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Featured December 30, 2022

Twitter Probed Over Users’ Personal Data Leaks

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DPC Probes Twitter Over Users’ Personal Data Leaks

Twitter is being probed over personal data protection after a hacker claimed to have details of more than 400 million users.

Identified as “Ryushi”, the hacker is demanding $200 000 or £166 000 to hand over the data and delete it. The details include that of some celebrities.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) says it will look into Twitter’s compliance with data protection law in relation to that security issue.

The watchdog launched an own-volition enquiry pursuant to section 110 of the Data Protection Act of 2018 following multiple media reports showing one or more collated datasets of Twitter user personal data had been made available on the internet.

Also read: Fidelity Files to Trademark Financial Advice and NFT Markets in Metaverse

The DPC is an Irish supervisory authority responsible for upholding fundamental rights of individuals in the EU to have their personal data protected.

Twitter’s European headquarters are based in Dublin, therefore, the DPC is the lead authority supervising its compliance with EU data protection rules.

High profile Twitter users’ data at risk

Although the size of the haul is not confirmed, reports say the data includes phone numbers and email addresses including those of celebrities and politicians.

The Guardian reported US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s data was included in the sample published by the hacker.

“The datasets were reported to map Twitter IDs to email addresses and or telephone numbers of associated data subjects,” said DPC.

“The DPC corresponded with Twitter International Company in relation to a notified personal data breach that TIC Claims to be the source vulnerability used to generate the datasets and raised queries in relation to DGPR compliance,” adds DPC.

Twitter Probed Over Users’ Personal Data Leaks

Twitter mute over the claim

Twitter has not issued an official statement on enquiries about the personal data leaks.

But responding to a tweet by cyber-security reporter Brian Krebs over the breach, Twitter chief executive officer Elon Musk said: “Don’t be the clown on the clown car!”

Krebs however notes the breach probably occurred before Musk took over as Twitter CEO.

Cyber-crime intelligence company Hudson Rock says it was the first to raise the alarm about the personal data sale.

The firm’s chief technology officer Alon Gal told the BBC there were a number of clues that appeared to support the hacker’s claim, although agreeing the amount of data had not been verified.

However, Gal said it seemed the data was not copied from an earlier breach in which details were published from 5.4 million accounts

According to Gal, only 60 emails of the sample 1 000 provided by the hacker in the earlier incident appeared and was confident that this breach “is different and significantly bigger.”

“The hacker aims to sell the database through an escrow service that is offered on a cyber-crime forum. Typically, this is only done for real offerings,” he said.

An escrow service is a third party that agrees to release funds only when certain conditions such as handing over data are met.

Worrisome trend

Concerns have been raised over personal data protection at a time the world is increasingly becoming digital.

Knowing how damaging the loss of data can be to the platform, the hacker has warned Twitter that its best chance of avoiding a large data-protection fine is to buy the data “exclusively.”

“Ryushi” highlighted they exploited a problem with a system that lets computer programmes connect with Twitter to compile the data.

Although Twitter fixed the problem in the system, it is believed the weakness was used in an earlier breach which affected more than 5 million accounts.

Last year, a hacking forum published phone numbers and personal data of hundreds of millions of Facebook users online for free.

The data included personal information of 533 million users from 106 countries including over 32 million records on users in the US, 11 million in the UK and 6 million users in India exposing their phone numbers, full names, locations, bios, birthdates and in some cases their email addresses.

Its parent company – Meta was fined $276 million over the data breach.

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Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney.

Featured

Americans Turn to Artificial Intelligence to Curb Gun Violence

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Americans Turn to Artificial Intelligence to Curb Gun Violence
Is this how the curbing will be done?

The alarming rate of gun violence in the United States in 2023 has led to increased calls for more gun safety measures. But with that unlikely to happen anytime soon, individuals and organizations have been turning to other alternatives, including artificial intelligence (AI).

In recent years, artificial intelligence has emerged as one of the possible solutions. The growing interest in the technology is primarily due to its promise of detecting shooters and preventing violence.

The CEO of Omnilert, a security company, Dave Fraser, said the technology represents a breakthrough in how AI is used to further human protection.

How AI helps

Most of the technologies currently offered by security companies using AI rely on detection by using high-tech cameras to identify suspects, predictive algorithms that flag potential shooters, and metal detectors capable of seeing hidden guns.

According to companies in the sector, using security cameras equipped with AI can make up for the errors of security officers. Watching multiple video screens while trying to identify threats leaves margins for error.

But artificial intelligence boasts better accuracy, distinguishing between identifying potential mass shooters minutes or seconds before they strike.

Given how ubiquitous security cameras are today, improving them with AI to become more effective in preventing mass shootings seems like a no-brainer.

The challenges

But some experts are concerned about how the impacts on privacy, especially since the effectiveness of the products remains questionable. Most AI security companies don’t provide independently verified data about the accuracy of their products.

Speaking to ABC News, the senior policy analyst at ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, Jay Stanley, said:

“If you’re going to trade your privacy and freedom for security, the first question you need to ask is: Are you getting a good deal?”

Besides that, a lawyer for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, Jake Wiener, said:

‘The biggest concern with these systems is false positives when the system wrongly identifies someone who isn’t actually holding a gun.”

A false positive is a situation where an innocent individual can be wrongly profiled as a mass shooter.

Market rises for AI tools

But such misgivings are unlikely to deter interest in the sector. The high rate of mass shootings in recent years has led potential targets, such as schools, offices, retailers, etc., to consider AI security.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that 83% of public schools use security cameras as of the 2017-18 school year. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has recently begun an artificial intelligence-based gun detection program.

With the rising interest, Future Market Insights projects that the market for high-tech products capable of detecting concealed weapons will be worth $1.2 billion by 2031, almost twice the $630 million it was in 2022.

Meanwhile, several companies are already establishing themselves in the sector. One of them is Austin-based Scylla which offers AI that helps security cameras identify concealed weapons and suspicious activity.

Gun Detection Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI gun detection (Source: Scylla)

The system notifies officials when it identifies any threat and can immediately lock doors and deny access. The vice president of the company Kris Greiner noted that such a system could have a significant impact on ensuring safety. Other companies, such as Zero Eyes, focus on gun detection.

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China Catches Up On Quantum Computers, Makes 1st Delivery

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China Catches Up On Quantum Computers, Makes 1st Delivery

China has officially caught up with Canada and USA in the race to deliver a complete quantum computer system to a customer according to a state media report.

Chinese quantum computing company, Origin Quantum Computing Technology developed a 24-qubit Wuyuan system before delivery to an unknown user more than a year ago, the science ministry’s Science and Technology Daily reported.

Also read: How AI Can Accelerate Metaverse Development

According to Origin Quantum, they are the only Chinese company in the quantum computing industry that can deliver real quantum computers as well as full-stack development and follow up services.

According to a statement sent to the Global Times on Monday by East China’s Anhui Province based Quantum Computing Research Centre, the group developed the computer and successfully delivered it to a user.

“More than 100 quantum computing companies in the world have put enormous investment into quantum research and development. Canada’s quantum computing company sold its first quantum computer in 2011, followed by IBM of the US in 2019.

“Chinese Origin Quantum delivered a quantum computer in 2021,” Zhang Hui, director of the Anhui Quantum Computing Engineering Research Center was quoted as saying.

Eyebrow raising announcement

The announcement by Chinese state media has raised eyebrows among skeptics questioning its timing.

Weifeng Zhong, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va told TechNewsWorld that this could be a gimmick to just show China as a tech giant with a transparent administration.

“Quantum technology has a high priority for national security in China. If this were something very important, I doubt it would be disclosed like this in a transparent way by Chinese authorities,” explained Zhong.

“The fact that it was delayed for a year suggests that they realize now that it’s not important to national security, so they’re trying to use it to build China’s image as a technology leader at a time when they’re trying to open up their economy to the rest of the world,” added Zhong.

But what is quantum computing?

A quantum computer is a type of computer that uses quantum mechanics to store and process data, as opposed to classical computers that use classical mechanics. Quantum computers use quantum bits (qubits), which can exist in multiple states at once, to perform computations that are not possible on classical computers, making them particularly well-suited for certain types of complex calculations.

The  24-qubit Wuyuan quantum computer based on superconducting technology developed by the same company  becomes the third to be delivered to customers after Canada in 2011 and USA’s IBM in 2019.

Superconducting technology is currently one of the most mature and well-developed implementations of quantum computing, and many companies and research organizations are working to develop and commercialize superconducting quantum computers. Superconducting technology is one of the main implementations of quantum computing.

In superconducting quantum computers, quantum bits (qubits) are made from tiny electrical circuits that are cooled to very low temperatures, close to absolute zero, in order to minimize the amount of thermal energy and increase their coherence time, which is the time during which a qubit can maintain its quantum state.

What does China offer in its quantum computers

Speed: Quantum computers can perform certain operations much faster than classical computers, which can greatly speed up complex computations.

Parallel processing: Quantum computers can perform multiple calculations simultaneously, which allows for more efficient processing of large amounts of data.

Simulating complex systems: Quantum computers can be used to simulate complex systems, such as molecules and materials, which can lead to new discoveries in fields such as chemistry and materials science.

Cryptography: Quantum computers can be used to break certain encryption algorithms, which makes them useful for developing new, more secure encryption methods.

Optimization problems: Quantum computers can be used to solve complex optimization problems, such as logistics and scheduling problems, which have many potential real-world applications.

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OpenAI Develops Tool to Spot AI-Written Texts

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OpenAI Develops Tool to Spot AI-Written Texts

OpenAI, the startup behind ChatGPT, has released a free web-based plagiarism checker to determine whether machines or humans wrote a text.

According to OpenAI, the web-based tool is not entirely accurate. Its performance will depend on the similarity between the analyzed text and the writing that OpenAI tools are trained to write.

Speaking about the tool, OpenAI’s CTO Mira Murati said the new tool is “not perfect, but it’s a step forward in distinguishing between AI and human-written text.” She added that the company was looking forward to reviews from its users.

ChatGPT’s soaring start

Since OpenAI launched ChaGPT last year, the ability of the AI tool to create spontaneous texts that look very similar to what a human would write has garnered it much acclaim. But not all of the attention has been positive.

Several stakeholders have expressed concerns about increased AI-generated misinformation. Educators are also concerned that students might start relying on AI tools and submitting plagiarized works. This has led some school districts to ban ChatGPT on their networks.

But these bans don’t have much effect on preventing the usage of ChatGPT for academic plagiarism. With the new tool from OpenAI, educators might finally have the necessary detection equipment.

How OpenAI’s tool will work

According to the company, the new tool works best on text samples in English and above 1,000 characters. It has a five-point system to measure an AI system’s likelihood of texts being generated. Apart from OpenAI, several other individuals and organizations are also working on similar tools.

Concerns about AI texts rise

Meanwhile, concerns about AI writing tools are not limited to educators. There are also concerns in some circles that the rapid development of AI writing tools might soon deprive writers of jobs as companies will opt for cheaper automation options.

A Fortune article from December 2022 predicted that ChatGPT and AI tools might take not only the jobs of writers but also has the potential to replace programmers. ChatGPT can convert human prompts into codes in several programming languages.

Will AI make writers jobless?

Expert writers believe that AI writing tools can create coherent texts based on a set of rules. It will forever remain inferior to humans when it comes to creativity.

The songwriter Nick Cave shares this view. In response to a fan who sent him a song written by ChatGPT in the style of Nick Cave, he noted that he was not enthusiastic about the new technology. He said that songs arise from a “complex, internal human struggle of creation,” which algorithms can’t feel.

He added:

“I understand that ChatGPT is in its infancy, but perhaps that is the emerging horror of AI – that it will forever be in its infancy, as it will always have further to go.”

However, some writers are more welcoming and believe that AI technologies can serve as collaborative tools for writers and help them produce something new and exciting.

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