AI agents will transform AI usage in the coming months: Hashtag Trending for Monday February 12, 2024

Forget about Artificial General Intelligence, AI agents are going to rock your world in the coming weeks and months, if fewer companies are paying ransoms, why has the total amount paid almost doubled over last year, a testing device called Flipper is banned in Canada and a viral story about toothbrushes being compromised by malware is revealed to be an error in translation.

All this and more on this slip of the tongue edition of Hashtag Trending. I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US.

OpenAI has hinted that they are on the brink of releasing AI agents, that will transform the way we handle complex tasks on our devices.

These agents, still under wraps regarding their launch timeline, promise to automate tasks that have traditionally required human intervention, could be the thing that reshapes the job landscapes in certain sectors.

Imagine an AI capable of transferring data from documents to spreadsheets, filling out and processing expense reports, or managing entries into accounting software.

That level of automation and more already exists. It allows the AI to perform tasks just like a human – mouse clicks, cursor movements, and text input across various applications.

Up until this point, communication between AI and other applications has been by programmatically developed functions and structured Application Program Interfaces (APIs).

This new breed of agents wouldn’t need that. It can simply learn and navigate through the web, autonomously devising and executing strategies to achieve result for the end user.

This is going to raise all kinds of issues. How to get and secure permission for the AI to take control of devices. As these devices store huge amounts of private data, the issues of privacy and data security, where the files are stored, and how much of this private interaction can be used to train future AI models.

While the world awaits what OpenAI will do, this is not theoretical. There are actual working applications using agents already in the marketplace, one of which is the Rabbit R1 unveiled at CES this year.

I’ll be doing a special piece on this in as part of my Best of YouTube series. Watch for it in the next day or two.

Sources include: Android Authority

In 2023, ransomware attacks not only intensified but also demonstrated a strategic shift towards high-profile targets, including critical infrastructure sectors such as healthcare, education, and government. All this according to a new report from a firm called Chainanalysis.

The year saw a notable surge in ransomware activity, with attackers exploiting vulnerabilities in widely used software like MOVEit, affecting organizations from the BBC to British Airways.

This aggressive approach led ransomware gangs to amass over $1 billion in cryptocurrency payments from their victims, marking a record-breaking year for ransomware revenue.

The resurgence of ransomware in 2023, following a brief decline in 2022, underscores the adaptable and resilient nature of cybercriminals.

Despite efforts to curb their activities, and reports that fewer companies are paying ransoms, it appears that ransomware gangs have refined their strategies, focusing on more lucrative and impactful attacks. This shift has not only increased the financial stakes but also highlighted the significant operational and reputational risks for affected organizations.

Other key insights from the Chainalysis report include:

– The economic impact of ransomware extends beyond the ransom payments, with companies like MGM Resorts facing over $100 million in damages despite not paying the ransom.

– Law enforcement interventions, such as the FBI’s infiltration of the Hive ransomware operation, have shown some success in mitigating the impact of ransomware by preventing millions in payments.

– The ransomware ecosystem is evolving, with a rise in Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) models and initial access brokers facilitating easier entry for cybercriminals and expanding the threat landscape.

In 2024, the ransomware threat persists, with new variants and tactics emerging. The continued innovation by ransomware actors, coupled with the lucrative returns from their activities, suggests that ransomware will remain a significant challenge. The insights from 2023 highlight the importance of proactive cybersecurity measures, international cooperation, and the development of strategies to disrupt the economic incentives driving ransomware attacks.

Sources include: Chainalysis

In a decisive move to curb the rising tide of car thefts, the Canadian government has announced plans to ban the importation, sale, and use of the Flipper Zero device, along with similar gadgets identified as tools for vehicle theft. The Flipper Zero, a versatile pen-testing tool designed for experimenting with and debugging various hardware and digital devices, has been under scrutiny due to its ability to conduct replay attacks that can unlock cars, open garage doors, and clone digital keys.

Canadian Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne highlighted the government’s concern over the sophisticated tools criminals use to steal cars, prompting this regulatory action. This announcement followed a national summit on combating auto theft, reflecting the government’s commitment to addressing the issue head-on.

Statistics Canada reports approximately 90,000 vehicles stolen annually, translating to a car theft every six minutes and resulting in $1 billion in annual losses, including insurance costs. The surge in car thefts has significantly impacted the national Crime Severity Index, with motor vehicle theft being a major contributing factor to its increase in 2022.

The government’s Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) department is set to collaborate with law enforcement agencies to remove devices like the Flipper Zero from the Canadian market. However, Flipper Devices, the company behind Flipper Zero, argues that their device cannot be used to steal vehicles built after the 1990s due to modern security systems employing rolling codes. They assert that the Flipper Zero is intended for security testing and development, with precautions taken to prevent its misuse.

This ban comes amidst broader concerns over the use of technology in criminal activities, with Amazon banning the sale of Flipper Zero since April 2023 for being a card skimming device, following actions by the Brazilian National Telecommunications Agency to seize incoming purchases due to alleged criminal use.

Sources include: BleepingComputer

In a world increasingly filled with smart devices, a recent story from the Swiss outlet Aargauer Zeitung caused quite a stir with claims that hackers had launched a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on approximately 3 million internet-connected toothbrushes. This story, which quickly went viral, suggested damages amounting to millions of euros. However, the cybersecurity firm Fortinet, cited as the source of this information, clarified that the attack scenario was purely hypothetical, presented during an interview to illustrate a type of cyberattack. The confusion was attributed to a translation error.

Mainstream publications, including ZDNet, Tom’s Hardware, and The Sun, reported on the incident, demonstrating how easily a hypothetical scenario can be misconstrued as a real event.

It’s not fanciful. Smart devices are vulnerable and often not well protected and there have been documented cases of attacks on smart devices.

But in retrospect, one could ask if we all should have been more skeptical.

I saw this story and didn’t run with it, but not because of my journalistic genius.  I just didn’t see it as the best story to run with – it was a little sensationalist and I already had a better story with a humorous twist to end with.

So, I gave it the brush off.

So, I’m not going to question the journalists who did run with the story. I hope, however, that it will cause us all to be more alert, but at the same time, I also struck that we live in a world, where this story is actually believable.

Sources include: Axios and several others

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with daily news and a weekend interview show that we creatively called – the weekend edition.

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Thanks for listening and have a Marvelous Monday.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Love
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO and Chief Digital Officer of IT World Canada - Canada's leader in ICT publishing and digital marketing.

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