Hashtag Trending Jan.25- New tool against vulnerabilities in open source AI models; AI behind doomsday?; 40th birthday of Macintosh

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Researchers find huge vulnerabilities in open source AI models, a travel company sees a surge in popularity of the filter than allows you to choose which aircraft to avoid, scientists set the doomsday clock at 90 seconds to midnight naming AI as one of the causes, a professor demonstrates how easy it might be to hack a voting machine and we celebrate the 40th birthday of the Macintosh.

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All this and more on this nostalgia edition of Hashtag Trending. I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and TechNewsDay in the US.  

A recent study by Protect AI researchers uncovered a startling reality. Since August, they found 3,354 models that contained malicious code on Hugging Face, a popular AI model repository. 

Even more concerning, it’s reported that Hugging Face’s security scans failed to flag about a third of these as unsafe.

In response to this type of threat, the company Protect AI has launched a scanning tool designed to safeguard companies against the rising threat of malware in open source AI models.

Open source AI models are growing in popularity if only for the simple reason that few companies can afford the resources to develop and train an AI model from scratch. 

Platforms like Hugging Face are also growing in popularity as a way to share these models. But these repositories may lack comprehensive security measures, leaving the shared models vulnerable to hacker manipulation.

Founded in 2022, Protect AI’s new tool scans AI models for hidden malware before these models find their way into a company’s IT systems. 

Protect AI plans to use Huntr, an AI-focused bug bounty program it acquired, to help identify potential vulnerabilities.

Ian Swanson, CEO and co-founder of Protect AI, puts it plainly: “Companies are freely and blindly downloading these models, but they can contain things that can execute some pretty bad functions to steal data or take over systems.”

Sources include: Axios

Kayak, the online travel agent, has seen a huge increase in the use of a filter that allows travellers to filter by type of aircraft.  After an alarming incident involving an Alaska Airlines flight, where a piece of the fuselage fell off,

Initially launched in 2019, Kayak’s aircraft filter was rarely used. However, following the recent Alaska Airlines incident, usage of the filter spiked, leading to a 15-fold increase. This prompted Kayak to make the filter more prominent and user-friendly on their platform.

The revamped filter now allows users to distinguish between the 737 Max 8 and Max 9 models, particularly significant as the Max 9 has been grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

A Kayak spokesperson emphasized the goal of their filters: to empower travelers with information for smart decisions and confident travel. 

With this information being readily available, travelers are now actively avoiding certain aircraft models, a trend typically reserved only for seasoned travelers with specific preferences.

How much impact is this having on carriers? United Airlines, heavily invested in the affected Boeing models, issued a profit warning, indicating the significant financial and operational impacts of these safety concerns on airlines.

And as we are going to air, the Guardian has posted another story, which they attribute to the FAA, that says “a nose wheel fell off a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 passenger jet and rolled away as the plane lined up for takeoff over the weekend from Atlanta’s international airport. 

Something tells me that filter usage will spike again.

Sources include: The Guardian

In a recent federal trial, a computer science professor from the University of Michigan, demonstrated the potential vulnerabilities of Georgia’s voting system. 

We are all familiar with the conspiracy theories that have been floating around that claim that there was massive fraud in the U.S. election.  None of these claims have ever been proven, in fact, in audits and court cases, they have been disproven.

But it doesn’t mean that the machines are not vulnerable. 

So in the courtroom, the professor, Alex Halderman, showed how easily a voting machine could be tampered with using simple tools like a pen, a fake voter card, or a USB device. His demonstration included altering the results of a hypothetical referendum and flipping the winner in a theoretical election.

This trial, presided over by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg, is trying to assess whether Georgia’s voting system is susceptible to manipulation or programming errors. Halderman’s testimony highlighted the ease of tampering with the machines, raising concerns about the security of the system.

Election officials, however, maintain that Georgia’s elections have never been hacked and that security measures in place effectively prevent interference. They argue that the vulnerabilities demonstrated are speculative and not indicative of real-world risks.

The trial also delves into the January 2021 breach in Coffee County, where election software was copied and distributed, raising questions about the overall security of the voting system. The plaintiffs, including Georgia voters and activists, are urging Judge Totenberg to prohibit the use of these touchscreens in the upcoming 2024 elections, advocating for hand-filled paper ballots instead.

The case, which includes testimonies from both sides, will be decided by Judge Totenberg, with the outcome potentially impacting the future of voting systems in Georgia and perhaps throughout the U.S. 

Sources include: AJC 

The Doomsday Clock, a symbol representing the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe, remains set at 90 seconds to midnight, indicating a continued high risk of global peril. 

This year, artificial intelligence (AI) has been highlighted as one of the major threats contributing to this dire prediction. 

The Doomsday Clock was created by the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project, the U.S. group that developed the first atomic bomb as we saw in the movie Oppenheimer. 

It was first unveiled on the cover of a 1947 magazine called the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and was initially set at seven minutes to midnight. It has moved 25 times in the past 77 years, mostly due to the potential of nuclear war. In recent years it has been set to 90 seconds to midnight but this time, not only because of global conflicts the potential for atomic war.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, responsible for the Clock emphasized the risks posed by AI, including misinformation, military use, and its potential to exacerbate other threats.

The scientists were careful to point out AI’s dual nature. It poses significant risks, but it also offers great potential benefits if well managed. 

Rachel Bronson, President of the Bulletin, stressed the urgent need for global action as illustrated by the 90 seconds to midnight setting.  Bill Nye, who most of us remember as the “science guy” also participated in the announcement, maybe with the hope that the guy who taught our kids about science can teach us another lesson – for the good of humanity.

Sources include: Tom’s Guide

And yesterday was, I am told, the 40th birthday of Apple’s Macintosh computer. Amazingly, some of us were around when these amazing devices first made their way into our lives. 

Where we were all typing into a command line, the Macintosh had a graphical user interface and a mouse. All we could say was – wow!

Here’s a quote from Steve Jobs in Apple’s press release:

Macintosh easily fits on a desk, both in terms of its style of operation and its physical design. It takes up about the same amount of desk space as a piece of paper. With Macintosh, the computer is an aid to spontaneity and originality, not an obstacle. It allows ideas and relationships to be viewed in new ways. Macintosh enhances not just productivity, but also creativity.

Even back then, Jobs was selling an idea – never a product.

They were beautiful devices, but they never really took off in business. One reason? The pricing for the original Macintosh was far too high – about $2,500 USD, about $7,000 in today’s dollars. But it had to cost a lot. It had a whopping 8 MHZ processor, 128 kilobytes, yes, that’s kilobytes, not megabytes of RAM and 400 KB floppy drive for storage. 

But the Macintosh wouldn’t go away. It found a niche with graphic artists and those who needed its capabilities. 

It wasn’t til Jobs came back for a second run at running Apple that he really got to see his vision of “Think Different” working in the marketplace. 

Happy birthday old friend.

Hashtag Trending goes to air five days a week with a daily news show and every Saturday, we have an interview show called the Weekend Edition. 

We love your comments. Please let us know what you think. You can reach me at jlove@itwc.ca  or leave a comment under the show notes at www.itworldcanada.com/podcasts

I’m your host Jim Love, thanks for listening and have a Thrilling Thursday.


The post Hashtag Trending Jan.25- New tool against vulnerabilities in open source AI models; AI behind doomsday?; 40th birthday of Macintosh first appeared on IT World Canada.


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