Good morning. It's Monday 11th December.
The Daily Cyber & Tech Digest focuses on the topics we work on, including cybersecurity, critical technologies, foreign interference & disinformation.
Members of the European Parliament, EU member countries represented by the Council, and experts from the European Commission have clinched a political deal on the Artificial Intelligence Act, the EU's pioneering attempt at regulating the emerging technology. POLITICO
The Albanese government is moving to rein in so-called “big tech” as AI platforms are rapidly adopted across the economy, backing the competition watchdog’s pleas for tighter UK-style laws. In a potential win for smaller firms, the federal government has agreed “in principle” to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s proposals to stamp out “harmful” behaviour from the world’s top five tech companies. The Australian
The UK’s competition regulator is examining Microsoft’s relationship with OpenAI, a multibillion-dollar partnership that has become a template for Big Tech’s alliances with artificial intelligence start-ups. Financial Times
Trafficking for cyber fraud an increasingly globalised crime, Interpol says
Interpol said on Friday its first operation targeting human-trafficking fueled cyber fraud showed the criminal industry was going global, spreading beyond its origins in Southeast Asia, with scam centres emerging as far away as Latin America.
Federal government moves to shatter big tech’s dominance and ‘anti-competitive’ behaviour
The Albanese government is moving to rein in so-called “big tech” as AI platforms are rapidly adopted across the economy, backing the competition watchdog’s pleas for tighter UK-style laws. In a potential win for smaller firms, the federal government has agreed “in principle” to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s proposals to stamp out “harmful” behaviour from the world’s top five tech companies.
NSW Digital ID must come with legislated guardrails
The New South Wales government’s ambitious digital identity scheme needs legislated guardrails because of the high-risk facial recognition technologies it relies on, experts have warned.
How super app Red influences Chinese-speaking diaspora in Australia
Known in Chinese as Xiaohongshu, Red has emerged as China's leading "lifestyle platform" and has rapidly gained popularity in global Chinese-speaking communities in recent years. Launched in 2013, Red amassed over 300 million users by 2023 — including 2 million in South-East Asia alone — according to Chinese media reports. The super app has multiple functions and can be used for socialising, shopping, and general internet searching. It has slipped under the radar of western society, but has become the go-to platform for the Chinese-speaking diaspora.
Huawei teases ‘disruptive’ products in 2024 after surprise launch of Mate 60 5G smartphone series
South China Morning Post
Huawei Technologies’ consumer business head said the company would launch “disruptive” products next year that could “rewrite the history of the industry”, months after the US-sanctioned Chinese telecommunications giant surprised the world with the launch of its 5G-capable Mate 60 smartphone series.
How Huawei surprised the US with a cutting-edge chip made in China
In late 2020, Huawei was fighting for its survival as a mobile phone maker. A few months earlier, the Trump administration had hit the Chinese company with crippling sanctions, cutting it off from global semiconductor supply chains. The sanctions prevented anyone without a permit from making the chips Huawei designed, and the company was struggling to procure new chips to launch more advanced handsets. In response, Huawei decided to bet its $67bn chip and mobile business on a tricky deal with the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, a state-backed foundry known for its ambition to catch up with the leading global chipmakers.
Forget Quibi. Chinese streamers are hooking Americans with werewolf love triangles
Rest of World
The idea of a smartphone-friendly streaming service, with vertical videos and short episodes, was popularized by Quibi. Founded by Hollywood legend Jeffrey Katzenberg — with a diverse slate of big-name backers including The Walt Disney Company, Goldman Sachs, and BBC Studios — Quibi’s high-profile launch in 2020 was swiftly followed by its much-publicized demise just six months later. But ReelShort isn’t trying to copy Quibi; with cheap production costs and cliched stories, it’s taking inspiration from a model that’s proved successful in China.
China vows closer security ties with Mekong states as cyber scams, Myanmar unrest have cross-border impact
South China Morning Post
China and its five Southeast Asian neighbours along the Lancang-Mekong River have agreed to focus on security cooperation, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. “We will resolutely combat cross-border crime in the [region], especially cyber fraud and gambling,” Wang said after the annual Lancang-Mekong Cooperation foreign ministers’ meeting with Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Launching the U.S.-ROK next generation critical and emerging technologies dialogue
The White House
Today, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and the Republic of Korea National Security Advisor Cho Tae-yong chaired the inaugural U.S.-ROK Next Generation Critical and Emerging Technologies Dialogue in Seoul. The launch of the Next Generation CET Dialogue fulfills a commitment that President Biden and President Yoon made during the April 2023 State Visit to upgrade bilateral technology cooperation as the two countries take monumental strides to modernize the U.S.-ROK alliance, now in its 70th year.
‘Off to the races’: DARPA, Harvard breakthrough brings quantum computing years closer
Sydney J Freedberg Jr
Widespread quantum computing may now come years sooner than widely expected, thanks to a Pentagon-funded project with implications for everything from rapid vaccine development and weather forecasting to cyber warfare and codebreaking.
SEC probes investment advisers’ use of AI
The Wall Street Journal
The Securities and Exchange Commission is asking investment advisers how they use and oversee artificial intelligence, as agency head Gary Gensler continues to express skepticism about the technology. The SEC’s examinations division has sent requests for information on AI-related topics to several investment advisers, part of a process known as a sweep.
The U.S. is getting hacked. So the Pentagon is overhauling its approach to cyber.
Maggie Miller and Lara Seligman
A series of high-profile cyberattacks from Russia, China and criminal networks in recent years have served as a wake up call to the Defense Department that cyberwarfare has changed. And that reckoning has forced one of its most secretive branches — U.S. Cyber Command — to come to an unusual conclusion: Going it alone is no longer an option.
Three deepfake prevention measures to implement ASAP
Are deepfakes the 21st century’s answer to photoshopping? Deepfake technology has steadily progressed and proliferated across the past decade. Deepfakes rely on a form of artificial intelligence to create fabricated digital narratives; they can turn people into talking puppets, and convincingly depict events that never happened. In short, they mean that we can no longer trust our eyes.
FDA approves world’s first Crispr gene-editing drug for sickle-cell disease
The Wall Street Journal
The gene-editing revolution is jumping from the lab to the marketplace. The U.S. has approved the world’s first medicine employing Crispr technology, a Nobel Prize-winning discovery that promised a powerful new tool for modifying genes to treat disease and improve crop production.
NSA focuses on talent as pace of technology quickens
US Department of Defense
The National Security Agency's ability to recruit and retain top talent is key to meeting the demands of the future, agency Director Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, said today.
Cyber Command’s Nakasone urges renewal of foreign spy law
The leader of U.S. Cyber Command urged Congress to renew a contentious foreign spy program as lawmakers debate its future. U.S. Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, who also heads the National Security Agency, on Dec. 8 described Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as “the most important authority that we utilize day in, day out.” A lapse, he said at an Intelligence and National Security Alliance event here, would be disastrous.
Taiwan intelligence says China leadership discussed election interference -sources
Senior Chinese leaders held a meeting in early December to "coordinate" government efforts to sway upcoming elections in Taiwan, according to intelligence gathered on the island, part of a campaign Taiwan officials see as voting interference. Taiwan officials have warned that Beijing is trying to nudge voters toward candidates who seek closer China ties in the Jan. 13 presidential and legislative election, which is happening as China ramps up military and political pressure to try to force the democratically governed island to accept its sovereignty.
Taiwan deepens squeeze on chip tech leakage to China
Taiwan, citing national security reasons, has banned exports to mainland China of know-how and raw materials that can be used to make chips smaller than 14 nanometers. Advanced chip-making technology is now one of 22 core technologies that Taiwan does not want Beijing to obtain, according to the island's National Science and Technology Council.
US, Japan, South Korea step up efforts to counter North Korea cyber-threats
The United States, South Korea and Japan have agreed on new efforts to respond to North Korea’s threats in cyberspace, according to national security advisers from the three countries meeting in Seoul. The allies “launched new trilateral initiatives to counter the threats posed by the DPRK, from its cybercrime and cryptocurrency money laundering to its reckless space and ballistic missile tests,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Saturday, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Cyberthreats loom over Japan's banks and supply chains: ex-NSA head
Ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure have exploded in recent years, with Japan an attractive target as the world's third-largest economy and a key financial hub, warns Michael Rogers, an advisor in the private sector and who formerly headed the U.S. National Security Agency.
South Korean chipmaking tool firms increase their sales into China, capitalizing on U.S. sanctions against the PRC
Although Chinese companies can no longer get advanced chipmaking tools from American, Japanese, or Dutch companies, they can still get advanced fab equipment from South Korean companies. A case in point is Nextin, a South Korean maker of optical wafer inspection equipment, which is expanding its presence in the Chinese semiconductor market, according to DigiTimes and The Elec reports.
Nvidia CEO sees potential in Southeast Asia as AI market
Southeast Asia has strong potential as a market for artificial intelligence and chips, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said Friday during a trip to meet key business partners in Malaysia and Singapore. "I have great confidence in Southeast Asia," Huang, founder of the U.S. semiconductor company, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. Nvidia's products dominate the AI chip market.
Apple to move key iPad engineering resources to Vietnam
Cheng Ting-Fang and Lauly Li
Apple is for the first time allocating product development resources for the iPad to Vietnam, sources briefed on the matter said, a major step toward strengthening the Southeast Asian country's position as an alternative manufacturing hub outside of China.
South & Central Asia
Apple’s cyber security team meets Indian agency over matter of iPhone threat notifications
Apple’s cyber security team finally held a meeting with India’s cyber security agency Indian Computer Emergency Response Team regarding the recent notification alerts sent to some prominent iPhone users in India. Last month, Apple sent ‘state-sponsored attackers trying to remotely compromise’ alerts on the iPhones of some leaders in the opposition party. This notification raised concerns if the government is trying to hack their phones.
Ukraine - Russia
Russian influence and cyber operations adapt for long haul and exploit war fatigue
Since July 2023, Russia-aligned influence actors have tricked celebrities into providing video messages that were then used in pro-Russian propaganda. These videos were then manipulated to falsely paint Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a drug addict. This is one of the insights in the latest biannual report on Russian digital threats from the Microsoft Threat Analysis Center: “Russian Threat Actors Dig In, Prepare to Seize on War Fatigue”.
Russia tricks US actors into appearing in propaganda videos
Russia has tricked several US actors on the video message platform Cameo into spreading falsehoods about Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky. The latest propaganda push was outlined in a Thursday report by Microsoft's Threat Analysis Center. In the videos, celebrities like actor Elijah Wood appear to be sending a personal message to Mr Zelensky asking him to get help with substance use. Cameo said those videos may violate its guidelines. The platform, which gained massive popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, allows users to request recorded messages from celebrities and other public figures in exchange for a fee.
EU negotiators strike political deal on AI Act
Members of the European Parliament, EU member countries represented by the Council, and experts from the European Commission have clinched a political deal on the Artificial Intelligence Act, the EU's pioneering attempt at regulating the emerging technology.
Netherlands conducts large-scale cyber attack drill involving key infrastructure sectors
Organizations and agencies in the Netherlands, among others, organized an exercise to prepare for a large-scale cyber attack, as reported by NOS on Friday. Participants included government agencies, municipalities and safety regions, and employees from key infrastructure sectors. While Russia's involvement in the exercise scenario was not explicitly stated, participants understood its implication. Hester Somsen, the director of cybersecurity at the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security, acknowledged that a Russian cyber attack is "not a fictional, unthinkable scenario."
UK sanctions nine linked to cyber trafficking in Southeast Asia
The Record by Recorded Future
The United Kingdom on Friday sanctioned 14 individuals and entities connected to Southeast Asia’s sprawling online scamming industry — the first such designation directly targeting the human traffickers who con workers into carrying out fraud.
How AI is leading the fight against disinformation in Ukraine, Gaza
The Sydney Morning Herald
The articles are extremely negative about AUKUS – the Australian, UK and US strategic alliance – and they circulate on disinformation networks on social media. One website calls it “a particularly biased development” and likens it to the QUAD group, “which arrogantly denigrates China as a hemispheric threat turning reality on its head”.
Images of Syrian civil war take on a second life in Gaza conflict
The avalanche of disinformation shared about Israel and Palestine amid the recent conflict has been well documented. Bellingcat previously reported on the surge of misattributed videos, images, and claims — which have spread across X, TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
UK and US regulators examine Microsoft’s ties to OpenAI
The UK’s competition regulator is examining Microsoft’s relationship with OpenAI, a multibillion-dollar partnership that has become a template for Big Tech’s alliances with artificial intelligence start-ups.
Child safety groups and prosecutors criticize encryption of Facebook and Messenger
Meta’s decision to introduce end-to-end encryption for Facebook messages will hamstring the rescue of child sex trafficking victims and the prosecution of predators, according to child safety organizations and US prosecutors.
Elon Musk restores account of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on X
The Washington Post
The account of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was restored on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday after owner Elon Musk conducted a poll among followers on Saturday and pronounced: “The People have spoken and so it shall be.”
How social media is fuelling a global learning crisis
South China Morning Post
As if there were not already enough crises to worry about, publication last week of the results of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s global Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) survey reveals yet another: a silent learning crisis which underpins an “unprecedented drop” in school performance worldwide. Whether the Covid-19 pandemic is to blame or a growing addiction to skimming, scanning and scrolling through increasingly pervasive social media is not entirely clear. But according to Robert Jenkins, chief of education at Unicef, the implications are crystal clear: “We are looking at a nearly unsurmountable scale of loss to children’s schooling.”
Google admits AI viral video was edited to look better
A video showcasing the capabilities of Google's artificial intelligence model which seemed too good to be true might just be that. The Gemini demo, which has 1.6m views on YouTube, shows a remarkable back-and-forth where an AI responds in real time to spoken-word prompts and video. In the video's description, Google said all was not as it seemed - it had sped up responses for the sake of the demo.
Key players in OpenAI’s boardroom drama
The New York Times
On Nov. 17, Silicon Valley tumbled into turmoil when Sam Altman, chief executive of the high-profile A.I. start-up OpenAI, was suddenly removed by the company’s board of directors. After a five-day roller-coaster ride that encapsulated the increasingly heated battle over the future of artificial intelligence, Mr. Altman was reinstated and a new board was created. Here is a list of players in the year’s biggest tech drama.
Ex-commissioner for facial recognition tech joins Facewatch firm he approved
The recently-departed watchdog in charge of monitoring facial recognition technology has joined the private firm he controversially approved, paving the way for the mass roll-out of biometric surveillance cameras in high streets across the country.
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