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Cyber Criminals Attack Nearly 10,000 Microsoft Customers

“ElectionGuard” is free and open-source and will be available through the repository GitHub as a software development kit (SDK) later this year

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FILE - A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 18, 2017. VOA

Microsoft has notified nearly 10,000 customers in the past year who were targeted or compromised by nation-state attacks originating from three countries — Iran, North Korea and Russia.

According to Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President for Consumer Security and Trust at Microsoft, 84 per cent of these attacks targeted its enterprise customers, and about 16 per cent targeted consumer personal email accounts.

“While many of these attacks are unrelated to the democratic process, this data demonstrates the significant extent to which nation-states continue to rely on cyber attacks as a tool to gain intelligence, influence geopolitics or achieve other objectives,” Burt said in a blog post late on Wednesday.

The company has seen extensive activity from the actors it calls Holmium and Mercury operating from Iran, Thallium operating from North Korea, and two actors operating from Russia it calls Yttrium and Strontium.

“This data has been compiled by the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center which works every day to track these global threats,” said Burt.

Since the launch of Microsoft “AccountGuard” last August, the company has uncovered attacks specifically targeting organisations that are fundamental to democracy.

“We have steadily expanded AccountGuard, our threat notification service for political campaigns, parties, and democracy-focused non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to include 26 countries across four continents.”

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FILE – Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

Microsoft has made 781 notifications of nation-state attacks targeting organisations participating in AccountGuard.

This data shows that democracy-focused organisations in the US should be particularly concerned as 95 per cent of these attacks have targeted US-based organisations. Many of the democracy-focused attacks target NGOs and think tanks.

“As we head into the 2020 elections, we anticipate that we will see attacks targeting US election systems, political campaigns or NGOs that work closely with campaigns,” warned Microsoft.

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The company demonstrated the first voting system running Microsoft ElectionGuard technology at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, on Wednesday.

“ElectionGuard can enable a new era of secure, verifiable voting. It is also possible to make voting more accessible for people with disabilities and more affordable for local governments while increasing security,” said Burt.

“ElectionGuard” is free and open-source and will be available through the repository GitHub as a software development kit (SDK) later this year. (IANS)

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Here’s Why Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai Believes That Artificial Intelligence Needs To Be Regulated

Advanced AI which is beyond chat bots will soon be used to manipulate social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

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The Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai stressed that "international alignment will be critical to making global standards work" on AI. Wikimedia Commons

Joining Microsoft President Brad Smith and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday called for new regulations for Artificial Intelligence (AI), saying the only question now is how to approach it.

Although new regulation is needed, “a cautious approach is required that might not see significant controls placed on AI,” Pichai who was last month took over as the CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, in an editorial piece in The Financial Times.

“There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. It is too important not to. The only question is how to approach it”.

“Companies such as ours cannot just build promising new technology and let market forces decide how it will be used. It is equally incumbent on us to make sure that technology is harnessed for good and available to everyone,” Pichai wrote.

According to CNET, the timing of the editorial coincides with a big push from Google to reveal some of the results of its own work in AI and bring tools it has developed out into the world.

The Alphabet CEO stressed that “international alignment will be critical to making global standards work” on AI.

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Joining Microsoft President Brad Smith and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday called for new regulations for Artificial Intelligence (AI), saying the only question now is how to approach it. Wikimedia Commons

We need to take a “principled approach to applying AI, said the company, while offering Google’s “expertise, experience and tools.”

“We need to be clear-eyed about what could go wrong,” he said.

His comments come as lawmakers and governments globally are considering to limit the use of AI in fields such as face recognition system – an issue close to Microsoft President Brad Smith’s heart who has often criticized the technology, urging governments to enact legislation regarding the technology.

“Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues,” said Smith.

Advanced AI which is beyond chat bots will soon be used to manipulate social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, Tesla CEO Elon Musk warned recently.

In his famous debate with former Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma, Musk entered into a lassic argument over the capabilities of emerging technologies like AI.

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Although new regulation is needed, “a cautious approach is required that might not see significant controls placed on AI,” Sundar Pichai who was last month took over as the CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, in an editorial piece in The Financial Times. Pixabay

Musk said that computers will one day surpass humans in “every single way”. He has predicted that a single company that develops “God-like super intelligence” might achieve world domination.

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If not regulated or controlled soon, AI could become an “immortal dictator” and there will be no escape for humans, the SpaceX CEO had warned. (IANS)