Hashtag Trending Apr.18-Malicious software in fake ChatGPT app target Facebook users, Google releases emergency update, Tech workers offered their old jobs back at half pay and no benefits

Tech workers asked how’d you like your old job back at half pay and no benefits, Rumours abound that Samsung might dump Google’s Chrome browser for Microsoft’s AI powered Bing and heaven help me, but AI really is going to the dogs. 

These stories and more on Hashtag Trending for Tuesday, April 18th

I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US – here’s today’s top tech news stories.

The Seattle Times featured a story about a number of tech workers who had lost their positions with large tech firms who were asked if they wanted to return to the company that had let them go.

In the rush to meet the numbers of layoffs, it appears that although few companies did the savage cuts that Elon Musk did at Twitter, in other companies, they may have discovered they had lost some key resources in their zeal to cut costs. 

So they are back, recruiting talent. But, there’s a catch. When the recruiters called them, they were offered contract positions, not full time positions. They were also offered lower salaries and no benefits.

Needless to say, many of those quoted in the article were not impressed. 

One potential candidate who was told that she would be “perfect for Microsoft” had to explain to a recruiter three times that she was not going to move from full time to contract. “I do have a sense of pride,” she said. “There’s no way I want to go back…making half the amount.”

Another former Amazon worker, approached to take a contract role, was a little more blunt. “Tell Amazon if they want an engineer, they can just not fire me later this month.” 

 Sources include:  Seattle Times

“Imagine losing 20 years’ worth of memories and access to both personal and professional Facebook accounts with a single click.” That’s the start to a blog from a company called CybelAngel that reported that 40,000 Facebook users were victims of a malicious software that was hidden in what seemed like a harmless app. 

The tool was a fake ChatGPT app which managed to steal credentials, bypass even two factor authentication and ultimately, take control of their Facebook accounts.  Users were locked out of their accounts and some are reported to have lost many of their key memories. 

The culprit appears to either a Windows or Chrome extension that impersonated a ChatGPT app but was subsequently removed from the Chrome store, unfortunately after thousands had already downloaded it. 

While many of our listeners are tech professionals, we should all spread the word that in a “goldrush” like the current AI market, there are going to be clever and technically competent hackers who will exploit our enthusiasm to try out this new thing.

But it’s absolutely critical that everyone take a moment and ask themselves – how can I sure that this is not hiding malicious software and what would I do if I lost my passwords or may data? 

And if you don’t know the answer to those questions, ask yourself one more – is being first to use a new app, worth the risk?  

Sources: CybelAngel 

In another high profile cyber risk, Google released an emergency update to Chrome to address a high severity bug.  Google’s Chrome Browser is used by billions of people world-wide, so a high severity, zero-day exploit is a big deal.

The vulnerability, according to security blog, The Register, can be leveraged to run arbitrary code in your browser. 

Google notes on their Chrome Releases blog that they are “aware that an exploit for (this vulnerability) exists in the wild.”  

Other than that, they are not releasing details about the threat, stating, “Access to bug details and links may be kept restricted until a majority of users are updated with a fix. We will also retain restrictions if the bug exists in a third party library that other projects similarly depend on, but haven’t yet fixed.”

But despite their silence – with the severity and the existing of at least one known exploit, it’s critical that users update Google Chrome to the latest version immediately.

Sources Include: The Register, Google

And while we are talking about Google, there have been multiple reports that Google has put its new AI enhanced search capability into high gear with a new project code named Magi. 

The impetus for this, according to a report in the New York Times is that reportedly, Google learned that smart phone giant Samsung was considering ditching Google in favour of rival Bing as the default search engine on its phones. 

Samsung is one of the biggest smartphone manufacturers and it’s search contract with Google is estimated to be worth 3 billion dollars annually.  

Alphabet, Google’s parent saw its shares drop by as much as 4 per cent on Monday when the story about Samsung first surfaced. Listeners might also remember that Google lost about $100 billion in share value last February when it’s new chatbot, Bard made a mistake during a promotional video event.

And if that was not enough of a threat, Google also has a deal with Apple, also up for renewal this year. That’s worth an additional 20 billion dollars.

Despite the amount of interest in Microsoft’s AI powered Bing search engine Microsoft’s 10 billion plus investment in ChatGPT hasn’t radically changed its percentage of the search market. According statscounter.com Bing is still Google’s largest competitor, but still only has a miniscule 3 per cent of the global search engine market share and Google is still at 93 per cent share of that market.

So while Google is not in a panic, it is moving to try to accelerate its development while still appearing to be responding to growing concerns about AI. It’s a fine line to walk.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai was on CBS’ 60 minutes showing Google’s many AI projects. 

60 Minutes interviewer, Scott Pelley, after seeing these projects, noted that he was “speechless.”  

Pelley also expressed what has come to be a common concern when he said, “Competitive pressure among giants like Google and startups you’ve never heard of is propelling humanity into the future, ready or not.” 

 In another comment Pelley also asked the pointed question, “You don’t fully understand how it works and yet you’ve turned it loose on society?”

Google’s CEO made his best attempts through the interview to project optimism about society’s ability to control AI, but his response to Pelley’s comment may not have hit the reassuring note he might be hoping for. His answer was, I don’t think we fully understand how a human mind works either.”

Sources include: The Register  CNBC Reuters 

And I’m sorry, I know what a cheap line this is, but AI really is going to the dogs. 

A new smart AI enabled device has hit the market. It’s called Companion dispenses treats and provides your dog with “all day scheduled and on demand engagement for your dog with games, behavioural programs and training.” 

Says my dog, “you had me at treats.”

According to Companion the device uses “AI hardware, machine learning and best in class positive reinforcement techniques.”

It will play commands using the owner’s voice to teach obedience. And it will even monitor your dog’s health – looking for any subtle behaviour that might indicate pain, anxiety or stress.”

You too can have a “chatbot for your dog” for a mere $49.00 a month, but you’ll have to sit and stay until May 2024 when this new treat will be given to you – if you’re good.

Sources include: Axios

That’s the top tech news for today.  Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with the daily tech news and we have a special weekend edition where we do an in depth interview with an expert on some tech development that is making the news. 

Follow us on Apple, Google, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Links to all the stories we’ve covered can be found in the text edition of this podcast at itworldcanada.com/podcasts

We love your comments – good or bad. You can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or on Mastodon as @therealjimlove on our Mastodon site technews.social.  Or just leave a comment under the text version at itworldcanada.com/podcasts  

I’m your host, Jim Love, have a Terrific Tuesday!

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