Appwrap: AI’s 200,000 job boost, eSafety orders codes, and Services AU’s VMware spend

Published on the 09/07/2024 | 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 July 2024

08.07 Technology is coming to the rescue of Australia’s wildlife in a number of projects targeting wildlife trafficking. One sees AI used to automatically scrape the web for illicit animal traders, ABC reports.

05.07 Services Australia is spending nearly $94m to renew licensing and support deals with VMware for another three years, ITNews reports. The figure is a 20 percent increase on previous deals.

02.07 AI could create up to 200,000 AI-related jobs in Australia by 2030, according to a report from the Tech Council of Australia. The study, supported by Microsoft, LinkedIn and Workday, claims the AI sector could inject ‘billions’ of dollars into the economy with greater adoption of genAI alone contributing $115 billion to the economy, largely from productivity gains, the Tech Council says.

02.07 The eSafety Commissioner has given the online industry six months to come up with enforceable codes to protect children from porn and other high-impact content. Industry bodies must present a preliminary draft of the codes by 3 October with final codes no later than 19 December 2024, the eSafety Commissioner says.

01.07 Australia’s banks are engaged in ‘asymmetrical warfare’ facing a bombardment of cyberattacks ‘every minute of the day’. National Australia Bank executive for group investigations Chris Sheehan told ABC the threats come from a range of areas, from ‘Larry the loser in the basement at home’ to highly sophisticated, ruthless and resilient transnational organised crime groups who are driving 90 percent of scams hitting Australian victims.

AppWrap June 2024

27.06 A ‘high-severity’ security vulnerability in the MoveIt transfer software has been identified, with attackers actively trying to exploit it just hours after it was disclosed. The vulnerability enables attackers to bypass authentication and gain access to sensitive data, ArsTechnica reports. Last year a MoveIt vulnerability led to compromise of more than 2,300 organisations.

27.06 Bank details of Victorian government suppliers have been altered four times in 18 months according to the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office. The bank details were held in a central database, ITNews reports.

26.06 Arinco has been named as Microsoft’s 2024 Australian Country Partner of the Year, the vendor says.

25.06 The federal government is considering using the tax system to prevent Meta from pulling news from Facebook and Instagram. The Guardian reports the move is one of a number being considered after Meta announced in March that it wouldn’t enter new agreements with media companies to pay for news. The government is considering whether to designate Meta under the news media bargaining code, which would require it to negotiate with news providers or risk fines of 10 percent of local revenue.

21.06 The US has banned sales of Kaspersky antivirus software citing ‘national security concerns’ over the company’s Russian-ties. The Guardian reports the ban includes providing any updates to software already in use.

19.06  A coding error which went undetected for more than four years was behind the Optus breach which resulted in personally identifiable information of more than 9.5 million former and current customers being breached, according to the ACMA. The information is contained in court documents.

18.06 Biomedical engineers at RMIT University say they’ve developed AI capabilities which enable stroke identification via a smartphone face-screening tool which could help paramedics identify a stroke in seconds. RMIT says the tool has an accuracy rating of 82 percent.

17.06 US regulators are suing Adobe for hiding fees and preventing consumers from easily cancelling software subscriptions. The Federal Trade Commission alleges Adobe deceived consumers by hiding early termination fees for its most popular subscription plan and making it difficult for consumers to cancel subscriptions.

17.06 Queensland network operator Powerlink is using drones to string 50km of high voltage power lines in north Queensland. PVmagazine reports the operation claims to be the longest section of high-powered electricity line strung by drones in APAC.

17.06 Infratil is looking to raise NZ$1.1 billion for investment in Canberra Data Centre’s expansion and provide more ‘flexibility’ across Infratil’s portfolio. The NZX listed company says it expects to invest AU$600m in CDC over the next two years.

13.06 Australia and the EU are looking to strengthen ties on priority digital and technology issues. The second EU-Australia Digital Economy and Technology Policy Dialogue was held yesterday brining together government departments to create a framework for shared priorities, the Department of Industry, Science and Resources says. Online safety, data governance and AI were among the topics for discussion.

11.06 Mandiant says at least 165 organisations have been targeted in the threat campaign targeting Snowflake customer database instances. It says most of the login credentials used to access Snowflake environments were stolen via historical infostealer infections, some dating back to 2020.

05.06 SAP has renewed its whole-of-government agreement, inking an initial three year deal worth around $152 million. The deal covers software, cloud and professional services, the Digital Transformation Agency says.

05.06 MediSecure has gone into administration and liquidation just weeks after the eScript provider was hit by a large-scale data breach. A request to federal government last month for financial support was declined, ABC News reports. MediSecure has yet to provide details about what data has been compromised, and says it will continue ‘to make every effort to assist the government in responding to this cyber-attack’.

05.06 Carmaker Advanced Auto Parts has joined the list of companies confirming its had data stolen and put up for sale following the Snowflake breach. BleepingComputer says threat actors are claiming to have 3TB of data from the carmaker, which operates primarily in the Americas. Australians and Kiwis are believed to have been caught up in the Ticketmaster breach, also linked to Snowflake.

05.06 SAP is buying digital adoption platform provider WalkMe in a US$1.5b deal aimed at boosting SAP’s AI offerings. WalkMe’s offerings provide guidance and automation to help organisations execute workflows across a range of applications, SAP says.

05.06 SAP has unveiled new genAI capabilities integrated across its portfolio at its annual Sapphire conference. Its GenAI copilot Joule is now embedded in SAP S/4HANA Cloud solutions Build and Integration Suite with further expansion planned for Ariba and Analytics Cloud. The company also announced partnerships with companies including Microsoft, Google Cloud, AWS and Nvidia, Technology Magazine reports.

05.06 The Information Commissioner has filed civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court against Medibank following its October 2022 data breach. The Commissioner is alleging Medibank seriously interfered with the privacy of 9.7m Australians between March 2021-October 2022 by failing to protect their personal information.

04.06 Australia’s eSafety commissioner has dropped Federal court action against X over the removal of graphic church stabbing footage. ABC News reports that other litigation against X will continue with Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant saying she will focus her efforts on those matters ad an independent review of her removal notice by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

04.06 The Federal government is considering adding a range of cybersecurity related jobs to Australia’s skilled migration visa list. InformationAge reports consultation is underway on the proposal, with six cyber roles on the list of potential roles to consult more widely on. Those roles include cyber security engineer, cyber governance risk and compliance specialist and cyber security architect.

04.06 Snowflake says its platform is not at fault in the breaches of Ticketmaster and other organisations. Reports, including from security researchers, have pointed the finger at Snowflake, which announced on May 31 that it was investigating a cyber incident impacting a limited number of customers. Snowflake says it has not identified any evidence suggesting a targeted threat campaign against some of its customers has been caused by a vulnerability, misconfiguration or breach of its platform.

01.06 Ticketek Australia says some account holder information, stored in a third-party cloud platform, has been breached. The incident, just days after rival Ticketmaster was hacked, has not compromised any customer passwords or payment details, Ticketek says.

AppWrap May 2024

30.06 Big tech including Cisco, HPE, Meta, Microsoft and AMD have developed a new industry standard to create a new way for scale-up AI systems linking data centres. The Ultra Accelerator Link, which does not include Nvidia, says it will establish an open industry standard.

30.05 About two million Australians are believed to have been caught up in a hack of Tickemaster. A hacking group claims to have stolen 1.3 terabytes of data on 560 million Ticketmaster customers globally, and is reportedly seeking a US$500,000 for a one-time sale. ABC News says about two million Australians are affected. Data including names, addresses, credit card details and phone numbers are reportedly included in the compromised data.

29.06 Australia’s Luyten 3D has printed the first 3D printed two-storey building in the Southern Hemisphere. The two-level granny flat was printed in one go at Luyten’s Melbourne headquarters the company says.

29.05 The Federal Government has unveiled Australia’s first national robotics strategy, as it looks to capitalise on a potential $600 billion GDP boost, and up to 150 percent productivity boost. The strategy includes bolstering national capacity; increasing robotics and automation adoption; trust, inclusion and responsible development and use; and skills and diversity, Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic says.

28.05 X is liable for hate speech published on its platform and is subject to Australian law, even though it is US-based, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has found, Information Age reports.

25.05 ChatGPT is failing to meet EU data accuracy standards, despite measures put in place to comply with the EU data rules, a task force at the EU’s privacy watchdog says. Reuters reports the task force was set up last year following concerns about ChatGPT. Data accuracy is a guiding principle in the EU’s data protection rules.

24.05 eSafety and seven other online safety regulators have developed a cross-border roadmap to regulate online harms. The group, which includes UK, French, South African, Irish, Fijian, Korean and Slovakian regulators, will collaborate on regulatory tools, including risk assessment and transparency reporting; information requires to industry; good practice around safety measures’ and user complaints functions, eSafety says.

23.05 The ACMA has begun legal action against Optus over its 2022 data breach, with the comms and media regulator alleging Optus failed to protect customers’ data. Data from more than 10 million current and former customers was breached in the attack. The AFR reports that Optus says it will defend itself and is not yet able to determine potential penalties.

23.05 Google is building the first subsea fibre optic cable linking Australia with Africa. Umoja will start in Kenya, running through various African countries including the DRC, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa before crossing the Indian Ocean to land in Perth. The terrestrial component has already been completed, TechCrunch reports. No timeline for completion has been released.

21.05 Strong showings from One NZ and Canberra Data Centres have bolstered results for Infratil, which posted revenue of AU$3.3b (vs $1.8b a year earlier) for the 12 months ending March. Underlying profit was up from $532m to $864m. A ‘substantial’ portion of the increase was attributed to the higher ownership stake in One NZ. Eight CDC data centres are currently under construction across A/NZ with Infratil saying it is responding to a surge in customer demand which has expanded CDC’s development pipeline by more than 400MW in FY2024.

20.05 Gentrack has upgraded its full-year revenue and earnings expectations on the back of growth in recent and in-year new customers, along with upsells and upgrades. The company, which provides software for power and water utilities and airports, reported a 21 percent increase in revenue to $102m, with EBITDA of $12.3m.

18.05 MediSecure has confirmed that personal information and ‘limited’ health information related to prescriptions, along with personal information of healthcare providers, has been compromised in last week’s cybersecurity breach. 7News reports that Services Australia is looking into potential impacts to identify security associated with breached card numbers, but has said individuals don’t need to take action related to Medicare, Pensioner Concession, Healthcare Concession and Commonwealth Seniors cards.

17.05 Cyber Security Coordinator Michelle McGuinness says last week’s ‘significant’ breach of e-script provider MediSecure is an isolated attack and no other entities are impacted, ABC News reports. McGuinness declined to comment on who was behind the attack. Authorities are working with MediSecure to support anyone whose information is compromised.

17.05 Sydney’s John Bigatton has pleaded to promoting cryptocurrency lending services for the now-defunct BitConnect. Bigatton provided ‘unlicensed financial services’ for the crypto Ponzi scheme, which required investors to purchase BitConnect coins which could then be invested or ‘loaned’ for fixed terms in return for promised high interest rates but could not control the loans once invested and could not withdraw their capital until the investment period expired, ASIC says.

16.05 Pizza Hut Australia has been hit with a $2.5m penalty for sending more than 10 million marketing messages in breach of Australian spam laws. The messages, sent over four months were sent to customers who had not consented or withdrawn consent to receive marketing material, or were sent without an option to unsubscribe, the ACMA says. Last month eyewear retailer Luxottica – owner of  OPSM, Oakley and Sunglass Hut brands – paid $1.5m for sending more than 200,000 marketing texts and emails to customers who had unsubscribed, or without unsubscribe facilities.

14.05 The Federal Budget has served up $2.8 billion in planned IT investments for the next four years, including $466m for PsiQuantum to support the development of a quantum computer in Brisbane. Nearly $40m is being provided to progress Australia’s regulatory response to responsible AI and release a national robotics strategy, with $288m going towards digital ID work. Scam busting also got a $67.5m boost, King&Wood Mallesons notes.

09.05 The federal government is launching an inquiry into social media’s influence to ‘put big tech under the microscope’. The joint parliamentary select committee will look at a wide range of issues, including Meta’s decision to abandon News Media Bargaining Code deals, and the impact of algorithms, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland says. Issues around scams, age-restricted content and violent extremist material will also be examined.

08.05 IBM is embedding AI business solutions into SAP’s cloud in an extension on an ongoing deal between the two companies. Use cases will initially focus on industrial manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, retail, defence, automotive and utilities industries, IBM says.

07.05 The Victorian government is slashing funding to its Breakthrough Victoria startup fund by $360m over the coming four years, and will pursue fewer investments each year in an attempt to ‘reprofile’ the fund. Funding for the controversial fund will be reduced by an average of $90m a year for the next four years, SmartCompany reports.

07.05 An alleged leader in the LockBit ransomware group has been banned from Australia and had financial sanctions imposed. Russian Dmitry Yuryevich Khoroshev is described as having a ‘senior leadership role’ in the group, which was reportedly behind 18 percent of reported Australian ransomware attacks in 2022-23. The US and UK also announced bans in coordination with Australia, the Guardian reports.

06.05 Legislation to overhaul the outdated Privacy Act and protect Australians from doxxing will be introduced to parliament in August. InnovationAus says the legislation will include all proposals agreed to in the government’s response to its September 2023 review, though it is not clear how many of the in-principle proposals will be included.

06.05 Telstra is delaying the shutdown of its 3G network until August amid concerns that hundreds of thousands of people still using 3G only mobile phones, or a subset of older 4G phones, could be blocked from making emergency calls. The network was due to shut in June, ABC News reports.

05.05 The Government is providing an additional $11m in the Budget for a mobile app and secure website to enable Australians to provide real time alerts if someone uses their identity without consent. The app builds on the Credential Protection Register, which enables Australians to see how their identity credentials are being used, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says.

03.05 A Sydney man has been charged with blackmail over the massive ClubsNSW third-party data breach which exposed the identify of more than one million people. 9News reports police were alerted to a website which had published the personal information of patrons who signed in using their drivers’ licenses at premises across NSW. The site claims the incident happened after the IT provider failed to pay developers, who then set up the searchable website. Politicians are among those believed to have been impacted.

03.05 An updated code of conduct for Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service says integrations with the service must not be used for real-time facial recognition by any law enforcement globally. The change comes as Microsoft bans US police departments from using its AI cloud service for facial recognition, Quartz reports.

01.05 Qantas is investigating after customers were apparently able to access other people’s personal data via the airline’s app. BBC reports some users said they saw boarding passes and flight details including names and frequent flyer information, of other Qantas customers. Qantas says the problem was fixed three hours after it was discovered and was likely caused by a technology issue related to recent system changes, rather than a security breach.

AppWrap April 2024

29.04 Standards Australia has launched training for its world first AI standard. The two-hour online course, delivered in partnership with Australian National University, will address the ‘unique challenges AI poses’ including ethical considerations and transparency, Standards Australia says. It is designed to cut through the complexity of AI at an organisational level to help Australian organisations understand risk management best practices.

29.04 Investors poured nearly US$22 billion into generative AI deals last year, despite many startups not having released products yet. The WSJ (paywalled) reports CB Insights figures show the investment was up fivefold year on year.

26.04 Scott Farquhar is stepping down as Atlassian co-CEO, with Mike Cannon-Brookes becoming the company’s sole chief executive from August. Farquhar, who co-founded the company with Cannon-Brookes, will remain as a board member and major shareholder, AFR reports.

25.04 IBM is acquiring multicloud software company HashiCorp in a $6.4 billion deal to expand its  hybrid cloud solution suite. Shareholder and regulatory approval is still required, but the deal is expected to close by the end of the year. IBM says the deal will create ‘a comprehensive end-to-end hybrid cloud platform for the AI era’.

21.04 X says it will challenge what it calls an ‘unlawful and dangerous approach’ by the Australian eSafety commissioner, in court. Earlier this week the eSafety Commissioner ordered the platform to remove material related to Monday’s Sydney church stabbing. X, which complied with the order, has accused the watchdog of censorship and says it will ‘robustly challenge’ it in court, The Guardian says.

19.04 Meta has unveiled its Meta Llama 3 AI model, which will be integrated into Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The company released two models, one with eight billion parameters and one with 70bn parameters, claiming Llama 3 has ‘vastly improved capabilities’, the Financial Times reports. The model is ‘less sanctimonious’ than the previous model, Meta says.

18.04 Reset Australia has called for the federal government to step in in a five-month long battle with Meta and big tech group Digital Industry Group (Digi) over the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation. InformationAge reports that the digital advocacy group has accused Digi of a conflict of interest in overseeing the code and receiving funding from many companies subject to it, and has called on the government to stop using voluntary codes and instead regulate.

18.04 A software glitch during an upgrade allowed 43 Sydney’s Star Casino customers to incorrectly withdraw $3.2 million from ‘ticket in cash out’ machines last July. The fraud went unidentified for a number of weeks, despite audits detecting machine discrepancies, an investigation heard this week. Several people have reportedly been arrested after the Star reported the customers to police.

18.04 The Australian Federal Police is looking to replace its SAP ECC 6.0 platform. A discovery process is now underway for the replacement, IT News reports.

17.04 Planning for GenAI initiatives is forecast to drive an eight percent increase in worldwide IT spend in 2024. Gartner says spend will hit US$5.06 trillion, with IT services on track to become the larges market Gartner tracks, clocking 9.7 percent growth as lack of internal staff drives consulting spend.

16.04 Australia and New Zealand bucked an APAC trend to deliver declining year on year IT and business services market spend in Q1. ISG’s Asia Pacific Index, which measures commercial outsourcing contracts with annual contract value of US$5 million or more shows ACV was up 25 percent for Asia Pacific but down 15 percent for A/NZ, the only countries not to record growth.

15.04 Salesforce is reportedly close to buying Informatica in a deal which would add to the company’s data integration and management capabilities. The two companies have bene in talks and could reach a deal within a week, Bloomberg says. The deal would be one of the company’s biggest ever deals, and its biggest since its purchased Slack in 2020 for nearly US$28 billion.

15.04 CSIRO is offering SMEs working on advanced manufacturing solutions the opportunity to ‘innovate to grow’ with a free 10-week program to explore and use R&D for growth in advanced manufacturing solutions. The organisation recently launched a $20m investment to provide SMEs with greater access to R&D and says the funding will support an additional 600 SMEs through the Innovate to Grow program, kicking off with its advanced manufacturing cohort.

15.04 Fintech Australia is calling for capital raising and trade support for the sector ahead of the federal budget. It’s calling for targeted initiatives to address capital raising challenges for fintechs and incentivise investment, an expansion of the National Reconstruction Fund, targeted incentives to promote the rollout of the Consumer Data Right and a review and revitalisatoin of the Enhanced regulatory Sandbox, among other measures.  The organisation says its recommendations support Australia’s next round of prosperity and job creation.

10.04 More than 300,000 fraudulent attempts to use stolen identity credentials have been blocked thanks to identity protection measures introduced by the Albanese Government after the Optus breach. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says updates to the Identity Verification Service Credential Protection Register will enable near real-time updates to the register by document issuers and other trusted organisations.

10.04 TikTok is contributing $1.1 billion to the Australian economy each year according to a report from Oxford Economics. The report says the platform is the fourth most used digital platform in Australia, with 8.5 million users, with 38 percent of those users having purchased a product or service recommended on the platform in the past month.

09.04 MotorCycle Holdings has disclosed a data breach affecting customers of its Sherco and Lambretta websites. The company says a threat actor gained access to the third-party web server, inserting malicious code into the sites which may have resulted in exposure of customer personal information, including names and contact details. Access to the server, which stores customer responses to webforms, was also gained.

05.04 Visa applicants in Australia are now subject to ‘critical technology-related screening’ with some student visa holders now required to seek approval from the Minister for Home Affairs before undertaking a new critical technology-related course. The changes kicked in this month, in an effort to ensure no ‘unwanted transfer’ of critical technologies and related expertise or knowledge which could harm Australia’s strategic and economic competitiveness, Home Affairs says.

05.04 KPMG has expanded its alliance with Google Cloud, with the two companies establishing a program to help KPMG’s clients accelerate genAI adoption. KPMG says it will deploy the Gemini for Google Cloud genAI assistant for internal use and has established a centre of excellence around Google Cloud AI technologies.

04.04 Google is reportedly considering charging for AI-assisted internet searches. The Guardian reports that the plans would see Google offering its new search feature, currently in beta, to users of its premium subscription services, which customers already have to sign up to if they want to use AI assistants in other tools such as Gmail and its office suite.

03.04 X has announced it will take legal action against the Australian government after being forced to remove a harmful post slamming an Australian trans activist. The post was removed after eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant issued a take-down notice in March, and threatened a fine of up to $782,500. X says it will file a legal challenge to the order, says.

03.04 Sydney ‘software aggregator’ Software Combined has acquired Auckland’s Activate for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition of the self-service automation and business process company gives Software Combined a presence in New Zealand and is the seventh acquisition for the company since it began in 2020, it says.

02.04 Diabetes WA has reported a data breach resulting in a third-party gaining access to personal information of some contacts. The organisation says the breach was quickly detected and fully contained and an investigation is underway. It says no detailed medical records or detailed clinical information was accessed in the breach, however personal information including names, DoB, contact details, ethnicity and medicare numbers may have been affected.

02.04 A $20m business investment fund has been established by NT government and Darwin investment firm Paspalis. The fund focus on sectors including advanced manufacturing, technology, logistics and defence and space and primary industries, StartupDaily reports.

02.04 Microsoft is breaking Teams out from its Office software globally, following last year’s European separation under threat of fines from competition watchdogs. BBC says it’s unclear if the decision will be enough to avoid EU antitrust charges. Microsoft has said Teams will no longer be available as part of the Office suite to net new subscribers. Those currently subscribed can continue to use, renew, upgrade and add seats to their current plans or switch to the new lineup.

01.04 The Digital ID Bill 2023 has passed Senate, moving a step closer to passing into law. The bill will establish a voluntary identity verification service, building on the myGovID already used by 10.5m Australians to access government services. While the lure of ID verification without companies needing to collect and store sensitive customer data and promised simplicity is attractive, the ABC reports others are sceptical of government data collection.

AppWrap March 2024

30.03 Sam Bankman-Fried, co-founder of the failed FTX crypto exchange has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for fraud. Bankman-Fried was convicted last year of stealing US$8 billion from customers and faced a maximum sentence of 110 years, the NYTimes reports.

26.03 A NSW auditor-general’s report into cybersecurity in local government says City of Parramatta Council, Singleton Council and Warrumbungle Shire Council ‘are not effectively identifying and managing security risks’ exposing their information and systems to ‘significant’ risks which could have consequences for communities and infrastructure. The report notes that 50 councils are yet to implement cybersecurity governance frameworks and related internal controls.

21.03 A South Australian Department of Education rollout of an education management system has been slammed in an Auditor-General’s report into the project. Started in 2018, the project to modernise the administrative functions of around 900 public schools, is expected to go $47m over budget and be delivered three years late, InformationAge reports.

18.03 AUCloud has announced its acquiring three Australian technology companies – PCG Cyber, Venn IT and Arado – in a $30 million buy-up designed to broaden its portfolio and its geographic reach while providing new technologies, skills and expertise to the company, AUCloud says.

18.03 A Sydney IT contractor has been sentenced to 2.5 years in jail for cybercrime and fraud offences after defrauding more than $66,000 from a dozen victims, using his role as an IT support worker to access the Australian National Maritime Museum accounts payable system. The 25-year-old changed bank account details to his own and obtained financial details later used to make fraudulent purchases, the Australian Federal Police says.

16.03 Epic Games legal battle with Apple and Google has begun in a Melbourne Federal Court. The five-month showdown centres around allegations of misuse of market power by Apple and Google in regards to their control over their app stores. The Guardian reports that Epic’s Fortnite was kicked off Google and Apple app stores in 2020 after the company offered its own in-app payment system which bypassed those used by the platforms and cut out the fees Apple and Google received for in-app payments. Epic lost an antitrust case against Apple in 2021, but won its case against Google last year. The Australian cases have been pulled into a single case.

15.03 McDonalds is blaming a third-party configuration change for system failures around the world on Friday. The issue saw some restaurants around the world, including in Australia and New Zealand, shut for hours after staff were unable to take orders or serve food, Inc Australia reports.

15.03 Microsoft’s LinkedIn has been served with a request for information from the EU over its use of user data for ad tracking. It’s the latest platform to be face questions, with Facebook and Instagram owner Meta also under scrutiny for potential breach of the Digital Services Act prohibition on larger platforms’ use of sensitive data for ad targeting, Tech Crunch reports.

14.03  A London high court has ruled that Australian computer scientist Craig Wright is not the creator of bitcoin. The presiding judge ruled that Wright, who claimed to have invented the cryptocurrency, was not the author of the bitcoin whitepaper and nor was he ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ – the pseudonym of the bitcoin creator – The Guardian says.

14.03 The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that could see TikTok banned throughout the United States. TikTok parent ByteDance would have six months to sell its controlling stake or the app would be banned in the US, the BBC reports. The bill still needs to clear Senate and be signed by the president in order to become law.

13.03 Singtel has denied it is planning to sell Optus to Brookfield for $16 billion. The company says there is ‘no impending deal’ to offload Optus ‘for the said sum’, saying the company remains ‘an integral and strategic part of the Singtel Gorup and we are committed to Australia for the long term’. Brookfield is the former owner of One NZ.

13.03 The Australian PC market dropped by 9.8 percent in 2023 to 4.2 million units, with desktop and notebook categories declining 9.7 percent and 10.4 percent respectively, while workstations were up 7.2 percent. IDC says big drops were recorded in the consumer segment, while reduced demand from the government, VLB and SMB sectors pushed commercial demand down 4.9 percent.

13.03 The European Parliament has approved the AI Act, dubbed the world’s first ‘comprehensive, binding rules’ for AI. The Act takes a risk-based approach, with more risky AI applications facing greater scrutiny. The majority of AI systems, such as content recommendation systems, are expected to be low risk, with companies able to follow the voluntary requirements. Higher risk scenarios will face tougher requirements when the Act passes into law later this year. Time says the AI Act is expected to act as a global signpost for other governments grappling with regulation of the technology.

13.03 Oracle has won a major deal with the South Australian Government which will roll out Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP to standardise its financial processes across 51 state agencies. The Shared Services South Australia says Oracle Cloud ERP and Fusion ERP Analytics will enable improved speed and accuracy of financial processes and expand insights for decision-making and resource allocation.

13.03 More than 11,000 cybercrime incidents have been linked to the 2022 Medibank breach according to Victoria Police. The incidents were identified through Operation Guardian, a joint police operation monitoring misuse of data from the high profile breaches including Optus, Medibank, Latitude Finance and MyDeal, ITNews reports.

12.03 Australia has introduced a new code requiring search engines to prevent child sexual abuse and terrorist content appearing in search results. The code, which is one of Australia’s first sets of AI regulations, bans generative AI from being used to produce deepfake versions of the offensive material, The Canberra Times reports.

09.03 The Russian hackers who broke into Microsoft’s account are still attempting to use stolen data from corporate emails to gain further access to its systems. Microsoft first disclosed the hack, by a group linked to Russia’s foreign intelligence, in January, and now says in recent weeks stolen information has bene used to access some of the company’s source code repositories and internal systems, CNN Business reports.

08.03 A report from the NSW Ombudsman shows 275 automated decision-making systems, including AI, are in use across the NSW public sector. The report, which was tabled in Parliament and is based on voluntary reporting, found widespread and increasing use of automation across both state government and local councils.

07.03 An incorrect system configuration has cost the ASX more than $1 million, after it was fined by ASIC for failing to make pre-trade information about orders available on its trading system. The infringement notice is the first time one has been issued by ASIC to a market operator. ASIC says the issue arose out of a failure by ASX to correctly configure certain order functionality on its trading system. The issue went undetected – despite at least two occasions when it could have been identified – until drawn to the ASX’s attention by a market participant, ASIC says.

07.03 Seventy-six percent of Australian organisations in a survey say the complexity of their technology has increased in the past 12 months, with the average multicloud environment spanning 14 different platforms and services. The Dynatrace report shows globally 88 percent are reporting increased complexity. Locally 36 percent expect that complexity to continue to increase.

05.03 Accenture is buying learning platform Udacity for an undisclosed sum, as part of a plan to launch a technology training service for enterprises and government organisations. Accenture says it will be investing $1 billion in building the LearnVantage learning platform which will be integrated with Udacity.

05.03 Google and Xprize have launched a $5m competition to find practical uses for quantum computers. The three-year competition aims to find specific real-world applications for quantum, rather than ‘simple benchmarks’, NewScientist reports.

05.03 Western Australia digital twin plans are moving ahead with a $140m to be allocated through the Digital Capability Fund for the 10-year project. IT News reports the funding is a considerable expansion of the project, which received $12.4m in the 2023-24 state budget.

01.03 The Australian government is seeking advice from Treasury and the ACCC after Meta announced it will stop paying Australian news publishers for content appearing on Facebook. Reuters reports that the move has set up a new battle with Canberra which has long argued that platforms like Facebook and Google unfairly benefit in terms of advertising revenue when links to news articles appear on their platforms. Meta says it is discontinuing the news tab in Australia and the US and as a result won’t be entering into any new commercial deals for traditional news content in those countries. 

02.03 Elon Musk is suing ChatGPT maker OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman, claiming they have abandoned the original mission to develop AI for the benefit of humanity and not for profit. The BBC reports that Musk, who was an early co-founder of OpenAI, is claiming the company has become focused on ‘maximising profits’ for major investor Microsoft.

02.03 The US is investigating whether Chinese car imports pose national security risks because of the vehicles collection of large amounts of data on drivers and passengers and the use of cameras and sensors to record detailed information on US infrastructure. Reuters says restrictions could be imposed due to the concerns.

01.03 Twelve projects will share in more than $9 million in Moon to Mars grants to help drive innovation and support cutting-edge Australian science. Companies winning grants include Valiant Space for its work on a non-toxic propulsion system, NextAero, which is developing cryogenic rocket propellants, and HEO, which is developing advanced cameras for imaging satellites, Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, says.

AppWrap February 2024

27.02 Darwin has opened its first gaming and esports development centre. The Array, in the Victoria Hotel, signals ‘notable’ government investment, Information Age reports.

29.02 Australia Post has inked a multiyear deal with Salesforce to support customer experience. The deal will see Australia Post harnessing Salesforce’s data and AI capabilities with the company’s tech platform as a key foundation to ‘redesign and deliver an enhanced customer experience across sales, service and marketing’, Australia Post says.

25.02 Michelle McGuinness has been appointed national cybersecurity coordinator by the Department of Home Affairs. McGuinness, a a 30-year military veteran, will lead reforms to counter cybersecurity treats in Australia, ABC reports. McGuinness replaces Darren Goldie, who was recalled in November after four months in the role.

23.02 Google has ‘paused’ its Gemini people image generation, just three weeks after launch, admitting the feature ‘missed the mark’ with inaccurate or even offensive images as the model ‘overcompensated in some cases, and [was] over-conservative in others’. The company publicly apologised and says it’s working to improve it ‘significantly’ before turning it back on.

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 Australian Taxation Office is defending against 4.7 million attempted cyber attacks a month, on average, Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan says. “I’ve been asked may times what keeps me awake at night and my response is always ‘cyber security’,” he says, noting the organisation holds 50 petabytes of data – equivalent to one billion tall filing cabinets.

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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