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Tech news this week: AI, decentralized apps and ransomware

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AI washing, new ransomware tactics and decentralized regulation challenges populated the news this week.

In this episode of Tech News this Week, host Antone Gonsalves is joined by Esther Ajao to discuss AI washing, Alex Culafi to discuss the latest enterprise security concerns, and Makenzie Holland to explain decentralized social networks and regulatory challenges.

Be sure to follow Tech News this Week on Spotify, Amazon or wherever you get your podcasts.

AI hype

The Federal Trade Commission is keeping a close eye on the authenticity of vendor claims that their product contains AI. Those found to be making false claims about what a product can do with AI -- referred to as AI washing -- may face penalties.

"It's just a warning to say, hey, we know that AI is all the hype right now, but dial back your advertising and make sure that your product is doing exactly what it's supposed to do, or what you're promising it's supposed to do ... we're not in a science fiction world, we're still in a world of reality. We're still in a world of tangibility, so let's make sure we're all on an even playing field," Ajao said.

This misinformation deters customers from buying into AI in general.

"It just puts a bad reputation on the AI front, and we're back where we began. I feel like AI has taken such a leap in the past year or so, where people are actually starting to believe in it. When you have people lying or misleading, that will bring us back a little bit," Ajao said.

Enterprise security

Ransomware has been one of the main enterprise security concerns for the past few years. It is evolving at a rapid pace, making it difficult to defend against.

Traditionally, ransomware used a double extortion model, where data was both encrypted on victim networks and stolen and exfiltrated to blackmail victims. Although this is still the model of choice, there are new extortion models entering the scene as well.

"One is the triple extortion method, in which you're encrypting the data, you're stealing the data and threatening victim organizations with it, but you're also launching DDoS attacks. Then there's also what's called extortionware, where you're not even encrypting the victim files, you're just straight up exfiltrating the data, sometimes without even using malware and just using the threat of leaking data alone as the method of extortion, skipping ransomware altogether," Culafi said.

Despite the enormous problem ransomware poses, multiple vendors report slightly more encouraging numbers in recent years.

"These numbers are important because it's the first time I've seen in my three to four years on this specific beat where multiple vendor data points are moving in lockstep in the right direction ... which is small, but still, I think a big deal," Culafi said.

Decentralized social network regulation

U.S. lawmakers are struggling to regulate decentralized social networks like Mastodon, which work differently than centralized platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

"The difference with a company like Mastodon, which identifies as a nonprofit organization and decentralized platform, is that there's no single authority over it. So, if the business does well, you know, shareholders aren't benefiting. It's a user- and volunteer-run network," Holland said.

Although the decentralized platforms are difficult to regulate, their main goal isn't to avoid regulation.

"The goal is to move power out of the hands of these established companies and try to, you know, compete in this different environment in a different structure," Holland said.

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