Cybernews podcast #47: our trip to Ukraine, audio deepfakes, and Huawei’s lesson to America

This week on the Cybernews podcast, we report back from Ukraine, a country fighting off Russian invaders while paying close attention to its rising tech industry. We also discuss the rise of audio deepfakes and Huawei’s response to US sanctions.

Our latest episode is available on Spotify and YouTube – and, as a bonus, find out how the conspiratologist lefties are attempting to explain Joe Biden’s painful performance during the debate with Donald Trump.

Cowboy startups and printed houses in Ukraine

Justinas Vainilavičius, a Cybernews senior journalist, recently came back from his trip to Ukraine, a country at war against invading Russian forces.

During the podcast, he explained just how Ukrainians are putting their skills into practice as they build products that have a lasting impact on the country’s future.

Technology was the only export-focused sector to expand in Ukraine in 2022 – a year in which its overall economy shrank by over 30% – but it recorded an 8.5% decline in exports in 2023 for the first time in years, according to IT Ukraine Association.

It could be partly attributed to external pressures in the global markets, but the impact of war is also increasingly felt as Ukraine comes to terms with the reality on the frontline.

Russia has intensified its attacks, and Kyiv needs more men to push back against the invading forces. New mobilization rules, signed into law by President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this year, require all men between 18 and 60 to register with Ukraine’s military.

Only a limited number of men working in Ukraine’s technology sector, which employs over 350,000 people, are shielded from being drafted. The war means that Ukrainian businesses are running with additional weight on their backs.

Even so, many are continuing to grow by diversifying the Ukrainian market and hiring internationally. Artificial intelligence (AI) is also expected to give them a much-needed boost, Justinas says.


Voice messages, a new frontier for cybercriminals

During the podcast, we also explore the phenomenon of bad actors attempting to use voice messages—which are becoming more popular every day—to their advantage.

Of course, audio has long been mainstream – music, audiobooks, podcasts, and, finally, voice messages.

Who hasn’t seen teenagers walking with their smartphones glued to their lips and mumbling something? They then send these audio messages to their pals and receive some back – it’s cool, in a word.

However, bad actors are not sleeping on the trend and using this to their advantage, as they’re employing audio deepfakes in various fraudulent schemes, especially those related to identity theft.

Overall, in 2024 Q1, the amount of audio and video deepfakes combined rose 245% over the previous year, with the US being among the countries with the most deepfakes detected, identity verification, and deepfake solution provider Subsub estimates.

With elections happening in the US this year, we are likely to see more examples of this technology being used for malicious purposes.


Huawei: you struggle, we thrive

Another senior Cybernews journalist, Ernestas Naprys, decided to try out Huawei’s detached ecosystem. His conclusion? It’s a grueling experience.

Of course, American sanctions have made Huawei move away from Android and begin building its own apps through HarmonyOS, its own mobile operating system.

User-friendliness is gone, indeed. For instance, if you want Google Maps or YouTube on a Huawei phone, tutorials online will explain that you need to change some settings, disable some security features, sideload a free third-party app that “prioritizes user privacy,” install Google Play, and then get the apps you like, bypassing Huawei App Gallery restrictions. It may take 30 minutes to follow through.

In short, the multiple workarounds are tiring for Huawei users and often introduce other issues.

However, the company itself may be giving up on the markets where it’s no longer welcome while chewing on Apple’s market share in its home market, China. The company is actually doing very well indeed, only a few years after profits and sales collapsed.

“Huawei has not just survived; it is thriving once again. In the first quarter of this year, net profits surged by 564% year on year to 19.7bn yuan ($2.7bn). It has re-entered the handset business. Its telecoms-equipment sales are rising again. And it has achieved this in large part by replacing foreign technology in its wares with home-grown parts and programs, making it much less vulnerable to American hostility in future,” The Economist wrote last week.


Energy weapon against Biden? No

Some folks on social media think they’ve figured out why Biden looked so puzzled and frequently spoke haltingly with a blank stare in his eyes while debating Donald Trump.

Maybe the president was hit with a directed energy weapon that’s giving him Havana Syndrome, they say.

It’s obviously nonsense, but to those of you not in the know, Havana Syndrome is the name for a group of mysterious illnesses that have cropped up among US diplomats and spies over the past decade.

The working theory is that adversarial countries like Russia or China are intentionally targeting Americans with invisible rayguns to give them brain damage.

Intelligence and medical professionals debunked this earlier this year, but the theory seems to be sort of a last straw some people are holding onto when they’re trying to explain Biden’s poor performance in the debate. They don’t seem to accept that Biden and Trump are both very old, indeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are markedmarked