Appwrap: LockBit’s Kiwi haul; unclean data; and MBIE blows away Cobwebs deal

Published on the 10/06/2024 | Written by Newsdesk


iStart News - AppWrap tech news in brief

Keeping you up to date with A/NZ and world tech news…

AppWrap aims to help you keep up to date with an easy to read collection of news and snippets published by other leading tech media publications that we trust.

AppWrap June 2024

10.06 Thirty percent of Kiwi businesses think that half or less of their broad data is clean, with just nine percent considering 100 percent of their data is free of issues according to a Datacom survey of 200 senior data and IT managers. It found that 40 percent admit they don’t conduct regular data cleansing. Of the 48 percent who say they do regular cleansing, 51 percent aren’t clear on how regularly the practice takes place, Datacom says.

10.06 Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Andrew Bayly has joined a delegation led by the Australian Minister for Financial Services and the Australian Banking Association heading to Singapore to discuss scam and fraud prevention. Bayly says the meetings will provide an opportunity to  see how Singapore and Australia are approaching the issue and look for opportunities for industry and government to collaborate on scam prevention.

09.06 MBIE has ended its contract with spyware company Cobwebs, which it was using to search social media and other sites to deter mass arrivals of asylum seekers, and is looking for a replacement. RNZ says the tools were used ‘successfully’ half a dozen times, according to MBIE records. MBIE says it is evaluating its options for open source tools.

05.06 Carmaker Advanced Auto Parts has joined the list of companies confirming its had data stolen and put up for sale following the Snowflake breach. BleepingComputer says threat actors are claiming to have 3TB of data from the carmaker, which operates primarily in the Americas. Australians and Kiwis have been caught up in the Ticketmaster breach, also linked to Snowflake.

05.06 Kiwi retail security company Auror is joining forces with US bodycam company Axon in a new partnership integrating automated number plate recognition software with bodycams. RNZ notes that New Zealand police have existing contracts with both companies, though Axon’s is for tasers and the storing of evidence overseas. NZ Police can already access bodycam footage uploaded to the Auror platform.

05.06 SAP is buying digital adoption platform provider WalkMe in a US$1.5b deal aimed at boosting SAP’s AI offerings. WalkMe’s offerings provide guidance and automation to help organisations execute workflows across a range of applications, SAP says.

05.06 SAP has unveiled new genAI capabilities integrated across its portfolio at its annual Sapphire conference. Its GenAI copilot Joule is now embedded in SAP S/4HANA Cloud solutions Build and Integration Suite with further expansion planned for Ariba and Analytics Cloud. The company also announced partnerships with companies including Microsoft, Google Cloud, AWS and Nvidia, Technology Magazine reports.

04.06 Hacker group LockBit is claiming to have Smith & Caughey financial, HR, accounting, management and IT department data which it is selling on the dark web. The claims follow Smith & Caughey’s announcement of the break last week, hard on the heels of announcing its proposed closure, InsuranceBusinessMag reports.

04.06 NZ’s Fingermark, which develops technology and software for the fast food market, has secured a multimillion dollar capital injection from Ecolab to support its global growth. The company’s offerings include computer vision and self-ordering technology, and Stoppress reports.

03.06 Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck has been knighted in the King’s Birthday honours, which also saw former Telecom CEO Theresa Gattung made a Dame Companion.

01.06 Ticketek Australia says some account holder information, stored in a third-party cloud platform, has been breached. The incident, just days after rival Ticketmaster was hacked, has not compromised any customer passwords or payment details, Ticketek says.

AppWrap May 2024

29.05 Tech service and support provider TMG Cloudland has acquired Wellington healthcare specialist Primary IT in a move TMG says strengthens its health sector position.

30.05 Education has received $153 million for school IT infrastructure and services in this year’s Budget. RNZ reports the funding will cover email protection, cyber security, software licensing and equipment replacement at Network for Learning, which provides the backbone network for Kiwi schools.

30.05 Auckland ‘grande dame’ department store Smith & Caughey’s has been hit by a cyber attack. The attack saw the server and retail operations ‘crypto-locked’ on the day the company announced a proposed closure of the 144 year old institution, Stuff reports.

30.05 A hacking group claims to have stolen 1.3 terabytes of data on 560 million Ticketmaster customers globally, and is reportedly seeking a US$500,000 for a one-time sale. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner says it hasn’t been notified by Ticketmaster of a breach impacting New Zealanders, RNZ says.

27.05 Major systemic change is needed in tech education if the industry is to thrive according to the Workforce Development Council’s first workforce development plan for the enabling technologies sector. The report shows that despite the sector being a highly paid, sustainable, innovative growth industry, government investment and tertiary provision in digital technologies training declined by 40 percent, or $22 million, between 2012-22. The report says the sector is also not set up to deliver what industry needs and an industry and government-coordinated, long term, concerted effort is needed.

25.05 ChatGPT is failing to meet EU data accuracy standards, despite measures put in place to comply with the EU data rules, a task force at the EU’s privacy watchdog says. Reuters reports the task force was set up last year following concerns about ChatGPT. Data accuracy is a guiding principle in the EU’s data protection rules.

23.05 Australia’s comms and media regulator, the ACMA has begun legal action against Optus over its 2022 data breach alleging Optus failed to protect customers’ data. Data from more than 10 million current and former customers was breached in the attack. The AFR reports that Optus says it will defend itself and is not yet able to determine potential penalties.

21.05 Strong showings from One NZ and Canberra Data Centres have bolstered results for Infratil, which posted revenue of AU$3.3b (vs $1.8b a year earlier) for the 12 months ending March. Underlying profit was up from $532m to $864m. A ‘substantial’ portion of the increase was attributed to the higher ownership stake in One NZ. Eight CDC data centres are currently under construction across A/NZ with Infratil saying it is responding to a surge in customer demand which has expanded CDC’s development pipeline by more than 400MW in FY2024.

20.05 Former prime minister John Key has been named in a US insider trading case which sees directors and managers at cybersecurity company Palo Alto being sued by shareholders, who allege false and misleading statements were made about the company’s products. Key, who sold his shares last December, says the lawsuits have no merit, Stuff reports.

20.05 Better use of IoT could create at least $2.2 billion in net economic benefit for New Zealand over the next 10 years, according to a report from the NZ IoT Alliance and Chorus. The report shows security and utility monitoring are the most relevant high-bandwidth use cases, while 24 percent of Kiwi organisations have already integrated non-premise IoT with AI, with 38 percent planning to do so in future.

20.05 Gentrack has upgraded its full-year revenue and earnings expectations on the back of growth in recent and in-year new customers, along with upsells and upgrades. The company, which provides software for power and water utilities and airports, reported a 21 percent increase in revenue to $102m, with EBITDA of $12.3m.

14.05 OpenAI has released GPT-4o, amid claims it can converse using speech in real time, sing, read emotional cues and respond to visual input including facial expressions. Ars Technica reports that the new model responds to audio inputs in about 320 milliseconds, similar to human response times and much shorter than the usual 2-3 seconds of previous models. It will be free for ChatGPT users and available through API over the next few weeks.

09.05 An ACC proposal to cut more than 300 roles will include the disestablishment of the Enterprise Change Delivery business unit which includes information systems, technology and analytics services. RNZ reports that a new Technology and Data unit has been proposed to ensure the department has secure platforms and products.

08.05 IBM is embedding AI business solutions into SAP’s cloud in an extension on an ongoing deal between the two companies. Use cases will initially focus on industrial manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, retail, defence, automotive and utilities industries, IBM says.

07.05 The. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it’s accepted the findings of a scathing PwC review of its cloud acceleration and digital workspace transformation programs and will perform a ‘fundamental reset’ to the program. The project costs have blown out, with $2.9m more than the total business case budget spent on the cloud project and a draft business case for the digital workspace project estimating another $12m is required to deliver on the project. There has been ‘limited realisation’ of anticipated business case benefits to the projects so far, PwC’s report notes.

07.05 The Office of the Māori Trustee Te Tumu Paeroa will serve as anchor tenants for Microsoft’s planned Kiwi data centres. IT services provider DDS IT will help with the migration to the new data centre, Microsoft says.

07.05 Wayve, the London-based automated driving startup co-founded by ex-pat Alex Kendall, has raised US$1.05b in series C investment. Softbank led the round, with NVIDIA and Microsoft also throwing money into the ring to enable Wayve to further develop ‘embodied AI’ for autonomous driving. Wayve says embodied AI is ‘the next frontier of AI innovation’ and will enhance usability and safety of autonomous driving systems.

06.05 The Commerce Commission has cleared One NZ to acquire Dense Air, which owns the management rights to two lots of radio spectrum suitable for mobile network use. The Commission says it is satisfied the merger is unlikely to substantially lessen competition.

06.05 Public and private sector spending cuts, which have significantly reduced demand for Spark’s IT service management and professional services are being blamed as Spark reduces its EBITDAI guidance. First half results noted weaker demand in the enterprise and government market, which impacts Spark’s IT revenues, with the telco saying those spending cuts have deepened. The company is now forecasting EBIDTAI of $1.71b to $1.21b, rather than the previous $1.21b to $1.26b.

04.05 The Privacy Foundation has called Department of Internal Affairs plans to axe at least seven privacy and information security roles – including the Government Chief Privacy Officer – ‘completely unintelligent’ and a ‘random act of vandalism. RNZ says the foundation says the proposal if implemented, could cause serious detriment to public trust and confidence in government services.

03.05 An updated code of conduct for Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service says integrations with the service must not be used for real-time facial recognition by any law enforcement globally. The change comes as Microsoft bans US police departments from using its AI cloud service for facial recognition, Quartz reports.

AppWrap April 2024

30.04 Fintech investment has retreated to below pre-pandemic levels in New Zealand, with total local venture capital and angel investment plummeting 88 percent – or $163m – in 2023 as deal volume halved. The figures are included in a sneak peak into the 2024 2024 NZ Fintech Report, due to launch in May. Just 16 deals, raising $21.9m are recorded for 2023, down from $185.5m for 30 deals in 2022.

29.04 A ‘massive’ overhaul of the New Zealand police intelligence system has been put on hold amid government cost cutting, despite earlier assessments showing the systems are slow and error prone. RNZ reports an overhaul of the National Intelligence Application and the Core Policing Services as a whole is required.

29.04 Investors poured nearly US$22 billion into generative AI deals last year, despite many startups not having released products yet. The WSJ (paywalled) reports CB Insights figures show the investment was up fivefold year on year.

28.04 A diverse lineup of finalists, including Ian Taylor, have been announced in the Matihiko Awards, designed to shine a light on Māori contributions to the digital and tech economy. The finalists include representatives from a range of organisations including Wētā FX, Aurecon, Kiwa Digital, Microsoft and the Univerity of Canterbury.

25.04 IBM is acquiring multicloud software company HashiCorp in a $6.4 billion deal to expand its  hybrid cloud solution suite. Shareholder and regulatory approval is still required, but the deal is expected to close by the end of the year. IBM says the deal will create ‘a comprehensive end-to-end hybrid cloud platform for the AI era’.

23.04 A woman who promoted the Lion’s Share global cryptocurrency pyramid scheme to Maori and Pasifika communities and stated she was going to make history as ‘one of the biggest scammers in New Zealand’ has been convicted on five charges under the Fair Trading Act. Shelly Cullen promoted the scheme, saw people around the world lose almost NZ$17m, in 2020-21. She will be sentenced at a later date. ComCom says the scheme was one of the biggest pyramid schemes it has seen promoted in New Zealand and says Cullen’s conviction highlights a brazen disregard for potentially vulnerable consumers.

22.04 A ‘major’ upgrade to the  Department of Internal Affairs’ passport system, and seasonal demand, has seen passport processing times blow out to eight weeks. The number of passports processed in March was almost half of that handled in February, RNZ reports. The DIA says the delays could continue as the new system is bedded in. The upgrades are designed to improve applications for groups and families and make the website and processes simpler.

22.04 The Commerce Commission has launched an approach paper for the Copper Services Investigation as it investigates the future of New Zealand’s copper network. The investigation is focused on whether competitive, affordable alternatives to copper exist and, if so, whether removing or reshaping copper regulations is in the best interest of consumers. Submissions from stakeholders close 22 May 2024, ComCom says.

19.04 Meta has unveiled its Meta Llama 3 AI model, which will be integrated into Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The company released two models, one with eight billion parameters and one with 70bn parameters, claiming Llama 3 has ‘vastly improved capabilities’, the Financial Times reports. The model is ‘less sanctimonious’ than the previous model, Meta says.

18.04 The Commerce Commission is proposing to cut $303 million – or 16 percent – from Chorus’ $1.5b spending plan for the 2025-28 regulatory period. Chorus says it has already cut spending by $200m in February to $1.3 billion to $1.3 billion, RNZ reports.

18.04 Noel Leeming has launched a program enabling Kiwis to trade in old smartphones, laptops, tablets and smart watches and receive gift cards in return. Only ‘approved’ devices are being accepted and the devices will be repurposed, Noel Leeming says.

17.04 Planning for GenAI initiatives is forecast to drive an eight percent increase in worldwide IT spend in 2024. Gartner says spend will hit US$5.06 trillion, with IT services on track to become the larges market Gartner tracks, clocking 9.7 percent growth as lack of internal staff drives consulting spend.

16.04 Australia and New Zealand bucked an APAC trend to deliver declining year on year IT and business services market spend in Q1. ISG’s Asia Pacific Index, which measures commercial outsourcing contracts with annual contract value of US$5 million or more shows ACV was up 25 percent for Asia Pacific but down 15 percent for A/NZ, the only countries not to record growth.

15.04 Salesforce is reportedly close to buying Informatica in a deal which would add to the company’s data integration and management capabilities. The two companies have bene in talks and could reach a deal within a week, Bloomberg says. The deal would be one of the company’s biggest ever deals, and its biggest since its purchased Slack in 2020 for nearly US$28 billion.

14.04 Data centre company T4 Group has acquired land for a data centre in Invercargill. Stuff reports that the company is starting detailed engineering and expects to have the first stage completed by April 2025.

11.04 Rocket Lab has won a US$32 million contract from the US Space Force Space Systems Command to contribute to the ‘Victus Haze’ Tactically Responsive Space Mission designed to provide rapid threat response from space. Rocket Lab says it will design, build, launch and operate a rendezvous proximity operation capable space craft with the mission due for launch in 2025.

10.04 TradeWindow says it has finished the financial year strongly with unaudited trading revenue of $6.2 million – the top end of its guidance range. The company is days out from closing a $2.2 million capital raising and says the release of the information is to ensure investors are ‘fully informed’ of progress.

10.08 The Privacy Commissioner’s office has developed draft rules for the use of biometric technologies and is calling for public reaction. New Zealand doesn’t currently have special rules for biometric technology but Commissioner Michael Webster says biometrics needs special protections, especially in specific circumstances. People can have their say on the exposure draft until 08 May 2024, the Privacy Commissioner’s Office says.

08.04 New Zealand’s Financial Markets Authority has moved to strengthen cyber security and reporting around cyber incidents. The new standard condition requires certain licence holders to have a business continuity plan ‘appropriate for the scale and scope of its service’, to ensure critical systems are operationally resilient and to notify the FMA within 72 hours of any ‘material’ incidents. The FMA says it has launched a secure online notification form for relevant financial institutions to notify it of incidents. The requirements come into effect on 01 July.

08.04 The jobs of around 30 engineers and scientists are expected to be impacted by Callaghan Innovation’s restructure as it pulls back to it’s ‘core purpose’. The NZ Herald reports Callaghan’s board directed the organisation to refocus on being an innovation agency and advanced technology institute in order to make the biggest impact on the innovation ecosystem development.

08.04 NZ’s listed market regulator, NZ RegCo, has issued a ‘trade with caution’ warning for Being AI, urging investors to ‘access and consider the information relevant to the recent reverse listing transaction’. Shares in Being AI, which listed earlier this month in a reverse listing via Ascension Capital, had jumped significantly since listing, prompting NZ RegCo to query whether there was any material information not being disclosed to the market. Being AI says it is in compliance with listing rules. An independent appraisal report on the reverse listing concluded the transaction when viewed as a whole, was fair to Ascension’s shareholders, NZ RegCo says.

07.04 Judith Collins will be pushing NZ as a space tech destination while in the US next week. The Science, Innovation and Technology minister is attending the 39th Space Symposium and says she will be promoting the advantages of doing business in NZ before meeting with the mayor of Long Beach to continue the space push, RNZ says.

05.04 There’s been a 58.3 percent decline in demand for tech professionals in New Zealand in the past year, according to the Recruitment, Consulting and Staffing Association, which says AI is impacting how organisations hire, and pushing coders out of work. The changes haven’t however, resulted in high unemployment among IT professionals, thanks to earlier acute shortages, but the number of job posting is now at the lowest since RCSA counts started in mid-2018, 1News says.

05.04 KPMG has expanded its alliance with Google Cloud, with the two companies establishing a program to help KPMG’s clients accelerate genAI adoption. KPMG says it will deploy the Gemini for Google Cloud genAI assistant for internal use and has established a centre of excellence around Google Cloud AI technologies.

04.04 The Privacy Commission has released a list of the 25 Foodstuffs North Island stores involved in the facial recognition trial. The Privacy Commissioner’s investigation into the six month trial began today, it says.

04.04 The Office of the Auditor-General has begun a review of cyber security governance in public organisations. It says it will examine how well a sample of public organisations govern their cybersecurity risk preparedness and response, including whether they understand their risks and vulnerabilities to both information and services and how well they enable, review and monitor risk management.

04.04 Google is reportedly considering charging for AI-assisted internet searches. The Guardian reports that the plans would see Google offering its new search feature, currently in beta, to users of its premium subscription services, which customers already have to sign up to if they want to use AI assistants in other tools such as Gmail and its office suite.

03.04 Auckland’s Activate has been acquired by Sydney ‘software aggregator’ Software Combined for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition of the self-service automation and business process company gives Software Combined a presence in New Zealand and is the seventh acquisition for the company since it began in 2020, it says.

02.04 Microsoft is breaking Teams out from its Office software globally, following last year’s European separation under threat of fines from competition watchdogs. BBC says it’s unclear if the decision will be enough to avoid EU antitrust charges. Microsoft has said Teams will no longer be available as part of the Office suite to net new subscribers. Those currently subscribed can continue to use, renew, upgrade and add seats to their current plans or switch to the new lineup.

AppWrap March 2024

30.03 Sam Bankman-Fried, co-founder of the failed FTX crypto exchange has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for fraud. Bankman-Fried was convicted last year of stealing US$8 billion from customers and faced a maximum sentence of 110 years, the NYTimes reports.

26.03 TradeWindow has launched a $2.2m capital raising to fund its Australian expansion. The raise is the third in recent history and was announced alongside updated guidance for the 12 months to the end of March 2024 of $6.1 to 6.2 million.

26.03 Stuff says it’s partnering with Straker and Microsoft in a pilot program to increase the number of articles it produces in te reo Māori and ‘normalise’ it through Stuff’s channels. Human translation will be combined with AI to enable translation of content at scale, Stuff (the company) says. The content will be quality-checked by translators and editors before publication.

26.03 The GCSB says the Chinese state-backed APT40 group targeted the New Zealand government services in a 2021 cyber attack. It says following a thorough investigations into the attack, which saw ‘some’ data stolen it is able to ‘confidently link’ the attack to China. The stolen data was not considered sensitive or strategic. The Chinese embassy has denied involvement, the Guardian reports. Both the UK and US have accused China of similar attacks.

23.03 Scott Technology’s CEO John Kippenberger and CFO Cameron Mathewson have both resigned. Scott Technology chair Stuart McLachlan says the two announcements in the same week are an ‘unfortunate coincidence’ and are ‘completely unrelated and in no way signal that there are any matters that are of concern to the board’. Scott Technologies says Kippenberger, who resigned first, has offered to delay his departure in the wake of Mathewson’s announcement.

22.03 The GCSB has been given a dressing down for hosting foreign partner supplied and controlled signals intelligence hardware in a GCSB facility and taking part in a wider intelligence program related to the capability without ministerial approval or knowledge. The Inspector-General of intelligence and Security (IGIS) says the system was deployed and ran from 2013 to 2020 when it was stopped by an equipment failure. While details about the capability are ‘highly classified’ and haven’t been revealed, the IGIS report says it ‘produced intelligence that could help find remote targets’.

20.03 Forty kaiako, principals and senior leaders from 10 schools have graduated from Apple’s Te Pūkenga program to combat ‘systemic racism’. Newshub says 19 of them are graduating with a NZQA-accredited micro-credential in digital technologies. Apple is providing skills and devices needed to tech the digital technologies curriculum in an effort to combat the lack of Māori in the sector.

16.03 Epic Games legal battle with Apple and Google has begun in a Melbourne Federal Court. The five-month showdown centres around allegations of misuse of market power by Apple and Google in regards to their control over their app stores. The Guardian reports that Epic’s Fortnite was kicked off Google and Apple app stores in 2020 after the company offered its own in-app payment system which bypassed those used by the platforms and cut out the fees Apple and Google received for in-app payments. Epic lost an antitrust case against Apple in 2021, but won its case against Google last year. The Australian cases have been pulled into a single case.

17.03 Photonic research led by a lecturer at the University of Auckland is on track to help improve internet data speed and provide ‘another tool in the toolkit’ for advancing technology that uses precise distance tracking, such as that required for self driving cars. Associate Professor Miro Erkintalo told 1News microcomb technology has become one of the biggest areas of research in laser physics and that New Zealanders are leading the charge.

16.03 A hacker is claiming to have stolen data relating to 2.5 million Kiwis in an alleged MediaWorks hack. The information, which reportedly includes names, addresses, mobile numbers, email addresses and voting details from The Block, is being offered for sale on the dark web, Newshub reports.

15.03 McDonalds is blaming a third-party configuration change for system failures around the world on Friday. The issue saw some restaurants around the world, including in Australia and New Zealand, shut for hours after staff were unable to take orders or serve food, Inc Australia reports.

15.03 HealthNZ has put out an RFP for a single national desktop as it seeks to move disparate local desktops across the health network to a single ‘evergreen’ national one using Windows. The RFP says the migration will be multiyear, with the majority of the HealthNZ’s corporate and management staff – up to 15,000 staff – to be moved by June 2024. Migration of clinical staff will begin ‘in the near future’.

15.03 Microsoft’s LinkedIn has been served with a request for information from the EU over its use of user data for ad tracking. It’s the latest platform to be face questions, with Facebook and Instagram owner Meta also under scrutiny for potential breach of the Digital Services Act prohibition on larger platforms’ use of sensitive data for ad targeting, Tech Crunch reports.

14.03  A London high court has ruled that Australian computer scientist Craig Wright is not the creator of bitcoin. The presiding judge ruled that Wright, who claimed to have invented the cryptocurrency, was not the author of the bitcoin whitepaper and nor was he ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ – the pseudonym of the bitcoin creator – The Guardian says.

14.03 Callaghan Innovation is cutting staff and upping its revenue generating, commercial science services as part of a ‘reset’. RNZ reports staff were presented with a document outlining the reset last week.

14.03 The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that could see TikTok banned throughout the United States. TikTok parent ByteDance would have six months to sell its controlling stake or the app would be banned in the US, the BBC reports. The bill still needs to clear Senate and be signed by the president in order to become law.

13.03 The New Zealand PC market declined 10.7 percent in 2023 with 669,000 units shipped. IDC says the commercial segment declined 12.5 percent year on year, as companies decreased spend in uncertain economic conditions, and pushed refresh cycles out. The SMB segment slumped 21 percent and declining demand for Chrome- and Windows-based devices saw the education segment drop 14.8 percent. The consumer segment was down 8.1 percent.

13.03 The European Parliament has approved the AI Act, dubbed the world’s first ‘comprehensive, binding rules’ for AI. The Act takes a risk-based approach, with more risky AI applications facing greater scrutiny. The majority of AI systems, such as content recommendation systems, are expected to be low risk, with companies able to follow the voluntary requirements. Higher risk scenarios will face tougher requirements when the Act passes into law later this year. Time says the AI Act is expected to act as a global signpost for other governments grappling with regulation of the technology.

12.03 Twenty-eight percent of Kiwi businesses impacted by a cyber attack or incident point to third-party suppliers as the cause according to new research from Kordia. The research, which surveyed businesses hit by cyberattacks in 2023, found cloud misconfigurations and software vulnerabilities were also responsible for causing cyber incidents for 39 percent of businesses. One in three businesses impacted by cyber incidents said their business operations were disrupted, with 29 percent admitting personal data was stolen or accessed, Kordia says.

10.03 Nearly 50 percent of Whangārei businesses attending a recent Robot Revolution business talk on AI and smart manufacturing are trying out AI. The Northern Advocate reports that a further 33 percent said they knew they need AI but didn’t know where to start, while 14 percent say they’ve implemented the technology and are already ‘rocking it’.

09.03 The Russian hackers who broke into Microsoft’s account are still attempting to use stolen data from corporate emails to gain further access to its systems. Microsoft first disclosed the hack, by a group linked to Russia’s foreign intelligence, in January, and now says in recent weeks stolen information has bene used to access some of the company’s source code repositories and internal systems, CNN Business reports.

07.03 BlockchainNZ has called out a lack of action in the new government’s response to a select committee inquiry into the future nature, impact and risks of cryptocurrencies. The inquiry’s recommendations included establishing a regulatory sandbox and improving public information on how to deal with fraudsters in the digital asset space, but BlockchainNZ says the government’s response is simply to continue to monitor international developments. “The acknowledgement of the potential benefits is a positive sign. However, without concrete actions and a sense of urgency, New Zealand risks falling even further behind,” the organisation says.

06.03 Creditors of the failed Cryptopia cryptocurrency exchange are unlikely to receive any money back until mid-2025. The Wellington High Court says the exchange pooled cryptocurrencies in its own wallets with changes in beneficial ownership not recorded by a transaction on the blockchain, leading to ‘significant challenges’ in assessing the nature and value of trust assets. Cryptocurrency holders with the platform will have until 31 December 2024 to complete the claims process.

05.03 Accenture is buying learning platform Udacity for an undisclosed sum, as part of a plan to launch a technology training service for enterprises and government organisations. Accenture says it will be investing $1 billion in building the LearnVantage learning platform which will be integrated with Udacity.

05.03 Google and Xprize have launched a $5m competition to find practical uses for quantum computers. The three-year competition aims to find specific real-world applications for quantum, rather than ‘simple benchmarks’, NewScientist reports.

06.03 Telehealth use in Kiwi hospitals is ailing in many regions, with a ‘significant’ telehealth divide and minimal improvement in interoperability, governance, change management, training and support for ongoing initiatives in most districts. The NZ Telehealth Use in Public Hospitals Stocktake says while Covid related investment drove increased use since the 2019 stocktake, most districts are only somewhat or slightly equipped to use telehealth as a tool to facilitate the health reforms and non are completely equipped to adopt telehealth business as usual.

01.03 The Australian government is seeking advice from Treasury and the ACCC after Meta announced it will stop paying Australian news publishers for content appearing on Facebook. Reuters reports that the move has set up a new battle with Canberra which has long argued that platforms like Facebook and Google unfairly benefit in terms of advertising revenue when links to news articles appear on their platforms. Meta says it is discontinuing the news tab in Australia and the US and as a result won’t be entering into any new commercial deals for traditional news content in those countries.

02.03 The US is investigating whether Chinese car imports pose national security risks because of the vehicles collection of large amounts of data on drivers and passengers and the use of cameras and sensors to record detailed information on US infrastructure. Reuters says restrictions could be imposed due to the concerns.

02.03 Elon Musk is suing ChatGPT maker OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman, claiming they have abandoned the original mission to develop AI for the benefit of humanity and not for profit. The BBC reports that Musk, who was an early co-founder of OpenAI, is claiming the company has become focused on ‘maximising profits’ for major investor Microsoft.

AppWrap February 2024

26.02 Callaghan Innovation has teamed up with Māori social impact organisation Tapuwai Roa and Sprout Digital to launch a 10-week Māori startup accelerator. Tupu will provide assistance and mentorship to 10 early-stage Māori startups, with selected teams also receiving a $5,000 grant, Tapuwai Roa says. Applications close 25 March.

29.02 Xero has jumped into generative AI with Just Ask Xero (Jax), a ‘smart business companion’ enabling customers to interact with Xero’s product. When available customers will be able to ask Jax to complete tasks such as generating invoices, editing quotes or paying bills either in Xero or other commonly used apps, Xero says.

28.02 Kiwi brand-tracking startup Tracksuit has raised $22m in its second external investment, with the company planning to use the funding for growth into the US and UK markets, Stoppress reports.

26.02 The Serious Fraud Office has launched an investigation into the failed Auckland-based Dasset cryptocurrency trading platform. Dasset collapsed into liquidation last August with liabilities of $6.9 million and digital assets of just $600,000, according to the liquidator’s first report. The SFO says it began making enquiries last year following a referral from the Financial Markets Authority, and has now escalated that to a full investigation.

23.02 Google has ‘paused’ its Gemini people image generation, just three weeks after launch, admitting the feature ‘missed the mark’ with inaccurate or even offensive images as the model ‘overcompensated in some cases, and [was] over-conservative in others’. The company publicly apologised and says it’s working to improve it ‘significantly’ before turning it back on.

23.02 The Ministry of Social Development has inked a number of significant tech deals with companies including Accenture, PwC, Datacom and DXC in the year ending 30 June 2023. ResellerNews reports that PwC won a $12.4m deal for advisory work on the Te Pae Tawhiti multi-year transformation program, which also saw Accenture pick up $10.8m, along with a further $15.4m for system design, implementation and support services. Datacom received $6.2m for program and IT expertise.

21.02 The LockBit ransomware group which was allegedly behind demands for money for hacked health records and other information in New Zealand in 2022 has been taken down in a global law enforcement operation, led by the UK’s National Crime Agency. RNZ reports that New Zealand Police were among the agencies involved in the takedown of the group, which the NCA says has been operating for four years and caused ‘losses of billions of pounds, dollars and euros’ in ransom payments and recovery costs.

20.02 Kiwis’ concerns over fake news have jumped six percentage points to 65 percent in the last year, while 42 percent of those who know at least a little bit about AI saying they’re more concerned than excited about the technology. The figures come from InternetNZ’s new survey of 1,001 people in NZ. Ninety-six percent said they were ‘at least a little bit concerned’ AI would be used for malicious purposes.

19.02 NZ has joined the Pall Mall Process, an alliance against spyware and hackers for hire. RNZ reports that the National Security Group says the signing doesn’t impose any obligations on New Zealand other than to keep up with multilateral talks.

19.02 An orbital debris inspection satellite has been Rocket Lab’s 44 successful Electron rocket launch. The satellite, deployed in today’s successful launch, has been designed to test technology and ways to monitor space junk. It’s the first phase in assessing the potential for satellites to assist with ‘de-orbiting’ space junk, Rocket Lab says.

16.02 An NZ AI Policy Tracker which aims to consolidate information about New Zealand’s disparate AI regulatory framework, has been welcomed by the AI Forum NZ. The policy tracker, by Brainbox Institute, bills itself as a ‘one-stop resource’ for information about the Kiwi AI regulatory landscape, focused primarily on government policies but including inputs from civil society and academia.

15.02 Manufacturers have been warned they’re at least a decade behind European counterparts and need to invest in digital to transform their supply chain and internal operations. Westpac NZ industry economist Paul Clark says globally manufacturers are moving towards greater automation with AI, robotics, cloud computing and sensors to monitor and control processes in real time, RNZ reports.

15.02 Wellington-based managed service provider Liquid, whose customers include government, transport and public service organisations, has been bought by Australian network and digital infrastructure provider Orro. The deal is the first for Orro outside of Australia, it says.

12.02 Cyber breaches are the number one business risk keeping Kiwi business owners up at night according to Aon’s 2023 Global Risk Management Survey, which puts cyber ahead of concerns about economic slowdown/slow recovery and skills issues.

12.02 NZTech has welcomed the first independent review of New Zealand’s online safety, saying it provides an opportunity to assess the progress tech companies have made following 2022 baseline reports. The report will be used to hold tech companies to account, NZTech says. David Shanks, former NZ chief censor, will join the oversight committee this month.

09.02 The Bard has been banished, with Gemini instead rising in its place as Google introduced its free AI Gemini app. The app for Android has launched, with Gemini’s features expected to be added to Google’s existing search app for iPhones in the coming weeks. US customers can subscribe for US$19.99 a month to access Gemini Advanced, Fortune reports.

08.02 More than 200 ‘AI stakeholders’, including big tech, civil society and academia, have joined the newly launched US AI Safety Institute Consortium. The US Department of Commerce says the consortium will help set safety standards and protect the US innovation ecosystem.

08.02 Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster has warned he’ll be keeping a close eye on Foodstuffs North Island’s facial recognition technology (FRT) trial, which starts today. The 25-store trial was prompted by Webster asking Foodstuffs to provide evidence that FRT was a justified way to reduce retail crime given the privacy impacts of using shoppers’ biometric information.

05.02 Chorus has cut $200m – and 30,000 premises – from its proposed fibre capital expenditure and says it it will extend fibre broadband to 10,000 premises by FY25 at a cost of about $40m. In an update to the Commerce Commission Chorus says it will continue to investigate ways to extend the fibre footprint, but that the ‘discretionary investment’ remains contingent on pricing, market and regulatory developments. “In the absence of current clarity on the conditions for that investment, we’ve removed approximately $200m from our main proposal and would instead include it in a separate individual capital expenditure proposal if and when the conditions to support such investment are satisfied.”

02.02 The Commerce Commission has outlined the potential competition issues it sees with One NZ’s proposed acquisition of Dense Air NZ, saying it is continuing to investigate ‘issues and theories of harm’. Among those is a concern that the deal would increase the disparity between One NZ’s holdings and those of 2degrees and could affect 2degrees’ ability to compete with One NZ and Spark in wholesale and/or retail telco services, leading to consumers facing higher prices, less choice or lower quality, ComCom says.

02.02 US government agencies have been ordered to take Ivanti VPN products offline by the end of the day due to actively exploited vulnerabilities. Patches for the four vulnerabilities are available however the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued the order, saying agencies must perform additional forensic analysis and clean-up steps in case they have already been compromised CSOonline reports. Australia’s ASD warned about the critical vulnerabilities in Ivanti Connect Secure and Policy Secure in January.

01.02 Queenstown has launched a development agency focused growing the tech sector into a billion-dollar industry. Technology Queenstown says its research shows the sector needs an extra 3,000 people over the next 20 years to grow the industry to from the current $100 million to between $650 million and  $1.3b per year. The tech sector currently accounts for 1.5 percent of the region’s GDP, with the agency hoping that will increase to up to 20 percent by 2043.

01.02 Incoming communications minister, Melissa Lee, has been warned that while the communications regulatory system is generally in good health, ‘the job is not done’ with NZ regulatory systems needing to adapt to keep pace with evolving technology and business models. The MBIE briefing paper for Lee says there are questions around the future role of local fibre companies and whether it makes sense to treat Chorus differently from Tuatahi, Enable and Northpower, along with questions over whether the rules for telecommunications infrastructure are fit for purpose. Rural broadband is also highlighted as an area of concern.

AppWrap January 2024

31.01 Up to $6m is being made available to Kiwi researchers to participate in collaborative research projects with Australia’s SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre. The funding, from the government’s Catalyst Fund, follows the signing of a space science and technology partnership deal between the New Zealand Space Agency and Australia’s SmartSat Co-operative Research Centre. Projects will focus on earth observation, space situational awareness and optical communications with the two agencies working on research to make better use of aerospace-enabled data in primary industries, advance technology to improve communications and support safe and responsible use of space, MBIE says.

30.01 Climate Change minister Simon Watts is eyeing up technology as a key means to reducing agricultural emissions. The party plans to harness biotech with policies enabling gene-edited crops, feed and livestock, Stuff says. National has promised to partner with the tech sector to ensure the policy and regulatory environment required to support more innovation and faster growth.

29.01 A ‘supermassive mother of all breaches’ involving 12 terabytes of data and 26 billion records from organisations including LinkedIn, Twitter, Weibo, Adobe and Canva has been revealed by security researchers. Security researcher Bob Dyachenko and Cybernews discovered the billions or exposed records on an open instance. Data breach search engine Leak-Loopup has since disclosed that it was the holder of the leaded dataset with a ‘firewall misconfiguration’ leading to the leak, Cybernews says.

28.01 Microsoft, eBay, Amazon and Tiktok have started the year with mass layoffs. Microsoft is cutting 1,900 jobs in its 22,000-strong gaming division, while TikTok is shedding 60 jobs in its advertising and sales unit, FastCompany reports. Ebay will cut around 1,000 jobs, while google is laying off ‘hundreds’ of employees from its hardware, voice assistance and engineering teams. The layoffs follow SAPs announcement earlier in the week that it was restructuring with 8,000 jobs impacted (see below).

26.01 The Auckland Chamber of Commerce is calling for more central government attention on the creative tech sector, including a new Minister for the Creative and Cultural Economy as part of a five year plan to make Auckland a global tech hub. Health and financial tech are also part of the plan, Newsroom reports.

24.01 SAP is restructuring its business in a move affecting 8,000 jobs as it shifts its focus to AI. SAP says the restructure will cost €2 billion with it retraining staff or replacing then through voluntary redundancy programs. The company has previously announced plans to embed ChatGPT in its products. The restructure was confirmed during SAP’s FY23 financial results announcement where it revealed revenue for the year was up six percent to €31.2b with operating profit down five percent to €5.8b.

23.01 Underinvestment in technology by supermarket chains has helped lead to systemic issues with pricing, according to Consumer NZ. Jon Duffy, Consumer NZ CEO, says the supermarkets haven’t been incentivised to use technology to clean up their lax pricing practices as they haven’t been called to account for those practices, RNZ reports. The Commerce Commission is currently investigating whether the pricing and promotional activities of Woolworths and Foodstuffs comply with the Fair Trading Act.

19.01 Russian state-sponsored hackers have gained access to Microsoft’s corporate systems, stealing emails and documents from staff accounts. The compromise began in November 2023 and was identified by Microsoft’s security team on 12 January. Microsoft says to date there is no evidence any access to customer environments, production systems, source code or AI systems was gained.

17.12 Gartner has forecast worldwide IT spending to hit $5 trillion this year, up 6.8 percent on 2023 – down on a previous forecast for an eight percent increase for the year. And despite the hype around GenAI, it won’t be impacting spend significantly. Software spend (up 12.7 percent) and IT services (up 8.7 percent) will be the biggest movers, with IT services becoming the largest segment of spend this year, according to Gartner’s forecast.

16.01 Auckland-based managed service provider Lancom Technology has been acquired by US MSP group Evergreen in the first expansion into ANZ for Evergreen. Lancom says it only took three weeks to decide Evergreen was the right partner for its business, with the US company committed ‘to preserving our team’s expertise, rather than replacing it’.

11.01 HPE’s US$14b plans to buy Juniper Networks has raised scepticism on Wall Street, Bloomberg reports. HPE says the deal will ‘accelerate AI-driven innovation’ amid the ongoing AI gold rush, but has left some analysts questioning the potential acquisition and whether the purchase of a legacy tech company like Juniper will complicate growth initiatives. Concerns have also been raised over the risk of an increasing debt load and overlapping product lines, Bloomberg says.

10.01 New Zealand has been ranked 49 out of 193 countries in the Oxford Insights Government AI Readiness Index 2023, well behind 12th ranked Australia. Both countries excel in the data and infrastructure pillar the report notes. The report also covers at government and tech sector pillars – areas where New Zealand didn’t fare as well – and measures 39 indicators.

09.01 OpenAI has admitted that it would be ‘impossible’ to develop GenAI without using copyrighted material. The admission comes as OpenAI is embroiled in legal action, brought against it by the New York Times, which has accused the company of mass copyright infringement. Responding to a UK parliamentary probe on large language models, Open AI defended its use of copyrighted material saying current copyright laws don’t forbid training data, BankInfoSecurity reports.

01.01 Kiwi video game studios netted $434.4 million in the year to April 2023, with 95 percent of that coming from high-value digital exports, according to a a NZ Game Developers Association survey. However, the impact of Australian competition has hit growth, which tumbled from 47 percent the previous year to just seven percent – well below the five year average of 26 percent.

For 2023 news from around the web head over to the 2023 AppWrap archive.

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