Appwrap: Top skills, Government data breaches, and early Online safety law review

Published on the 19/02/2024 | 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 February 2024

22.02 The Australian government was one of the top five sectors to notify data breaches in the six months to 31 December 2023, reporting 38 breaches. The OAIC figures show government breaches accounted for eight percent of the 473 reported breaches during the period, ranking fifth overall. Health service providers remained the top target, with 104 breaches (22 percent). Finance, insurance and retail were also in the top five. The OAIC used the release of the report to warn on the risk of outsourcing personal information handling to third parties, noting a high number of multiparty breaches, most resulting from breaches of cloud or software providers.

21.02 The AFP was among international law enforcement agencies involved in the takedown of the LockBit ransomware group. The Europol-led investigation has seen the arrest of several LockBit members and the issuing of arrest warrants and indictments by French and US law enforcement.  Critical infrastructure, including the primary platform and 34 servers including in Australia, have also been disrupted the AFP says. It says the group, first identified in 2019, caused billions of dollars of harm globally, including millions to Australian individuals and businesses.

20.02 IT project management is the second most sought-after skill in Australia – beaten out of top spot by accountancy. Business analysis and software developers also make the top 10 in Hays list of the skills in most demand in 2024. Eighty-eight percent of employers are experiencing a kills shortage, according to Hays, with the recent rise in job vacancy activity across Australia reported.

14.02 Twelve people have been appointed to the new Artificial Intelligence Expert Group which will steer the creation of mandatory guardrails for high-risk AI settings in Australia. Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic says the board includes expertise across law, ethics and technology.

14.02 Atlassian co-founder and co-CEOs Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar have topped the tech contingent for Australia’s richest tycoons. Cannon-Brookes has taken fourth place with $13.7 billion, and Farquhar fifth, with $13.5 billion, on Forbes’ Australia’s 50 Richest 2024 list. Canva founders and husband and wife team Cliff Obrecht and Melanie Perkins also make the top 10, at seventh, despite Canva’s value declining nearly 40 percent since its 2021 $40b valuation.

13.02 150 people who have worked with the Australian Taxation Office have been investigated over a GST fraud scheme which went viral on TikTok, with actions including termination of contracts, administrative action and criminal prosecutions taken against 12. The ATO says the majority were contractors or ex-employees and were not working with the ATO at the time they are suspected of committing the fraud, Information Age reports.

13.02 Investigations are underway after a 38-wagon Rio Tinto autonomous train derailed in Western Australia. No one was injured in the incident which comes less than a year after another Rio Tinto autonomous train derailed in the same region, reports.

12.02 A review of Australia’s online safety laws will kick off a year early amid concerns over the risks posed by the likes of deepfakes and online hate. Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland says the review will be a broad-ranging examination of the effectiveness of the Online Safety Act 2021 and consider whether additional protections are needed for harmful online material such as hate speech and image-based abuse. Further protections to address harms from new and emerging tech like generative AI and algorithms will also be considered.

12.02 Forget security or AI issues, Australian IT decision makers are most concerned about government-enacted regulatory and policy uncertainty according to the the AIIA Tech Index. The report shows CIOs are concerned over increasing regulation and policy uncertainties that could disrupt their business this year. The report also shows cybersecurity and cloud continue to dominate buying and hiring decisions.

12.02 NBN Co has recorded a half-year loss of AU$696 million for the first six months of fiscal 2024, despite a five percent revenue increase to $2.75 billion. The company’s financials show an increase on finance charges and interest on borrowings impacted results.

07.02 The Federal Government is being urged to establish a Bureau of Indigenous Data to promote and advance Indigenous data governance. The Closing the Gap report also recommends amending the agreement to support Indigenous data sovereignty – the right of Indigenous people to exercise ownership over Indigenous data.

08.02 More than 200 ‘AI stakeholders’, including big tech, civil society and academia, have joined the newly launched US AI Safety Institute Consortium. The US Department of Commerce says the consortium will help set safety standards and protect the US innovation ecosystem.

09.02 The Bard has been banished, with Gemini instead rising in its place as Google introduced its free AI Gemini app. The app for Android has launched, with Gemini’s features expected to be added to Google’s existing search app for iPhones in the coming weeks. US customers can subscribe for US$19.99 a month to access Gemini Advanced, Fortune reports.

05.02 The DTA says it has made progress in getting agencies to tie delivery milestones to funding requests for tech projects. ITNews reports that the DTA cited four examples of its efforts to make progress on tech projects more transparent through the investment oversight framework, including the work with the Bureau of Statistics.

02.02 US government agencies have been ordered to take Ivanti VPN products offline by the end of the day due to actively exploited vulnerabilities. Patches for the four vulnerabilities are available however the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued the order, saying agencies must perform additional forensic analysis and clean-up steps in case they have already been compromised CSOonline reports. Australia’s ASD warned about the critical vulnerabilities in Ivanti Connect Secure and Policy Secure in January.

01.02 Coles has inked a deal with data and AI company Palantir to deploy an analytics suite across its 840+ supermarkets to better understand and address ‘workforce-related spend’. Plantir says the deail will support decision making to optimise Coles workforce, connecting the ‘C-suite to the shelf-edge’ to enable better workforce planning, shift efficiency and a more granular understanding of spend.

01.02 ASIC has called for specific laws around AI saying it’s using existing laws in an attempt to rein in alleged AI misuse, but reforms are needed, ITNews reports.

AppWrap January 2024

31.01 The joint Australia-US Cloud Act has come into force, providing authorities in both countries to more easily access electronic data held by service providers to prevent and prosecute crime. A joint statement from the two countries Attorney-Generals says the agreement provides safeguards and protections covering human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law, including ‘stringent’ privacy and oversight protections.

29.01 A ‘supermassive mother of all breaches’ involving 12 terabytes of data and 26 billion records from organisations including LinkedIn, Twitter, Weibo, Adobe and Canva has been revealed by security researchers. Security researcher Bob Dyachenko and Cybernews discovered the billions or exposed records on an open instance. Data breach search engine Leak-Loopup has since disclosed that it was the holder of the leaded dataset with a ‘firewall misconfiguration’ leading to the leak, Cybernews says.

28.01 Microsoft, eBay, Amazon and Tiktok have started the year with mass layoffs. Microsoft is cutting 1,900 jobs in its 22,000-strong gaming division, while TikTok is shedding 60 jobs in its advertising and sales unit, FastCompany reports. Ebay will cut around 1,000 jobs, while google is laying off ‘hundreds’ of employees from its hardware, voice assistance and engineering teams. The layoffs follow SAPs announcement earlier in the week that it was restructuring with 8,000 jobs impacted (see below).

26.01 Adobe’s myGov deal has been extended for a further two years – and $30.7m – for ‘core customer experience technology for the platform underpinning myGov, InnovationAus reports. The extension sees the cost of the Adobe software used for the platform from 2021-2026 hit more than $67m.

24.01 A Russian has been named and sanctioned, including financial penalties and a travel ban, for his role in the 2022 Medibank data breach which saw the personal information of 9.7 million Australians stolen. Documents were later posted online. Australian authorities say Aleksandr Ermakov is part of the REvil cyber-crime group. The BBC reports that the cyber sanctions are the first of their kind in Australia and with investigations ongoing, more people may face penalties.

24.01 SAP is restructuring its business in a move affecting 8,000 jobs as it shifts its focus to AI. SAP says the restructure will cost €2 billion with it retraining staff or replacing then through voluntary redundancy programs. The company has previously announced plans to embed ChatGPT in its products. The restructure was confirmed during SAP’s FY23 financial results announcement where it revealed revenue for the year was up six percent to €31.2b with operating profit down five percent to €5.8b.

23.01 Optus has admitted that close to 2,700 emergency service calls failed during the November 2023 network outage – 10 times more than initially disclosed. The telco says it is writing to customers to apologise, while the Federal government is conducting a review, the ABC reports.

23.01 Underinvestment in technology by supermarket chains has helped lead to systemic issues with pricing, according to Consumer NZ. Jon Duffy, Consumer NZ CEO, says the supermarkets haven’t been incentivised to use technology to clean up their lax pricing practices as they haven’t been called to account for those practices, RNZ reports. The Commerce Commission is currently investigating whether the pricing and promotional activities of Woolworths and Foodstuffs comply with the Fair Trading Act.

19.01 A Melbourne man has been sentenced to 150 community work hours after pleading guilty to buying stolen data on the invite-only Genesis market, which sold login credentials, browsing history, autofill form data and other sensitive data from compromised devices. Police investigations found he had purchased several bots containing around 650 compromised credentials, the Australian Federal Police say.

19.01 Russian state-sponsored hackers have gained access to Microsoft’s corporate systems, stealing emails and documents from staff accounts. The compromise began in November 2023 and was identified by Microsoft’s security team on 12 January. Microsoft says to date there is no evidence any access to customer environments, production systems, source code or AI systems was gained.

17.12 Gartner has forecast worldwide IT spending to hit $5 trillion this year, up 6.8 percent on 2023 – down on a previous forecast for an eight percent increase for the year. And despite the hype around GenAI, it won’t be impacting spend significantly. Software spend (up 12.7 percent) and IT services (up 8.7 percent) will be the biggest movers, with IT services becoming the largest segment of spend this year, according to Gartner’s forecast.

16.01 NSW has released an an RFI for a new off-the-shelf internet voting system for blind and low vision voters. The move marks the first steps into restarting internet voting following the failure of the iVote system during the 2021 local government elections. The RFI will be used by the NSW Electoral Commission to inform planning for the potential reintroduction of online voting for the cohort, InnovationAus notes. 

16.01 A/NZ managed service provider Lancom Technology has been acquired by US MSP group Evergreen in the first expansion into ANZ for Evergreen. Lancom says it only took three weeks to decide Evergreen was the right partner for its business, with the US company committed ‘to preserving our team’s expertise, rather than replacing it’.

11.01 X Corp – the company previously known as Twitter – has reinstated more than 6,100 previously banned Australian accounts since Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company according to a new transparency report released by Australia’s eSafety Commissioner. The report also notes an 80 percent reduction in the number of safety engineers, with global trust and safety staff cut by a third, sparking increased concerns from eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant. She says it’s ‘almost inevitable’ any social media platform will become more toxic and less safe in the face of such actions.

11.01 HPE’s US$14b plans to buy Juniper Networks has raised scepticism on Wall Street, Bloomberg reports. HPE says the deal will ‘accelerate AI-driven innovation’ amid the ongoing AI gold rush, but has left some analysts questioning the potential acquisition and whether the purchase of a legacy tech company like Juniper will complicate growth initiatives. Concerns have also been raised over the risk of an increasing debt load and overlapping product lines, Bloomberg says.

10.01 NSW chief data scientist Dr Ian Oppermann has stepped down from the role after eight years. He announced the departure on LinkedIn. InformationAge reports that he is joining former politician Victor Dominello in ServiceGen, which the pair co-founder late last year.

09.01 OpenAI has admitted that it would be ‘impossible’ to develop GenAI without using copyrighted material. The admission comes as OpenAI is embroiled in legal action, brought against it by the New York Times, which has accused the company of mass copyright infringement. Responding to a UK parliamentary probe on large language models, Open AI defended its use of copyrighted material saying current copyright laws don’t forbid training data, BankInfoSecurity reports.

01.01 Kiwi video game studios netted $434.4 million in the year to April 2023, with 95 percent of that coming from high-value digital exports, according to a a NZ Game Developers Association survey. However, the impact of Australian competition has hit growth, which tumbled from 47 percent the previous year to just seven percent – well below the five year average of 26 percent.

For 2023 news from around the web head over to the 2023 AppWrap archive.

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