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CBA turns focus on applying responsible AI following national ethics framework pilot

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Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has revealed that testing the federal government’s artificial intelligence (AI) ethics principles during the creation and design of its Commbank app feature Bill Sense gave insight into how the bank could apply responsible AI at scale.

“It was great to see that the AI principles sat really neatly with the control and governance frameworks that the bank already had in place. Things like the safe management of data, customer privacy, and transparency have been central to the way we operate since long before the advent of AI,” CBA chief decision scientist Dan Jermyn told ZDNet.

“But the pace, scale, and sophistication of AI solutions mean we need to ensure we are constantly evolving to meet the demands of new technology, which is why collaboration with our partners across government and industry is so important.”

The bank was one of six organisations that volunteered to trial a series of eight AI principles that were developed as part of the national AI ethics framework in real-world scenarios.

The eight ethics principles that were developed for the framework included: Human, social and environmental wellbeing; human-centre values in respect to human rights, diversity, and the autonomy of individuals; fairness; privacy protection and security of data; reliability and safety in accordance to the intended purpose of the AI systems; transparency and explainability; contestability; and accountability.

The ethics principles were developed following the release of a discussion paper earlier this year by Data61, the digital innovation arm of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Jermyn explained running the pilot when the bank was developing Bill Sense was a logical decision.

“Bill Sense is powered by 20 machine learning models, processing 16 billion transactions, and so it was a great case study for how we think about responsible AI at scale,” he said.

“We looked at it through the prism of each of the eight AI ethics principles, ensuring that we were adhering to both the letter and spirit of the guidelines. This was a complete end-to-end process, from the ideation of the features, right through to customer experience and feedback.”

But it is not only Bill Sense where the bank is leveraging AI technology, the use of AI across the bank is broad, Jermyn said.

“AI is a really important tool for us in making sure we can provide personalised experiences that improve our customers’ financial wellbeing, and is widely used to improve our processes,” he said. “To give some idea of the scale, our customer engagement engine uses 400 machine learning models, that make decisions across 157 billion data points.”

In a bid to further ensure AI is being applied responsibly, the bank has developed a tool to make it easier for teams across the bank to deliver AI safely to scale, according to Jermyn.

“For example, we have developed ‘explainable AI’ capability, which makes it simple for any of our business teams to understand and explain the key drivers of even the most complex deep learning models,” he said.

He added that responsible application of AI will be necessary as CBA continues to use it as a tool to improve customer experience.

“We see AI as a key enabler for us in providing a great, personalised experience to all of our customers, and so we are committed to ensuring we apply it in a consistently fair and ethical manner,” Jermyn said. “As we continue to grow the ways in which AI helps us to support the financial wellbeing of our customers and communities, it’s essential that we do so in a responsible and sustainable way.”

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/cba-turns-focus-on-applying-responsible-ai-following-national-ethics-framework-pilot/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

ZDNET

Nomad Summer Sale kicks off: Get 30% off everything

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Image: Nomad

Nomad Goods produces some of the best high-end and high-quality accessories for Apple products, and for the next week, you can get 30% off of all full-priced items on the site.

One of my favorite Nomad accessories right now is the recently launched leather AirTag Loop. At $24.95 before the discount, the leather loop adds a stylish way to carry your AirTag. Plus, it’s a worthy alternative to Apple’s official AirTag cases. You can even change the battery, when that time comes, without removing the AirTag from the loop. 

Other Nomad products I recommend include charging cables, which have a braided Kevlar on the outside of them to ensure they don’t easily break. Nomad’s iPhone cases and Apple Watch bands are also popular and come in plenty of color options that include MagSafe compatibility.

I reviewed the Base Station Pro wireless charging system that allows you to place any Qi-compatible device anywhere on the pad, instead of worrying about precisely lining the charging coil. 

To take advantage of the 30% off promotion, you’ll need to use coupon code SUMMER30 at checkout on Nomad’s website.

If you pick up some new Nomad gear, let us know in the comments what you decided on.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/nomad-summer-sale-deals-coupon-promo-code/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Verizon to bring RCS to all Android smartphones by 2022

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Verizon will be working with Google to bring the Rich Communications Service (RCS) standard to Android users in the US starting next year, joining T-Mobile and AT&T which both announced the switch earlier this year. 

Verizon announced the collaboration with Google on Tuesday and said the RCS standard provides “a more interactive and modern messaging experience right from Messages by Google.”

According to a statement from Verizon, Messages by Google will be preloaded onto every Verizon Android device by next year. 

Google and Verizon said the switch will offer consumers “higher-quality photos and videos, chatting over Wi-Fi or data, knowing when your message is read, enjoying more dynamic and engaging group chats, and securely chatting with other Messages users in available one-on-one conversations with end-to-end encryption.”

Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and CEO of Verizon Consumer Group, said that by working with Google, Verizon would be able to offer Android users “a robust messaging experience that allows them to engage with loved ones, brands and businesses in new and innovative ways.”

“Our customers depend on us to provide a reliable, advanced and simple messaging platform to stay in touch with the people that matter the most in their lives,” Dunne said.

Google has spent years pushing the RCS standard as an update to SMS because it offers features similar to those seen in WhatsApp, Apple’s iMessage and Facebook Messenger. Apple has refused to use RCS and messages sent between Android phones and iPhones will continue to be SMS, making them less secure than messages sent between users on either platform. 

Dirk Schrader, vice president of security research at New Net Technologies, noted that using RCS as the underlying standard is interesting because it can be seen as a message to services like Whatsapp by offering the same features without sharing the user’s contacts. 

In a statement, Verizon explained that Messages will “work with Verizon’s network and RCS messaging service” and “Google will work with Verizon to provide a robust business-to-consumer messaging ecosystem using RCS.”

Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior vice president of Platforms & Ecosystems, said the two companies have been working together on Android for years. 

The GSMA reports that more than 473 million monthly active users in 60 countries are using the RCS standard and Verizon said Android users will have a “more advanced messaging experience as they interact with each other and businesses on networks that support the RCS standard.”

By the end of the year, those using Verizon’s Message+ app will also get full access to RCS capabilities including the ability to embed high-res pictures and videos, get real-time conversation notifications, and send animated GIFs.

The RCS standard will also allow businesses and Verizon Android users to communicate more easily for things like product purchases, reservations and more. 

Setu Kulkarni, vice president of strategy at NTT Application Security, said that by making their end users available to brands and businesses, Verizon has taken on a new level of responsibility to keep its customers’ personal and private data on their phones secure from data breaches. 

“Since the app is backed by Google, there is certainly a greater degree of confidence that security measures are taken but let’s not forget that the state of cyber security is dynamic — and that no app is guaranteed to be breach free forever,” Kulkarni said.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/verizon-to-bring-rcs-to-all-android-smartphones-by-2022/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Adversaries continue to abuse trust in the supply chain

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We trust so much in our organizations — systems, partners, and vendors — for deploying software, monitoring network performancepatching (both systems and software), procuring software/hardware, and performing so many other tasks. A recent ransomware attack used one such system to successfully target thousands of victim companies.  

In this most recent example, attackers targeted Kaseya VSA IT Management Software, which was designed to allow IT admins to monitor systems, automate mundane tasks, deploy software, and patch systems. Attackers were able to exploit a zero day to access customer instances of the product and use its native functionality to deploy ransomware to those customers endpoints.

Further compounding the problem, managed service providers (MSPs) use Kaseya software to manage their customer environments. When the attackers compromised Kaseya, the MSPs inadvertently and unknowingly spread the ransomware to their customers.  

This is only one example of how attackers continue to abuse trust in unique ways that leaves many security and IT practitioners to wonder, “Why didn’t something like this happen sooner?” 

Attackers Are Getting Bolder  

Ransomware group REvil continues to get even bolder. Make no mistake, an attack like we saw against Kaseya was prescriptive and purposeful to inflict the maximum amount of damage to the most amount of targets. Immediately after the attack, they bragged about infecting more than a million devices and set a ransom demand of $70 million. If one organization paid, they promised that the decryptor would work across all organizations that were affected.  

This shines a light on a troubling trend we’re seeing, where attack targets are shifting from individual organizations to exploiting platforms, like Kaseya or SolarWinds, that allow for multiple organizations to be affected. Attackers continue to research the tools we all rely on to find ways to abuse the native functionality to effectively execute an attack. This latest attack abused an old copy of Microsoft Defender that allowed sideloading of other files.  

Software Is Vulnerable All The Way Down The Chain  

All the tools that organizations rely on — such as tax software, oil pipeline sensors, collaboration platforms, and even security agents — are built on top of the same vulnerable code, platforms, and software libraries that your vulnerability management team is screaming from the hills to patch or update immediately.  

Organizations need to both hold their supply chain partners, vendors, and others accountable for addressing the vulnerabilities in the software that they’ve built on top of this house of cards as well as understand the exposure they have by deploying said software within their environments. 

Run Faster Than The Next Guy; Take Defensive Steps Now  

Forrester blog, Ransomware: Survive By Outrunning The Guy Next To You, discusses protecting against ransomware by hardening systems to make your organization a hard target. Supply chain attacks bypass defenses by exploiting your trust in systems. To protect against them, you have to scrutinize the inherent trust you’ve placed on your supply chain.  

To start, organizations should take an inventory of the critical partners that have a large foothold within their environment, such as the vendors used for collaboration/email, MSPs that manage and monitor infrastructure, or security providers that may have an agent deployed to every system. After compiling your list, you should:  

  • Ask those partners what they’re doing to prevent you from being the next victim of a destructive attack. Ask about the gating process for pushing updates to your environment. How do they QA updates before they’re pushed? Ask solution providers how they secure their code and assess that code for vulnerabilities. 
  • Find out if they have the appropriate processes and architecture in place to prevent the type of lateral movement we saw with the latest attack. Ask how they secure their own environments, especially their update servers. Ask to see audit or assessment results from third-party assessors.  
  • Review your service agreements to find out what contractual responsibility those partners have to keep you safe from ransomware and malware. Understand what rights you have to demand compensation, if you are the victim of an attack due to a service provider’s systems being used as a delivery vehicle.  

Organizations should take aggressive steps to implement prescriptive ransomware advice as well as take a look at additional ransomware resources to limit the blast radius of an attack.  

This post was written by Analyst Steve Turner, and it originally appeared here

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/adversaries-continue-to-abuse-trust-in-the-supply-chain/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Qualtrics Q2 surprise profit blows away expectations, forecast higher as well

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In its second quarter as a public company, Qualtrics, the subsidiary of SAP AG that brands itself as the customer experience management platform, reported Q2 revenue that topped expectations by 3%, and a surprise profit where analysts had expected a loss. The company’s forecast for this quarter, and the full year, is higher as well.

The report sent Qualtrics stock up about 2% in late trading.

“It was an outstanding quarter for us,” said CEO Zig Serafin in an interview with ZDNet via telephone. “What you’re seeing is that the technology that we provide has never been more relevant, more impactful.”

Serafin pointed to evidence of that relevance in the company’s 38% rate of revenue growth, year over year, and the company’s 48% rate of subscription revenue growth. “This is building on strong growth in the first quarter,” he said. “You’re seeing an acceleration in demand.”

Qualtrics’s net dollar retention rate, how much it makes from customers, on average, versus the prior-year period, was 122%. That was up from 120% in the prior quarter. 

Qualtrics is known as a program for managing the interaction with customers, from first attracting customers to maintaining the relationship.

However, Serafin said the software is increasingly helping companies to attract new employees as well.

Customers are using Qualtrics’s program to “tune in better into the needs of their existing employees, but also attract new candidates and employees that could be coming into their company,” said Serafin.

“Our research is showing that about 50% of people will be out there looking for a new job in the next twelve months,” said Serafin. “How people leverage the employee experience management product portfolio on top of our platform, helping  companies to listen and take action on the changing nature of work.”

Also: Qualtrics Q1 report, forecast top Wall Street expectations: The C-suite is buying in, says CEO

That includes companies using the software to “design the physical work space and the digital space,” he said.

Revenue in the three months ended in June rose to $249.3 million, yielding a net profit of 4 cents a share, excluding some costs.

Analysts had been modeling $241.7 million and a 2-cent net loss per share.

Profit was helped in part by reduced expenses such as travel and entertainment, but “the majority of the outperformance is due to the outperformance on the revenue,” CFO Rob Bachman told ZDNet in the same phone call.

For the current quarter, the company sees revenue of $257 million to $259 million, and net loss in a range of 1  cents to 3 cents, again, excluding some costs. That compares to consensus for $246.6 million and a 5-cent loss per share.

For the full year, the company sees revenue in a range of $1.007 billion to $1.011 billion, and EPS in a range from breakeven to negative 2 cents per share. That compares to consensus of $984 million and an 11-cent net loss per share.

Regarding the forecast, Serafin told ZDNet that “what is most exciting to me is that our guidance is putting us on track to surpass one billion dollars in revenue in 2021, which puts us in a very different league of SaaS companies,” said Serafin.

The company plans to continue to invest in the business, said both Bachman and Serafin. Qualtrics hired 400 people in the quarter, and plans to keep spending.  

“We will continue invest deeply in the business,” said Bachman. “We have a unique opportunity to invest, we will  continue to do so.”

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/qualtrics-q2-surprise-profit-blows-away-expectations-profit-higher-as-well/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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