Hashtag Trending Jul.19- Microsoft announces price hikes for AI integration; Tesla directors overpaid and forced to return over $700 million; A chatbot so good that it’s the death of human customer service?

The free ride is over – Microsoft announces the price hikes for AI integration, Tesla directors were overpaid and forced to return over 700 million dollars of their compensation, Microsoft still isn’t saying how hackers got the key to compromise the U.S. government emails and a chatbot so good that it’s the death of human customer service?

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These and more top tech news stories on Hashtag Trending.  

I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and Tech News Day in the US.

Microsoft has announced a significant price hike for accessing new artificial intelligence features in its widely used office software. The company will charge at least 53 per cent more, offering a glimpse at the potential profits it hopes to generate from this technology. 

The tech giant also announced the immediate availability of a more secure version of its Bing search engine for businesses. This move aims to address data-protection concerns, increase interest in AI, and compete more effectively with Google.

Microsoft’s AI copilot in Microsoft 365, which can draft emails in Outlook, create documents in Word, and make virtually all an employee’s data accessible via a chatbot, will cost customers $30 per user, per month. This voluntary upgrade is in addition to the existing monthly plans, which range from $12.50 per user to $57 per user. This means that Copilot could potentially triple costs for some Microsoft customers.

In response to privacy concerns, Microsoft is introducing Bing Chat Enterprise, a bot in its search engine that can generate content and make sense of the internet. Unlike the public version of Bing, the enterprise version will not allow any viewing or saving of user data to train the underlying technology.

Sources include: Reuters

The field of cybersecurity, particularly within healthcare, is set to experience unprecedented demand in the coming years, according to a recent article in Forbes. This surge is due to the increasing threats to healthcare organizations and the vast amount of sensitive data they handle.

Healthcare is one of the largest producers of data, with hospitals generating nearly 50 petabytes of data daily. This data is not only vast but also highly sensitive, making its protection crucial. The US Department of Health and Human Services has issued resources and training to combat the rising tide of cyber threats specific to healthcare.

However, data is not the only concern. With the increased use of smart hardware and connected devices for medical purposes, unique vulnerabilities have emerged. For instance, security experts found a way to hack into a pacemaker, exposing a significant vulnerability that allowed them to remotely control the electric charges delivered to the patient by the device.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that “Information Security Analyst” is among the fastest-growing occupations in the country, expected to grow nearly 35 per cent by 2031. Therefore, training the next generation of technologists in the art and science of cybersecurity will be of utmost importance to support the backbone of healthcare and the rapidly growing digital economy in the coming years.

Sources include: Forbes 

Elon Musk, Larry Ellison, and other current and former members of Tesla’s board of directors have agreed to return $735 million to settle claims that they were excessively overpaid. This settlement concludes a lawsuit initiated in 2020 by a police and firefighter retirement fund, which challenged the stock options granted to Tesla’s board from 2017 onwards. The directors have also agreed to forego compensation for 2021, 22, and 23, and to change how compensation is calculated.

The lawsuit accused Tesla’s board of granting itself unfair and excessive compensation in the form of 11 million stock options between 2017 and 2020, which was claimed to grossly exceed norms for a corporate board. The $735 million settlement will be paid back to Tesla in a “derivative lawsuit,” marking the largest ever awarded by Delaware’s Court of Chancery.

Tesla has yet to comment on the matter, but court documents indicate that the company agreed to the settlement to avoid the risk of future litigation. This case is separate from another lawsuit filed by shareholders against a $56 billion compensation package awarded to CEO Elon Musk.

Sources include: Engadget

Microsoft is under scrutiny following a significant security incident where China-backed hackers managed to steal a key that allowed them to infiltrate dozens of email inboxes, including those belonging to several federal government agencies. The tech giant has yet to determine or disclose how the hackers obtained the Microsoft signing key, which they used to forge authentication tokens and gain access to inboxes as if they were the rightful owners.

The hacking group, dubbed Storm-0558 by Microsoft, targeted new and undisclosed vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s cloud. The hackers acquired a consumer signing key, or MSA key, which Microsoft uses to secure consumer email accounts. They then used this key to forge tokens that allowed them to break into enterprise inboxes due to a “validation error in Microsoft code.”

Microsoft claims to have blocked all activity related to this incident, suggesting that the hackers have lost access. However, the company now faces scrutiny for its handling of the incident, thought to be the biggest breach of unclassified government data since the Russian espionage campaign that hacked SolarWinds in 2020.

Microsoft’s response to the incident has also been criticized for its lack of transparency and avoidance of certain terms like “zero-day,” referring to when a software maker has zero days’ notice to fix a vulnerability that has already been exploited. Furthermore, the company has been criticized for reserving security logs for government accounts with the company’s top-tier package, which could have helped other incident responders identify malicious activity.

Sources include: TechCrunch 

The rise of AI in customer service is becoming more prominent, with US-based startup Air AI introducing the world’s first-ever AI-based customer support that can have a proper 10-40 minute-long phone call and sound just like a real human. This AI can perform tasks across more than 5,000 applications autonomously, without any training, supervision, or motivation. More than 50,000 companies have already signed up on the waiting list.

Some industry experts believe that generative AI will not result in job losses but rather improve productivity and empower employees. They argue that AI can streamline repetitive tasks, enhance decision-making, and improve customer service, allowing employees to focus on more complex and value-added tasks.

On the other hand, some companies have already started replacing their customer support staff with AI. For instance, Indian startup Dukaan laid off 90 per cent of its customer support staff and introduced an AI chatbot called Lina to replace them. This move reduced its expenses for customer support by 85 per cent and significantly decreased the response time for initial queries.

Some questions on this one. How essential is human empathy and specialized assistance?  Is it even part of modern customer service? Is that why it’s so easy to replace people with a chatbot? How much disclosure of AI usage should be required? Are we ready for the consequences of widespread AI implementation in this area?

And finally, didn’t Google do an incredible demonstration of a voice-enabled customer service almost two years ago? Why a new unknown company grabbing 50,000 customers when Google had this kind of lead? 

Just thinking aloud again.

Sources include:  Analytics India Magazine

And that’s the top tech news stories for today.

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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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