AppWrap: CovidSafe report released

Published on the 20/07/2021 | 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 2021

23.07 The long awaited CovidSafe report is out, sort of… The federal government has been forced to release the independent Act Associates report following a Canberra Times freedom of information request, but ITNews says it’s a heavily redacted version that is ‘of little value’. Six-monthly reports are required by legislation, though none have been forthcoming. 

23.07 Uber ‘interfered’ with the privacy of 1.2 million Australians, failing to protect personal data of customers and drivers which was accessed in a 2016 cyber attack, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner says. The attackers destroyed the data and there was no evidence of further misuse of it, however, Uber has been found to have breached the Privacy Act 1988 by not taking reasonable steps to protect personal information or to implement practices, procedures and systems to ensure compliance. Uber paid the attackers a reward through a bug bounty program, rather than disclosing the breach. 

22.07 Salesforce has completed its US$27.7 billion acquisition of Slack. In announcing the deal back in December Salesforce said the deal – its biggest ever – will enable them to provide a ‘Slack-first Customer 360’ and providing customers with a single source of truth and a single platform for connecting employees, customers and partners, Engadget says. 

21.07 Police should be banned from accessing government Digital ID data says former Australian Privacy Commissioner Malcom Crompton. InnovationAus says Crompton, now a privacy advisory, says it’s inappropriate for law enforcement to have access to the information, currently allowed in some situations, and a blanket ban should be enforced. 

20.07 One third of Australian’s have been the target of ‘pure cyber crime’ at least once, with 14 percent reporting a disruption to network systems in the past 12 months alone. MyBusiness cites a new study from the Australian Institute of Criminology and Flinders University suggesting nearly 6.7 million Australian adults could have been victims in the past.

19.07 Capgemini on A/NZ acquisition trail this time offering to buy ASX-listed Empired (Intergen in NZ) for A$233 million.  The Empired Board has recommended shareholders vote in favour of the scheme, which will see Paris-headquartered Capgemini bolster its credentials in the region with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Azure cloud hosting services. If successful, the 1,000 A/NZ staff will join 270,000 in Capgemini in November.

19.07 AU Govt has launched a ransomware offensive with intelligence forces assigned to a new cross-agency taskforce. Dubbed Operation Orcus, the initiative spans the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Austrac and state and territory police forces, as reported in InnovationAUS. The move will increase the number of AFP staff working directly with the ACSC on cyber issues from 13 to 35.

13.07 Capgemini has acquired Australian SAP services specialist Acclimation for an undisclosed sum, as it looks to build its SAP capabilities and bolster its client portfolio, Capgemini says. The deal follows the February appointment of Mike Giles to head Acclimation’s new SAP Centre of Excellence and the company launching a new SAP Warehouse Management Application designed by its mobile logistics team.

12.07 Accenture has acquired CS Technology, which has offices in Melbourne and Sydney as well as London, and offers ‘a broad range of cloud infrastructure engineering capabilities’ Accenture says. The deal, for an undisclosed sum, will bolster Acenture’s cloud services portfolio. 

09.07 The Epic Games vs Apple anticompetitive case will be heard in Australia after the Federal Court found in favour of the Fortnite creator. Epic is alleging Apple’s App Store control breaches Australian Consumer Law and the Competition and Consumer Act, ITNews says. Apple had requested the case be dismissed given US proceedings are also underway.

08.07 The Federal government is reviewing its early stage venture capital tax breaks, with a report due back by the end of the year. The review isn’t designed to develop new policy, but will instead look at whether the tax breaks, launched five years ago, are achieving their intended objectives, InformationAge says.

08.07 AWS, Google, Microsoft and Atlassian say proposed cyber takeover laws will cause more issues. The four tech giants were among those fronting a Parliamentary Joint Committee hearing into the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020, criticising a proposal which would see the government able to install software on their networks for ‘incident’ response. “I do not believe that there is a situation where installing ASD software on our networks or our systems, especially in the heat of an incident, is actually going to cause anything except more problems, and it’s not going to help the solution and it’s not going to help the problem at hand,” ZDNet quotes Google director of threat analysis group Shane Huntley as saying.

04.07 Facebook hit a US $trillion market capitalisation last week, nine years after its $100 billion+ IPO, reports TechCrunch. America’s five major technology stocks are now all worth more than $1 trillion each with Microsoft and Apple both over $2 trillion each, after Apple became the first US company to reach the trillion mark three years ago. Facebook has outpaced growth from Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft, up nearly 500 percent in the past five years.

02.07 Monash University has launched vulnerability disclosure and bug bounty programs, in what it says is a first for Australian universities. ITNews says the original disclosure program was prompted by a desire to more aggressively search out cybersecurity weaknesses in the university’s IT. Other universities are now reportedly looking at Monash’s program.

AppWrap June 2021

25.06 Microsoft has unveiled its next-gen Windows 11 OS. Windows 11 will enable users to configure multiple desktops, includes tighter integration with Teams and comes with Xbox Games Pass pre-installed says BBC News. However, it will also require eighth gen Intel chips and needs 64Gb of storage and 4Gb of Ram.

24.06 BIS has slammed cryptocurrencies as ‘speculative assets’ often used for criminal purposes. The Bank for International Settlements threw its weight behind central bank digital currencies and hinted it may launch a renewed challenge, saying cryptocurrencies work against the public good, says CBC.

23.06 Tech occupations have been added to the priority visa scheme, reports InnovationAus. The new occupations include analyst programmers, software and application programmers, ICT security specialists and multimedia specialists. Employer-sponsored applications will be prioritised, allowing tech migrants to receive visas within two weeks, and then book flights and quarantine space at their own expense.

22.06 Kablamo’s bushfire prediction tool has been recognised by Amazon with the Most Innovative AI and ML solution award in the AWS Public Sector 2021 Partner Awards. The Australian data analytics company’s offering has removed technical bottlenecks and limitation around the depth of data analysis and will potentially be used as a tactical tool for fighting bushfires, Information Age says.

17.06 Greenwashing is rampant in tech, and IT buyers need to work harder to confirm both environmental and social credentials of products, Information Age reports. A/NZ’s distance from the China sweatshops means upstream risks aren’t registering for many local purchasers. A TCO Development report says 40 percent of IT purchasers report false claims on sustainability goals.  

17.06 Service NSW’s planned data tool for fraud never eventuated, leaving the agency with ‘limited if not non-existent’ ability to track fraudulent applications. Service NSW – tasked with delivering more than AU$1 billion in bushfire, flood and Covid recovery funding – was warned of the need for an analysis tool, and ‘multiple assurances’ were made that a tool would be developed in Tableau, but the agency didn’t follow through, says IT News. Documents show one instance where a single person made 200 applications to the bushfire grants scheme, pocketing over a million dollars in relief funds.

17.06 Coles has earmarked AU$2.5 billion for its tech roadmap over the next two years. The tech plans include improvements to its online shopping, self service checkouts and data and automation across its warehouses, Inside Retail says. 

17.06 Law enforcement agencies have received CovidSafe data, but they haven’t accessed or decrypted it. InnovationAus says a report from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security says agencies are taking ‘reasonable steps’ to quarantine and delete data from the contact tracing app as soon as practicable after becoming aware of it and are not deliberately targeting it. The WA Government introduced legislation on Tuesday to stop police accessing data from the state’s SafeWA contact tracing app after it was found police had done so on two occasions.

17.06 R&D collaboration between SMEs and universities and research institutions has real payoffs for SMEs. CSIRO found 66 percent of companies collaborating with researchers design or manufacture new product, compared with just 28 percent of non-collaborators. The SMEs also saw higher turnover and were better able to cope with uncertainty and change. 

16.06 Fake online reviews are responsible for around US$152 billion of consumer spend globally and $1.2 billion of Australian spend. The CHEQ and University of Baltimore study says four percent of all reviews posted are fake. 

16.06 Kiwi startup Exsurgo is using EEG to manage pain, reports Newsroom. The new twist on old technology will help patients retrain their brains to manage pain. The home-based electroencephalography (EEG) device reads electrical activity in the brain to help chronic pain patients take control of their rehabilitation, aiming to help reduce the $14 billion cost of pain treatment in NZ. Axon is a wearable non-invasive helmet with electrodes that transmits brain wave data to the patients’ tablet or phone in a game format that gives positive reinforcements when their brain relaxes.

15.06 Forget Mars Rover, Kiwi company Lens Outdoor has launched Lens Rover, a trailer complete with image recognition technology to provide localised traffic data for proposed new billboard locations. Stoppress says the technology will provide real-time audience metrics.

14.06 Interruptions and meeting overload are derailing software engineering. A Github report shows going from two to three meetings a day lowered the chances of developers making progress on their goals from 74 percent to just 14 percent. Drop meetings to just one a day and the developers had a 99 percent chance of knocking out high quality work. Those who are less interrupted during the day were more likely to report having a ‘good day’.

11.06 Robodebt has been tagged a “shameful chapter” in Australia’s social security history in a judgment from the Federal Court approving a $112 million settlement over the “unlawful” program, reports InnovationAus. The Judge also said it should have been obvious to the public servants and Ministers presiding over the program that it was faulty. Justice Bernard Murphy found that the government “unlawfully” raised $1.7 billion in debts against 443,000 people after a computer algorithm launched in 2016 went rogue, erroneously matching income against welfare payments and automating debt collection procedures.

09.06 ANOM: FBI messaging app leads to global arrests worldwide after more than 800 suspects were tricked into using an FBI-run encrypted messaging app, the BBC has reported. The operation, dubbed Operation Trojan Shield, jointly conceived by an Australian enforcement officer and the FBI, saw devices with the ANOM app secretly distributed among criminals. Drugs, weapons, luxury vehicles and cash were seized across more than a dozen countries. This included eight tonnes of cocaine, 250 guns and more than US$48m (£34m) in various worldwide currencies and cryptocurrencies.

09.06 Numerous big name websites around the world went offline last night after a ‘technical issue’ at content delivery network provider Fastly. The outage affected sites including TVNZ OnDemand, TradeMe, The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age, Amazon, Reddit, the BBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Financial Times, Spotify, Paypal and large tracts of the UK .gov

08.06 Use by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand of a hacked file sharing system for more than it was intended for placed more information at risk than would otherwise have been the case according to a public summary of KPMG’s review of the January hack. The report notes the bank was using the hacked system as an information repository and collaboration tool, rather than limiting use to secure file transfers, as intended. 

07.06 NSW Police are tuning into AI and machine learning to speed up evidence analysis. The Microsoft Azure-based is pulling around a terabyte of computer vision each day to support investigations, and is also being used for voice to text transcriptions of interviews, ITNews says.

02.06 The Sage Australia & Asia sale to Access Group has closed, meaning Sage’s non-ERP products such as Handisoft accounting, Micropay and Easypay payroll solutions now sit under the Access umbrella. Sage UK still retains the ERP products globally along with an Australian office. Access, itself based in the UK, has expanded into the APAC region with the acquisition of Attaché and Unleashed over the past 2 years. The solutions will be integrated into the group’s Workspace platform.

02.06 The Australian operations of the world’s largest meat processor, JBS Foods, was temporarily shut down this week after a ransomware attack, affecting 11,000 A/NZ staff. The weekend attack affected some servers supporting North American and Australian IT systems. JBS is warning that ‘resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers’. The company has said there is no evidence customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised. Reuters says JBS has pointed the finger at a criminal organisation most likely based in Russia. The attack comes just three weeks after the US’ Colonial Pipeline was attacked, disrupting fuel infrastructure and leading to panic buying and temporary gasoline shortages in the US.

01.06 AI will add very little to New Zealand’s GDP, says a new report from Otago University. The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Jobs and Work in New Zealand report notes that while the industrial revolution’s profits landed extremely unevenly across British society, they did at least mostly land in Britain. Early AI benefits however are mostly accruing to Silicon Valley’s FAANGs, such a Google and Facebook, who have built up data assets so great it will be difficult for Kiwi companies to compete.

AppWrap May 2021

31.5 Low-code is still very much the domain of IT staff, at least for now according to a new survey. While low-code might be touted as a way to enable citizen developers and line of business to create apps, the Creatio survey found just six percent of low-code development is being done by business users without any IT involvement. What’s holding back adoption? A lack of experience with low-code platforms, according to 60 percent of the survey’s 1000+ respondents.

28.5 The Human Rights Commission is calling for a ban on facial recognition and other AI-based technologies. Its landmark report calls for a temporary ban on the use of facial recognition and other biometric technology in “high-risk” government decision making until new laws are developed, reports IT News. It has also urged the federal government to employ an independent “artificial intelligence safety commissioner” that would lead a multi-disciplinary taskforce on AI-informed decision making.

27.5 All Australian companies will have to use the government’s digital identity service in order to apply for the RDTI, according to InnovationAus. Deloitte won a $1.1 million contract last July to build the digital platform, which has just launched.

27.5 Forget internal IT teams, it’s external contractors who are making up the bulk of IT staff for some of Canberra’s biggest agencies, reports ITNews. In fact the there’s almost 7,500 contractors spread across Defence, Services Australia and the Department of Home Affairs. Internal stuff numbers for those three: Less than 4,000.

26.5 The ransomware attack crippling services at Waikato District Health Board is into its second week with multiple services affected as IT system recovery work continues. Stuff reported that the crisis has been escalated to a national level, prompting a meeting of the Government’s top-level officials. Health Minister Andrew Little said the Government had “stepped up” the crisis response to the ransomware attack, and the Officials’ Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC) would meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the response. The DHB is the fifth-largest in the country and provides care to more than 430,000 people.

25.5 Free EV Regos in ACT has come as welcome news for Australia’s carbon neutral by 2045 aspirations. Information Age has reported that residents and businesses in the ACT will now receive two years of free car registration when they buy an electric vehicle (EV) as the territory looks to cut its carbon footprint. The deal is extended to new or used EVs bought between 24 May and 30 June 2024.

25.5 Crowdfunding has opened for university innovation through crowdfunding platform VentureCrowd, which today announced a partnership in Which-50 with early stage commercialisation fund Uniseed, to make university research ventures available for individual investment. Uniseed was founded in 2000 and has invested in 57 startups, exiting from 10 including Spinifex, Fibrotech Therapeutics and QRX Pharma. According to VentureCrowd, this is an Australian-first partnership.

24.5 Facebook is cleaning up Covid misinformation – they couldn’t do it for Christchurch, but Facebook has removed 110,000 fake Covid news and posts made by Australians, among 14 billion posts removed globally which shared misinformation on the pandemic, InnovationAus reported this week.

24.5 NZ Tech Week 2021 runs this week, culminating in the Hi-Tech Awards on Friday. The festival saw over 300 events organised nationwide, celebrating the technology sector’s role in New Zealand innovation.


Footnote: links take you to the third party news sites as attributed in each story.

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