rescue NSW has taken on a suite of Motorola services designed to provide seamless collaboration between frontline teams, vehicles and control rooms. ComputerWeekly says FRNSW has deployed the SmartConnect service to securely extend coverage and capacity of mission-critical radio comms.

24.05 The US’ National Security Agency is working with the Australian Cyber Security Centre and New Zealand’s Cyber Security Centre to identify potential breaches after a state-sponsored Chinese hacking group was discovered targeting a wide range of critical US infrastructure. Microsoft reported the activity this week, outlining the ‘living off the land’ techniques in a blog. The NSA says the attacks are using built-in network tools to evade defences and leave no trace behind.

23.05 Australian insurers have hit back at suggestions ransom payments should be banned, with the Insurance Council of Australia arguing that such bans could have ‘unintended consequences’. It says the decision to make a payment is largely a function of cost of recovery and remediation being higher than the ransom demand and a ban could disproportionately affect small organisations unable to make the payments impacting their ability to recover, InformationAge reports.

22.05 Meta has been fined a record €1.2bn by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission for infringing the GDPR, and ordered to suspend the transfer of user data from the EU to the US within five months. Meta also has six months to stop ‘unlawful processing, including storage, in the US,’ with user data required to be removed from Facebook servers. The ruling doesn’t affect data transfers at other Meta platforms including Instagram and WhatsApp, The Guardian says.

17.05 OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has called for the US to regulate artificial intelligence, saying a new agency should be formed to license AI companies. Altman made the call while testifying before a US Senate committee about the possibilities and pitfalls of the technology. He noted that if the technology goes wrong ‘it can go quite wrong. We want to work with the government to prevent that from happening,’, BBC reports.

16.05 Microsoft is readying its public service cloud for launch later this year. Microsoft Cloud for Sovereignty is one of a number of industry clouds the tech giant is launching and will help governments meet ‘specific compliance, security and policy requirements’, Microsoft says.

16.05 A low-code approach has seen Westpac create 300 automations and free up over a million hours of staff time. The bank’s low code platform allows non-tech and tech staff to build solutions using a drag and drop approach, ITNews reports.

16.05 SAP and Microsoft say they’re deepening their collaboration on generative AI to help customers address the talent shortage. SAP’s SuccessFactors solutions will be integrated with Microsoft 365 Copilot and Azure OpenAI Service in a move the companies say will enable new experiences designed to improve how organisations attract, retain and skill their people.

16.05 The UK Competition and Markets Authority has defended its blocking of Microsoft’s US$68.7 billion Activision Blizzard buyout, a day after the EU approved the deal. The CMA disputed suggestions their blocking of the deal would have an impact on international confidence on doing business in the UK amid questions of whether the UK is open for business, Eurogamer says.

15.05 A $58m Australian anti-scams centre is set to open in July as part of a $86m effort by the federal government to crack down on scams and online fraud. ABC News reports that banks are also feeling the heat to do more to address scams.

10.05 Latitude Financial’s personal information handling practices are under investigation by Australian and New Zealand privacy watchdogs. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and the New Zealand Office of the Privacy Commission launched the joint investigation in the wake the massive March data breach which saw accounts for nearly eight million customers across A/NZ were impacted. It is the first joint investigation between the two countries and underscores the significance of the breach. If the investigation finds any breaches on Latitude’s part, the company could be required to redress loss or damage, with the power to seek civil penalties through the Australian Federal Court also an option the OAIC says.

10.05 TechnologyOne shares have been placed in a trading halt after the company detected a cyber attack on its internal Microsoft 365 back-office system. The company’s customer facing SaaS platform is not connected to the affected system and has not been impacted, The Motley Fool reports.

10.05 More than $2 billion has been allocated for digital and ICT in the federal government’s 2023-24 budget, with up to $3.7 billion for the next four years. IT News notes the funding includes big allocations for the National Disability Insurance Agency, My Health Record, the ADHA and Department of Veterans’ Affairs, among others.

09.05 Deloitte is working with Google Cloud to develop enterprise-grade industry generative AI solutions. Deloitte says its Generative AI practice will use technologies including Vertex AI and the PaLM Foundation Model, along with Generative AI studio and open-source and third party models to address growing demand for generative AI. Offerings for financial services analysts and consumer business marketers are on the cards.

06.05 The former Coalition government spent at least $1.9 billion on external labour for ICT and digital solutions last FY. An Australian Public Service audit shows the majority of that spend was on contractors. AU$20.8b was spent on outsourcing across public service operations, with IT and digital solutions making up 43 percent of the spending on external labour, while 17 percent went to the delivery of services, the Guardian reports.

06.05 Hype is growing around BlueSky, a decentralised social media platform backed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and developed in parallel with Twitter. Currently in invite-only beta mode, the offering is being touted as a potential replacement for Elon Musk’s troubled Twitter, TechCrunch notes.

05.05 Salesforce has launched a ‘green code’ guide. It provides best practices for UX designers, software engineers, systems architects and IT ops managers to reduce carbon emissions associated with the software development lifecycle.

04.05 NZ-based Fusion5, which has offices across Australasia, has acquired Netsuite provider Liberate IT for an undisclosed sum. Liberate IT’s 30 staff will join Fusion5’s team. Liberate IT owner and director Jim Brodie says the deal provides additional capability and support for the company’s customer base. It is the second major acquisition for Fusion5 in the last two years, Channel Insider notes. Last year it acquired Adelaide consultancy Empyreal Solutions.

03.05 Australia is reinstating a dedicated privacy commissioner to deal with the increasing number of data breaches. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner will also be restored to a three-commissioner structure to deal with growing threats and increasing volumes and complexity of privacy issues, The Guardian reports. Information commissioner Angelene Falk will continue to act as privacy commissioner until the new appointment is made and will remain information commission and head of OAIC.

03.05 Google pulled in a record $8.4 billion in revenue in Australia last year – putting it ahead of the highest estimates for Meta’s Australian advertising revenue, the Brisbane Times says. Most of the money is directed to an international subsidiary reducing the tax overhead in Australia, with ASIC accounts showing just $1.9b in net revenue and $92m in income tax paid in 2022.

03.05 The federal government has unveiled its first national quantum strategy, featuring five focus areas covering investment, infrastructure, workforce, standards and frameworks, and trust, ethics and inclusivity. Each focus area has set actions to be delivered over the coming seven years, ITNews notes.

02.05 The ‘Godfather of AI’ has quit Google to speak out on the ‘dangers’ of AI. CNN reports that Geoffry Hinton has spoken publicly about AI’s potential to do harm as well as good, noting that we don’t fully understand the ways society is going to be transformed and that not all of the effects will be good.

AppWrap April 2023

28.04 Meta is maintaining significant market power in Australia according to the latest interim Digital Platform Services inquiry report, which notes the company is facing ‘weak’ competitive constraints from other platforms. The ACCC says it doesn’t expect any new competitors to successfully emerge as a close alternative to Meta in the short or medium term, InnovationAus reports.

25.04 Google’s cloud computing business has turned its first profit following years of multimillion dollar investments – and losses. Parent company Alphabet reported US$7.4 billion in revenue and an operating income of $191 million for the cloud business in the quarter ending March 31. A year ago, it reported an operating loss of $706 million, TechCrunch reports. Alphabet itself reported first quarter net income of $17.4 billion on revenue of $69.8 billion.

21.04 More than 100,000 people have joined a class action against Optus following last year’s data breach, which compromised around 1.2 million customers. The lawsuit claims the telco failed in its duty of care to protect customers from harm breaching both laws and its own policies by failing to adequately protect customer data and destroy or de-identify customer data, Reuters reports.

21.04 Google’s Bard is becoming a programming assistant, with an update to help with programming and software development tasks, including code generation, debugging and explanation. More than 20 programming languages are included with Google saying Bard can also assist with writing functions for Google Sheets.

20.04 Australian organisations are expected to spend AU$19.9 billion on public cloud services in 2023, up 19.3 percent from 2022, according to the latest forecast from Gartner. All segments of the cloud market are expected see growth in 2023. IaaS is forecast to experience the highest growth at 30.2 percent, followed by PaaS at 24 percent. Globally spend is forecast to hit nearly US$600 billion this year, Gartner says.

20.04 Reddit will start charging companies who make excessive use of its data-downloading API, using it for training of large language model AIs. The API will continue to be free to developers working on bots and other Reddit tools and to researchers working on academic or non-commercial projects, Ars Technica reports. ChatGPT and Google’s Bard have both used Reddit as a source.

19.04 Atlassian is adding generative AI capabilities to its entire cloud workforce management portfolio to help make service- and project-based work more efficient. Atlassian Intelligence, which is available in early access, will be an opt-in offerings, the company says.

17.04 CSIRO has launched a free 10-week online program to help SMEs enhance their R&D knowledge, focused on cybersecurity and digital technologies. On completion of the program, eligible participants may be able to access continued support through CSIRO, including dollar-matched R&D funding and access to national research expertise, the national science agency says.

17.04 Stack Overflow is jumping on the generative AI bandwagon adding the technology to Stack Overflow and its Overflow for Teams. The move comes after the company earlier banned AI-generated responses following a flurry of incorrect AI-generated answers to user questions last year. The decision prompted criticism by many in the community, with one user noting ‘We’re not interested in fact-check AI content; we are interested in generating the content ourselves”.

18.04 AI robotics company Advanced Navigation has unveiled what it says is Australia’s largest subsea robotics centre in Western Australia. The new 5.5 hectare facility will accelerate production of the company’s underwater technologies including the Hydrus autonomous underwater robot, Advanced Navigation says.

18.04 Choice is calling for urgent privacy reforms, saying renters are being pressured to use RentTech platforms that demand excessive personal information. The consumer group says as well as being forced to hand over private information or risk not being able to apply, the tactics come with security and data privacy risks and added costs for renters.

18.04 The New Zealand and Australia armies have signed a deal to share operational intelligence and technology. The Plan Anzac cooperation agreement, which comes a week out from Anzac Day, extends the existing military partnership, ABC News reports.

14.04 Australia and New Zealand have joined other five eyes countries in pushing for software vendors to provide ‘the cyber equivalent of seatbelts’ and take greater responsibility for security. The joint guidance urges software manufacturers to take ‘urgent’ steps to ship products that are secure-by-design and -default. Alon gwith specific technical recommendations the guidance includes core principles around building software security into design processes before developing, configuring and shipping products.

14.04 Amazon has launched its rival for Microsoft and Google’s generative AI offerings, with Bedrock, a new service for building and scaling generative AI applications. Bedrock provides access to a number of foundational models from AI startup model providers, Quartz reports.

13.04 A whole-of-government permissions capability platform has been scrapped without delivering a working use case, after two years and $16.5 million. InnovationAUS reports that dumping is the third failed attempt by the former government to upgrade visa processing technology. More than $100 million has been spent on the failed projects.

11.04 The Tasmanian Government is urging citizens to keep a check on their bank accounts after admitting that 16,000 documents have been released online following the hack of a third party file transfer service, GoAnywhere MFT. The service was used by the Tasmanian Department of Education, Children and Young People. Compromised documents include invoices, bank statements and information relating to student assistance applications, InformationAge reports.

11.04 Latitude Financial has refused to pay a ransom demand following last month’s cyberattack. The decision is in line with the position of the Australian government with regards to paying ransoms. The company says in an ASX announcement that it doesn’t believe paying would result in the return or destruction of the stolen information and paying would only encourage further extortion attempts on Australian and NZ businesses in future. Latitude says to the best of its knowledge there has been no suspicious activity in its systems since 16 March.

11.04 The US government is requesting public comment on creating accountability measures for AI as it looks to establish rules for AI tools. The Guardian reports that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is seeking to establish guardrails that would allow the government to determine if AI systems are performing the way companies claim they do, whether they are safe and effective, whether they have discriminatory outcomes or unacceptable levels of bias and whether they spread misinformation or affect individual’s privacy.

11.04 Sixty-nine percent of Australian organisations were hit once by ransomware in 2022 according to a new report, with 33 percent hit twice or more. Barracuda Networks’ 2023 Ransomware Insights report shows those that were hit multiple times were more likely to have paid the ransom, with 30 percent of those affected twice or more paying up. Malicious emails accounted for 69 percent of ransomware attacks in Australia, with phishing emails used to steal credentials. Web application and traffic were the second biggest threat vector.

09.04 Demand for PCs is continuing to fall, down 29 percent year on year for Q1, with Lenovo and Dell both clocking declines of more than 30 percent, while Apple was down more than 40 percent. IDC says the Q1 2023 shipments of 56.9 million are noticeably lower than the 59.2 million shipped in Q1 of 2019 and 2018’s 60.6 million. Weak demand, excess inventory and worsening macroeconomic conditions were blamed, though IDC notes the lull in demand is providing room to make changes as factories explore production options outside China.

06.04 An Australian mayor is preparing to take a defamation case against ChatGPT, after it falsely named him as a guilty party, who served prison time for his role in a bribery scandal involving a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia in the early 2000s. Brian Hood, mayor of Hepburn Shire near Melbourne, was in fact a whistleblower in the case, the BBC notes. If action goes ahead, it would be the first time OpenAI has publicly faced a defamation suit over content created by ChatGPT.

06.04 Xero’s WorkflowMax which Xero was retiring in June 2024, is set to live another day with the brand acquired by Australian professional services company BlueRock. The company will re-launch the project management offering, used by more than 10,000 businesses, in ‘a new and improved form’, reports.

04.04 Regulators in European countries including France, Ireland and Germany are considering possible measures against ChatGPT following Italy’s temporary ban of the chatbot. Reuters says privacy regulators in France and Ireland have contacted counterparts in Italy to find out more about the ban, with Germany’s commissioner for data protection saying the country could follow Italy’s footsteps. But Italy’s deputy PM has slammed the ban as excessive, and a German government spokesman says a ban wouldn’t be necessary.

04.04 Australia must establish a much stronger technological base and think about how the country can be at the centre of global technology advancement, deputy prime minister Richard Marles says. “That is our great national challenge,” Marles said, opening the ASPI Sydney Dialogue this week.

04.04 Australia is banning use of TikTok on federal government devices, following the footsteps of a growing number of countries including the US, France, UK and New Zealand. Aljazeera notes the ban follows concerns that China could use the app to spy on users and manipulate public debate.

03.04 AWS is investing more than $13b as it expands its Sydney and Melbourne data centres, with 11,000 full-time jobs also expected to be added. The Guardian says AWS has also been expanding local zone services to provide cloud services to Perth, with Brisbane due to be announced soon.

03.04 Twitter has begun removing blue ticks from accounts with numerous high profile Twitter users saying they won’t pay for the all-paid verified accounts. Around 10,000 high profile organisations will be exempt from the new system, which requires companies to pay US$1,000/month for gold verification ticks and individuals to pay $8/month. The NY Times is among those refusing to pay, prompting an outburst from Elon Musk, the BBC reports. The new system has prompted concerns from many over the potential for increased misinformation.

AppWrap March 2023

30.03 OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, has found itself the subject of a complaint to the US Federal Trade Commission. The complaint, by prominent tech ethics group the Center for AI and Digital Policy, alleges OpenAI is violating the FTC Act with a ‘biased, deceptive’ AI model, Engadget reports. The center wants the FTC to investigate and to suspend future releases of large language models until they meet the agencies guidelines.

29.03 The Albanese government’s flagship $15 billion manufacturing fund has been passed by the Senate following a series of amendments. The fund will now be established to provide loans, equity and guarantees across seven priority areas with a focus on a tech including robotics, AI, fintech and quantum technology. ABC News reports that an initial $5 billion has been made available from the commencement of the fund with the remaining funds to be made available in instalments by July 2029.

29.03 ASIC is investigating the ASX’s failed blockchain-based Chess replacement project and whether the ASX and its directors and officers breached legal obligations during the project. The investigation into ‘suspected contraventions’ of the Corporations and ASIC Act will focus on oversight of the program and statements and disclosures made on the status of the program, AFR reports.

29.03 Australian academics have joined global counterparts and tech leaders in calling for moratorium of at least six months on training AI systems ‘more powerful than GPT-4’. In an open letter issued by the US NFP Future of Life Institute more than 1,300 signatories have called for the pause on generative AI development until the risks posed by the emerging technology are better understood, InnovationAus reports.

27.03 Latitude Financial says more than 14 million customer records, including 7.9 million Australian and New Zealand driver’s license numbers were stolen in this months hack. Some 53,000 passport numbers were also stolen along with financial statements related to ‘less than 100 customers’. Latitude has said it will reimburse customers who replace stolen IDs. The company only has three million customers, leading some to question why it was still holding records on so many more, with records dating back to at least 2005 in an affected database, Bank Infosecurity reports.

24.03 Accenture has joined the list of companies slashing staff, cutting 19,000 jobs, or 2.5 percent of its workforce, over the next 18 months as part of ‘structural’ cost cutting. An Accenture A/NZ spokesperson declined to comment on local impact, AFR reports. The consulting giant has also lowered profit forecasts in expectation of lower demand for its services. IBM, KPMG and McKinsey are also making similar cuts.

24.03 OpenAI says personal data of some ChatGPT Plus subscribers, including payment information, may have been exposed. The issue was discovered additional issues while OpenAI was fixing a bug which enabled some users to see the title’s of other users’ conversation history and discovered other issues. Full credit card details were not exposed, CNet reports.

23.03 Cybersecurity minister Clare O’Neil has suggested the tech sector could bear more liability for cybersecurity. Development is underway of a legislative framework to ‘shift cyber security risks away from our most vulnerable members of the community towards those who are best placed to manage it’, including software and cybersecurity service providers, telcos and tech developers, ITNews reports.

21.03 Latitude Financial has confirmed that last week’s data breach is worse than initially indicated. More than 330,000 customers have been affected across A/NZ and the company says a review has ‘uncovered further evidence of large-scale information theft’. Copies of driver’s licenses and passport details, along with Medicare numbers have been stolen, 9News reports.

20.03 Amazon is cutting a further 9,000 corporate jobs in the coming weeks, including in its cloud-computing and advertising businesses. The company had already announced plans to slash 18,000 positions. CNBC says the company’s HR and  Twitch livestreaming businesses will also be impacted.

17.03 The Productivity Commission is calling for more emphasis on new technology and best practice, better sharing of government data with other organisations to undertake research and develop new products and services and streamlined cyber reporting regulation. The report says restricting the sharing of data to government and universities limits the ability for the data to be used for productivity and welfare-enhancing purposes, InnovationAUS reports.

17.03 Meta, in partnership with Code Like a Girl and T&DA has launched a new ‘immersive learning academy’ in Australia to provide free training in AR to 200 women. The training is via a self-guided Meta Spark training module, Gizmodo reports. The launch comes as Meta continues to push boss Mark Zuckerberg’s pet topic: The metaverse.

16.03 Latitude Financial has been hacked with the identification documents of 328,00 customers believed stolen. Drivers license details for about 100,000 Australians are included in the breached data. The company, which provides consumer financial services to Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys, Apple and David Jones, says it was targeted by a sophisticated and malicious cyber-attack. It declined to say if consumers using financing from those companies are impacted, the SMH reports.

16.03 Australia has launched the Responsible AI Network cross-ecosystem program to support companies in creating and using AI ethically and safely. The alliance will provide best practice guidance and coaching for companies using AI, CSIRO – which is one of the members – says.

14.03 Meta is laying off another 10,000 people just months after 11,000 staff were made redundant. The new measures will also include a further hiring freeze. The latest round of layoffs are expected in the tech groups in late April, followed by business groups in May, The Guardian reports. CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn’t however, slowing down on his metaverse plans, into which the company has ploughed billions of dollars, saying it ‘remains central to defining the future of social connection’.

14.03 Security and data quality concerns are the largest barriers to Australian businesses adoption of AI according to a Forrester report. The complexity of implementation, with an average of four AI tech and services providers engaged in each project, was also an issue, InnovationAus reports.

13.03 A/NZ tech companies including Xero, Canva and Nitro Software say they don’t have material exposure to Silicon Valley Bank, which collapsed last week, Reuters says. US regulators have guaranteed depositors funds in the failed bank. Rocket Lab is also among the companies who had funds with the bank with an estimated $100-$200 million deposited with it.

10.03 Momentum Software Solutions has scoped three awards including ANZ Channel Partner of the Year in the MYOB Enterprise High Achiever awards. Acclaim Group, Alphabiz Solutions and Endeavour Solutions also took out awards, with BusinessHub’s David Taylor and Kilimanjaro Consulting’s Candice Lee taking out individual awards, MYOB says.

09.03 Xero is cutting up to 800 jobs across its business as it streamlines and ‘realigns’ the business to provide better balance of growth and profitability. The company will reinvest in ‘key strategic areas’. It is unclear yet how many Australian roles will be impacted, the SMH reports. The 800 jobs account for around 15 percent of the company’s workforce.

08.03 Coles is preparing to launch a Beem-based digital wallet enabling customers to pay using an eftpos QR code. The retailer has partnered with Australian Payments Plus for the project. Coles says customers are seeking quick checkouts, no wait times and an easy, seamless payment experience, something it believes the technology can provide.

08.03 Kmart says it is exploring potential use cases for ChatGPT. The retailer says it sees ‘multiple’ potential use cases it wants to experiment with including interactions with customers and HR-related cases including onboarding and training, ITNews reports.

06.03 Australia’s privacy regulator’s lawsuit against Meta over Cambridge Analytica has cleared a major hurdle with the High Court clearing the way for proceedings to return to Federal Court after two years in legal purgatory. The High Court revoked Facebook’s special leave to appeal after a change in court rules came into effect in January. The move could expose Facebook’s US and Ireland entities to civil penalties over Cambridge Analytica, ITNews notes.

06.03 Atlassian is cutting around 500 employees – around five percent of its workforce – as it refocuses on ‘key priorities’ such as IT service management and helping customers move workloads to the cloud. CNBC reports that among the most impacted teams will be talent acquisition, program management and research and insights.

06.03 A third-party IT contractor working at the Australian National Maritime Museum has been arrested and charged after an alleged trusted insider attack. The man allegedly accessed the accounting system and changed bank account details to his own. Police say financial details of several individuals and businesses were also unlawfully obtained with the man allegedly using credit card information to make unauthorised purchases, ITNews reports.

04.03 The US Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning over overblown claims and hype around generative AI in the wake of ChatGPT. The FTC, already concerned about AI’s concerns to introduce bias, discrimination and other consumer harms, has warned companies that overhyping their products could violate the law, BusinessInsider says. The FTC says it will track exaggerate promises and is also watching companies who fail to foresee and mitigate risks.

03.03 The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ANZ and Mastercard have signed on for a central bank digital currency pilot in Australia. Fourteen projects have been greenlighted for the trial, covering use cases including offline payments, GST automation, tokenised FX settlement and livestock auction, Retail Banker International notes. Australian fintechs including Unizon, Fame Capital, Canvas Digital and will also be part of the trial.

01.03 Five data breaches affected more than a million Australians each in H2 2022 according to the latest Notifiable Data Breaches report. It shows a 41 percent increase in malicious or criminal attacks and a 26 percent increase, to 497, in overall notifications, the OAIC says.

01.03 Data centre operator NextDC has acquired land in central Auckland and registered a New Zealand subsidiary, Reseller News reports. The company has not as yet announced any plans to establish local facilities and its half year results made no mention of planned sites in Auckland.

AppWrap February 2023

28.02 Fujifilm Business Innovation has acquired Australian ERP and IT services provider MicroChannel Services as it looks to take its ERP play global. MicroChannel, which has also has an Auckland office, offers services around Microsoft, SAP and Sage, among others. It has rebranded as Fujifilm Microchannel Services, with all 200 staff remaining with the company, AFR notes.

27.02 The federal government is appointing a coordinator for cybersecurity, backed by a new National Office for Cyber Security in the Home Affairs department. The new office will be established as soon as next month. A cyber security strategy discussion paper is also due to be released in preparation for a new seven-year cyber security strategy. The Conversation says the coordinator will triage action after major incidents and ensure a centrally coordinated approach to government cybersecurity responsibilities.

27.02 Twitter is under threat of increased regulation from the Australian government if it doesn’t re-hire Australian safety staff. InnovationAUS says communications minister Michelle Rowland has written to the company demanding it do more to keep users safe and ensure it is complying with online safety laws.

24.02 ASIC and ACCC blocked 5,579 scam websites in three weeks in an automated technology trial using Netcraft technology. IT News says many of the URLs ASIC removed related to cryptocurrency scams.

23.02 Japanese consultancy Nomura Research Institute (NRI) is looking to grow its A/NZ staff by 50 percent in the next three years following a rebrand of Australian subsidiary ASG Group to NRI. The company, which provides SAP, Oracle, Salesforce and Microsoft ICT services, has 2,500 staff across A/NZ already, following an aggressive acquisition plan over recent years which has seen it snap up companies including Velrada, Pragma Partners, 1ICT and Group 10 Consulting.

23.02 A stolen Medibank user ID and password of a third-party IT services contractor and a misconfigured firewall which didn’t require an additional digital security certificate, enabled hackers to gain access to Medibank’s systems – and further credentials – in the October breach. In its half year results the insurer says that enabled the hackers to access ‘a number’ of Medibank systems ‘and their access was not contained’. Medibank says it will take a $26.2m hit in non-recurring cybercrime costs from the breach.

22.02 New Zealand’s Immersv has partnered with Mastercard to enable consumers to make payments using cryptocurrency directly from their Web3 wallet. Immersve says the solution uses decentralised protocols to settle real-time cryptocurrency transactions for any Mastercard payments, whether physical, digital or metaverse. United States dollar-backed stablecoin USD Coin tokens will be converted to Fiat currency and settled on the Mastercard network when transactions are made.

21.02 The University of Sydney is investing a further $7.4m to expand its quantum technology facilities with the establishment of the Future Qubit Foundry. The University says the Foundry, at the Sydney Nanoscience Hub, will leverage the University’s research in advanced quantum technologies and ensure Australia can train the quantum workforce needed.

21.02 The Australian government is closing a metadata loophole which enabled over 100 agencies to access telecommunications data. ITNews reports that the government also committed to much greater oversight of the use of the scheme. Telcos had complained about scope creep and a lack of financial contribution to the scheme, along with concerns about how agencies handled the data they received.

18.02 VMware and Broadcom have extended the completion date for their US$61 billion merger by 90 days. The two companies now have until May to complete the deal – a full year after first announcing it. Reuters notes that Britain’s competition regulator and the EU antitrust regulators are still investigating the deal between the cloud computing and virtualisation provider and the chip maker.

15.02 GitHub has launched Copilot for Business, the enterprise version of its AI-powered code completion tool. The Business version has been in beta since December and adds features including license management and organisation-wide policy management, TechCrunch reports.

15.02 Procurement reforms could be on the cards as a result of a current review of government technology procurements, triggered by a lobbying scandal around former Services minister Stuart Robert. InnovationAus says the review, which is examining the procurement of agencies which awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to companies that were clients of consulting firm Synergy360, is being structured so that findings can be shared with other agencies responsible for Commonwealth procurement policy. Synergy360’s clients include Adobe, Infosys, Salesforce and Delv.

10.02 The Tech Council of Australia is calling for the $15b reconstruction fund to focus on ‘long-term, strategically important investments’ in critical tech that inherently carry higher risk. InnovationAus reports that the body wants a dual objective of both strategic and financial returns for the fund.

09.02 An independent review has been ordered into Modernising Business Register program, after a $1 billion blow out. Treasury says the review will ensure investment in the MBR is delivered ‘within a reasonable timeframe and budget’, Accountants Daily reports.

09.02 Alphabet’s shares crashed as much as nine percent after Google’s Bard AI chatbot shared inaccurate information in a promotional video, and a company event ‘failed to dazzle’. Reuters says the announcement flub was likely due to Google scrambling to keep up with Microsoft’s OpenAI push. Bard incorrectly identified the James Webb Space Telescope as having taken the first pictures of a planet outside the Earth’s solar system – images actually taken by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope.

08.02 Medibank says it will fight a class action lawsuit over the October 2022 data breach. The attackers released several data dumps following the attack after Medibank said it would not pay the ransom. The class action was filed in the Federal Court by international law firm Baker & McKenzie and funded by Omni Bridgeway on a ‘no win, no pay’ basis, Insurance Business says.

08.02 Microsoft has launched OpenAI-powered search capabilities to its Bing search engine and Edge web browser. Currently available in a limited preview on desktop but expected to scale in the coming weeks, the new capabilities include chat and compose. But as Bloomberg reports, answers in Bing are currently somewhat hit and miss.

07.02 KPMG is acquiring Adelaide’s SAP asset, work and project specialist company Think180 for an undisclosed sum. Think180’s 30+ staff will join KPMG’s existing SAP technology team in a move KPMG says will expand the company’s capabilities in work execution, asset management, regulatory compliance, analytics, managed services, migrations and integrations.

07.02 The 20-year old Sydney man arrested for trying to scam Optus customers affected by the September data breach has escaped a jail sentence and instead been sentenced to an 18 month community corrections order. Dennis Su, who was 19 at the time, admitted texting 92 Optus customers, demanding they transfer $2,000 to a CBA bank account or face their personal information being used for ‘financial crimes’, The Guardian reports.

07.02 My Health Record will be significantly upgraded as part of a push to modernise primary healthcare. Health minister Mark Butler says the current iteration is a ‘pretty outdated, clunky, pdf format system’ and functionality need to be improved. It has been recommended that more health professionals be able to access and add to the records, The Guardian reports.

06.02 A new industry group has been established to boost critical infrastructure resilience in Australia. InnovationAus says the Critical Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Centre hope to enlist and support 11,000 organisations across 11 critical infrastructure sectors along with material suppliers and local government bodies. It plans to distribute timely digestible updates on threats and guidance on defending against them.

06.02 ANZ Bank has made a proptech push, investing AU$50 million for a minority shareholding in Australia’s View Media Group, whose line-up of offerings include a residential listing portal, real-estate marketing agencies and property technology businesses including property portal Realestateview and AI and data business Propic, the bank says.

03.02 The numbers affected by the December 22 Royal Ransomware cyber attack at QUT has risen to 11,405, with employees, students and former staff affected. Tax file numbers for nearly 4,000 people were breached in the attack, ABC News says.

AppWrap January 2023

31.01 ChatGPT developer OpenAI has launched a text classifier help detect AI-generated content. OpenAI says the AI Text Classifier could help limit the ability to run automated misinformation campaigns, use AI tools for ‘academic dishonesty’ or position an AI chatbot as human. As SearchEngineJournal reports – and OpenAI itself openly admits, the AI Text Classifier isn’t 100 percent accurate, mislabelling both AI-generated and human-written text.

31.01 A review and audit of the myGov platform has found it is underfunded, causing it to fall ‘well short’ of serving its role as the primary digital front door to government. ITNews reports the review calls for the government to commit at least $138 million a year to the platform, conditional on Services Australia committing to a number of enhancements.

31.01 Kiwi fintech startup Hnry has secured NZ$35 million in new funding, which will be used to expand in A/NZ and overseas. The company, which has raised $60m to date and seen its revenue triple and its customer base quadruple in the last 12 months according to SmartCompany, plans to double its headcount to 150 across A/NZ in the coming year.

30.01 Salesforce has axed its Australian VC arm, Salesforce Ventures, as part of its global cuts. AFR reports that Salesforce says the lack of presence in the local market does not mean the end of the company’s interest in the local tech start-up scene with plans to manage investments, including 17 portfolio companies, from the US. Salesforce Ventures also invested in some Kiwi companies, including Soul Machines.

30.01 Microsoft and OpenAI – whose ChatGPT has garnered mass coverage in recent weeks – are fighting to get an AI copyright lawsuit dismissed. The lawsuit, brought by a group of anonymous software companies, alleges the companies’ AI assistive code-writing software breaches open-source licenses, InformationAge reports.

27.01 The FBI says it has hacked the hackers to disrupt the Hive ransomware gang. Reuters says the operation, which saw the FBI infiltrating Hive’s network and stealing digital keys used to unlock victim’s data, thwarted the group from collecting more than US$130 million in ransomware demands from more than 300 victims.

24.01 Australian tech staff, engineers and game workers earning less than $102,000 annually will get overtime pay and penalty rates after changes to the Professional Employees Award, AFR reports.

26.01 Microsoft is blaming a change it made to its Wan for knocking out services to Microsoft 365 services including Teams, Outlook and Azure for four hours last night. The outage hit around 230am ET/830pm NZDT, The Verge reports.

24.01 Microsoft’s security business surpassed US$20 billion in revenue in the past 12 months – doubling the $10 billion achieved just two years ago. The company says customers are consolidating on its security stack with the number of organisations with four or more workloads increasing over 40 percent year on year.

24.01 A/NZ mid-market businesses are continuing to struggle with outmoded, siloed and ineffective systems, which are costing them valuable time and resources according to the latest MYOB mid-market report. Nearly half of A/NZ mid-sized businesses say they’re wasting valuable time inputting data into different systems with more than 40 percent having to regularly check between systems to ensure data is correct. Businesses which have added to or changed their digital solutions with strategic implementations in the last 12 months reported significant gains, MYOB says.

24.01 Days after Google announced it is laying off 12,000 due to falling ad revenues, the US Justice Department has launched a second lawsuit against parent company Google, alleging that Google is abusing its monopoly power as a broker, supplier and online auctioneer of ads. The WSJ says the Justice Department is seeking the breakup of Google’s ad-tech business.

24.01 Microsoft has confirmed a ‘multibillion-dollar’ investment in ChatGPT parent OpenAI. FT says the deal comes with a belief that AI could transform Microsoft, enabling it to develop new productivity software and even renewing its challenge for market share against Google in the search space. Full financial details for the multi-year agreement haven’t been disclosed.

24.01 UST Global, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, HCLTech and WiPro have been named the Top Employers Institutes top ranked places to work in Australia for 2023 in the IT category. To be eligible for the rankings companies must have at least 250 local or 2,500 international employees and advanced and formal HR practices, Information Age says.

23.01 AWS has launched a cloud region in Melbourne and says it plans to invest around $6.8 billion in the Melbourne region by 2037, with 2,500 jobs planned. The region is the second for Australia and consists of three availability zones, located far enough from each other to support business continuity while being close enough to provide low latency, AWS says.

21.01 Elon Musk has taken the stand in a court trial, with Tesla shareholders suing the company to recoup losses they say resulted from a tweet by Musk claiming he had secured money to take the company private. Musk told the court his tweets were truthful, but limited by Twitter’s character count, NBC News says. Earlier, his lawyer had argued Musk didn’t lie, but used the ‘wrong words’ in his tweet.

20.01 Google is cutting around 12,000 jobs, or six percent of its workforce, after two years of ‘dramatic growth’ during which it added 37,000 jobs. The company says a changing ‘economic reality’ is forcing the cuts, BBC Business Report notes. The news came just days after Microsoft announced it was slashing 10,000 jobs.

21.01 The NAB has minted a stablecoin, AUDN, linked to the Australian dollar, with plans to launch mid-year. The stablecoin will launch on Ethereum, CoinGeek reports, with NAB the second Australian bank to launch its own stablecoin. ANZ launched its own, much smaller, offering in March 2022.

20.01 The ACMA is being given ‘a new and graduated set of powers’ to hold digital platforms to account over misinformation and disinformation, including information-gathering power to create transparency around digital platforms efforts to respond to the issue. The powers will also allow the regulator to register an enforceable industry code and to make a standard, should industry self-regulation measures prove ‘insufficient’, Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland says.

18.01 Microsoft has confirmed it is laying off 10,000 employees and making changes to its hardware portfolio, as it looks to cut costs. The company had around 221,000 full time employees globally at the end of June 2022 and has since announced several staff reduction plans. Satya Nadella says the move will reduce the company’s headcount by less than five percent and will hit all teams and geographies, with more impact for sales and marketing than engineering, CNBC says.

17.01 The Australian National Audit Office is looking at a B2B portal to secure and standardise pre-audit information received from government agencies. It has launched a request for expressions of interest, with ITNews noting the self-service interface would issue automated data request questionnaires and return reports to agencies on the submission’s compatibility with predefined data validation rules.

13.01 AWS has launched its Perth local zones for applications requiring ‘single-digit millisecond latency’ or local data processing. A new Sydney direct connection, enabling AWS customers to establish network connections from their premises to AWS in the NextDC S2 data centre was also launched today, AWS says

12.01 A damaged database file, rather than a cyberattack, has been blamed for an outage which grounded planes across the US. The FAA grounded planes for several hours after an attempted reboot of its notification system was unable to rectify a system error, FedScoop notes.

11.01 Twitter is reportedly winding down its physical presence in Australia, with the SMH reporting it has begun cutting the remaining Australian staff. The SMH reports sources saying the local office has been closed, and notes this means there will be no local staff to speak with government or handle any local issues.

10.01 NBN Co has dropped its privatisation plans and will instead focus on upgrading and improving its network. The Corporate Plan 2023 says the government will keep NBN in public hands ‘for the foreseeable future’ to provide it with the certainty needed to continue delivering improvement to the network while keeping prices affordable, InformationAge reports.

09.01 Western Australia’s state government is developing an early stage venture capital model to boost funding for local scale-ups and startups. InnovationAus says VC funds are currently being invited to provide feedback.

04.01 Salesforce says it will lay off around 10 percent of its staff – or about 8,000 people. The news came in an SEC filing. Co-chief executive Marc Benioff says the company hired too many people leading into the economic downturn, the NYTimes says. The company will also reduce office space and expects to spend US$1.2 billion restructuring.

For 2022 news from around the web refer to the 2022 archive.

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