Hashtag Trending May 17- OpenAI’s Sam Altman acknowledges need for AI oversight to U.S. Congress; Most CISOs think their organizations are likely to be attacked; Database known as CockroachDB now supports AWS, Google Cloud and Azure

Open AI’s Sam Altman reassures Congress by saying “If this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong.”  CISOs feel that their companies are “likely to be attacked.” And a database named Cockroach aims to solve the problems of moving between cloud providers. 

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These top tech news stories and more for Wednesday May 17, 2023, I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada, and Tech News Day in the US.

OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman along with a number of other tech experts addressed the US Congress on Tuesday. Altman struck a cooperative tone, appearing to try to avoid the confrontational tone of previous hearings where big tech executives had their feet held to the fire with aggressive questioning. 

He acknowledged the need for oversight and reportedly stated that he favours some regulation of Artificial Intelligence. 

Altman noted in one of his comments. “My worst fear is that we, the industry, cause significant harm to the world. I think, if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong and we want to be vocal about that and work with the government on that,”

This subdued and cooperative approach was noted by the legislators. Senator Dick Durbin note that the AI industry’s message was more in the tone of “stop me before I innovate again” as opposed to social media networks who seemed to not want to be held accountable.

Not that there wasn’t evidence of high levels of concerns from legislators.  Subcommittee chair Senator Richard Blumenthal, as reported in IT World Canada,  said that Congress failed to seize control over social media “and the result is predators on the Internet, toxic content, exploiting children … Now we have the obligation to do it on AI before the threats and risks become real.” He called for “sensible safeguards,” which, he added, are not a burden to innovation.

But Blumental also noted, “the AI industry doesn’t have to wait for Congress” to be proactive.

But it wasn’t the legislators, it was Gary Marcus, a psychology professor and founder of several AI companies who was sounding the alarm. “Fundamentally, these new systems will be destabilizing,” he said.

He went on to say “Current systems are not transparent, they do not adequately protect our privacy and they continue to perpetuate bias. Even their makers don’t entirely understand how they work. Most of all we cannot remotely guarantee they are safe. Hope here is not enough. The big tech companies preferred plan is to say, ‘Trust us.’ But why should we? The sums of money at stake are mind-boggling.”

There were additional discussions on some of the other issues that have been raised including the lack of transparency or auditability in AI systems, the risks to intellectual property, problems with errors and bias in data and results. 

As governments of all levels work to introduce legislation and regulation, there is the acknowledgement that there are tremendous economic benefits associated with AI and Altman pointed that out clearly, “We believe the benefits of the tools we have deployed so far outweigh the risks,” he stated, but also added, “if this technology goes wrong, it can go very wrong.”  

For an excellent summary we will include a link to more in-depth coverage from our own Howard Solomon in IT World Canada. 

Sources include: ITWorldCanada.com

While many companies are asking employees to return to the office, some more aggressively than others, most companies are not insisting on a full return. In fact, according to Scoop Technologies, as reported in the Wall Street Journal about 58 per cent of the 4,500 companies it monitors allow employees to work some of their time from home. The number of companies that require full time work in the office has shrunk for 49 per cent to 43 per cent.

Scoop noted that companies with hybrid strategies have employees spending, on average, 2.5 days per week in the office.

This is having an impact on cities like New York with lower occupancy and fewer patrons for local businesses. 

Employers who have tried to push too hard to get employees to return to offices have found that there’s real pushback from staff. Apple and Amazon have both had strong employee reactions.  An article in Techspot noted that “Amazon employees raged so hard that one of its executives had to plead for calm.”

Scoop reports that as long as unemployment for tech workers remains low, and despite recent layoffs, it is still difficult to find good tech staff, employers may not be able to force workers back full time.

Sources include: Techspot.com

A study from security firm Proofpoint reported that most Chief Information Security Officers (CISO’s) feel that their business is at risk for a cyber-attack.

The study covered 1,600 CISOs from around the world. It found that 68 per cent of those surveyed felt their organization is at risk of being attacked in the next 12 months and 25 per cent thought the risk was “very likely.”  That compares with 48 per cent from the year before.

While there has been an enormous attention paid to ransomware, the study said that CISO’s regard email compromise as their biggest threat at 33 per cent of those responding. Insider threat, cloud account compromises, distributed denial of service or DDoS were very close, in the 29 to 30 per cent range. And supply chain and ransomware, both of which have been in the news, trailed at 27 per cent each.

Surprisingly, 64 per cent of CISOs surveyed felt that they could mitigate the risk of supply chain attacks. 

Other key surprises – 62 per cent of CISOs were open to paying ransoms to cyber criminals to restore systems, possibly because over 71 per cent have cyber insurance policies and 61 per cent reported that they would place a claim if attacked. 

But also about the same amount – 62 per cent felt their organization is able to detect and remove a ransomware threat before any material damage occurs. According to Proofpoint, that confidence is probably misplaced and there is a real disconnect in the results, given that another finding of the study is that 61 per cent of CISOs agree that their organization is “unprepared to deal with a targeted cyberattack” and as noted earlier, 68 per cent feel they will be attacked. 

Confused? So are we. And if CISOs really do think that they can pay a ransom and get their data back, that defies many other studies that show that few companies get all of their data back by paying a ransom.

What CISOs are certain of is that their job has become more stressful. 49 per cent thought they faced excessive expectations last year and that’s grown to 57 per cent in this year’s survey. 

That, combined with a trends in regulation and a recent court case that held the former Uber CISO personally responsible may be part of the reason why 60 per cent of those CISOs surveyed say they have experienced burnout in the past 12 months. 

Sources include: Proofpoint and TechRepublic

The US Justice Department announced Tuesday that they have indicted a number of foreign nationals who have attempted to steal sensitive US technology including the source code for Apple’s autonomous driving system.

In other cases they have pursued a Chinese national working in southern California who allegedly has stolen source code from a “smart manufacturing” system used in making parts for nuclear submarines and military aircraft. 

The Disruptive Technology Strike force is a joint effort between the Justice and Commerce departments and includes 14 U.S. Attorney’s offices as part of a crackdown on the theft of key technology.

This crackdown comes in the wake of a number of sanctions and export controls used on countries like Russia, Iran and even China.  

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, head of the DOJ’s National Security Division made the government’s intentions clear at a recent press conference.  He said, “Let me be clear, we are committed to doing all we can to prevent these advanced tools from falling into the hands of foreign adversaries who wield them in ways that threaten, not only our nation’s security, but democratic values everywhere,” 

Sources include: The Record.

And the database known as CockroachDB announced that it will now support all three major public cloud service providers, including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. 

The company was founded by ex-Google employees with the aim of providing a fault-tolerant, serverless, distributed SQL database-as-a-service that would support easy movement across all cloud providers and even regions within the same providers. 

Aside from the rather unfortunate name, the company does help address issues of migration from one platform to another whether it be moving to a new provider, repatriating workloads or disaster recovery.  

Cockroach in the cloud – I don’t know, it may have a certain ring to it. 

Sources include: InfoWorld

That’s the top tech news for today.  We go to air with a daily newscast five days a week, as well as a special weekend interview with an expert on topics relevant to today’s tech news.

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I’m your host, Jim Love.  Have a Wonderful Wednesday!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Lovehttp://www.itworldcanada.com
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 of a great company - IT World Canada - Canada's leading ICT publisher.

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