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Weekly recap: from lawsuit against TikTok to viral Chat GPT

TikTok is sued in the US for its China ties. Apple upsets US law enforcement with end-to-end encryption. A French hospital was forced to relocate its critical patients following a cyberattack.

Here's this week's recap – a brief summary of cybersecurity and tech trends Cybernews observed between December 5 – December 9, 2022.

Big tech under the spotlight

In the midst of companies facing privacy and security-related fines, Apple said it would encrypt more data categories, including backups and photos. Law enforcement has long complained about end-to-end encryption, and no wonder the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) got upset by Apple's move to offer the security option to its iCloud users.

The US state of Indiana has filed two lawsuits against TikTok. One of the lawsuits notes TikTok’s announcement that it has never given China's government access to consumer data but stresses that, actually, as a Chinese company subject to Chinese law, the firm must cooperate with China's intelligence activities. The announcement of the lawsuits comes after other American states had drafted legislation to ban TikTok. Meanwhile, Texas, South Dakota, and South Carolina have prohibited the use of the app on state government devices.

The EU's top court said that Europeans could oblige Google to delete search results about them if they prove the information is inaccurate or fake.

Meta got upset by the bill, known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), which aims to make it easier for news publishers to collectively negotiate with big tech companies like Facebook parent company Meta and Google's Alphabet for a larger share of ad revenue. Meta has threatened to remove US news content from Facebook if the "ill-considered" bill passes.

Hacks, scams, and breaches

Cybernews discovered yet another app leaking user information. This time, we shared findings about the Android app Web Explorer – Fast Internet that left an open instance, exposing a trove of sensitive data malicious actors could use to check specific users' browsing history.

The online world is not safe for anyone. Even for scammers. As it turns out, fraudsters go to great lengths to scam each other and even use arbitration rooms on popular cybercrime forums to complain. This is, in fact, good news for security researchers and law enforcement since crooks need to present evidence and, that way, spill more secrets about their ways.

In the cyber realm, not only money but lives are at stake, too. On December 4, it was reported that the André-Mignot hospital in Versailles had suspended all core medical operations, struggling to maintain basic walk-in services, and was forced to transfer six patients following a ransomware attack this weekend. Three out of these patients were in critical condition.

DDoS attacks against Russian entities continue. State-owned VTB bank said it was repelling the DDoS attack, when hackers attempt to flood a network with unusually high volumes of data traffic in order to paralyze it. This is one of many attacks on Russian companies this year. The Kremlin, Aeroflot, and Sberbank websites have all experienced outages or access issues. Hackers also delayed the start of President Vladimir Putin's speech at Russia's flagship economic forum earlier this year.

Russian attacks against its adversaries continue, as well. Russia is further pressuring Ukraine with its multi-pronged hybrid technology approach and increasingly intense cyberattacks. Microsoft said the world should be prepared for several lines of Russia’s cyber activity in the digital domain this winter. The cyber offensive against critical infrastructure will continue, possibly spilling over to neighboring countries such as Poland.

Obsession of the week

Users worldwide have been toying with OpenAI's Chat GPT. I asked it to introduce itself to you:

"I am Assistant, a large language model trained by OpenAI. I am not a real person, but rather a computer program designed to assist with a variety of tasks, including answering questions and generating text. I am not able to browse the internet or access external information, so my responses are limited to the knowledge I have been trained on. My training data includes a wide range of publicly available text, but my knowledge is limited to the time period before my training, which was in 2021. I am here to help you with your questions and requests to the best of my ability."

If you haven't tried it yet, I suggest that you do – it can write anything for you, from poems to code. While its texts style is something a high school kid would write, it is undoubtedly a fun tool to play around with.

Another tool people have been enjoying is the photo editing app Lensa which went viral when it introduced its Magic Avatars feature. Sexualized, vibrant AI pictures have flooded social media. Many users and privacy experts raised flags about the viral app, saying it's training its AI model on images that users feed them. Users have reported mangled remains of artists' signatures, raising questions about copyright infringement.

Editor’s choice:

Hacking US companies seems welcome in Russia, former FBI agent believes

Meta’s data scraping: against the rules yet impossible to stop?

North Korea exploited tragedy in Seoul to spread malware, says Google

EU splashes out on its own metaverse, launch party sees six attendees

The future of Twitter under Elon Musk

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