Daily Digest (6/24)

Researchers: NKorea Targeting US, 5 Other Countries in COVID Phishing Campaign; Over 1,000 AI Experts Condemn Racist Algorithms Claiming to Predict Crime; France’s Coronavirus App Not Popular; Only 68 Users So Far; Source: Justice Dept., State AGs to Meet Friday on Google Antitrust Probe; Click “Continue reading” below.

Researchers: NKorea Targeting US, 5 Other Countries in COVID Phishing Campaign

North Korea is planning a phishing campaign this weekend targeting the U.S. and five other countries focusing on government measures to bail out businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The operation is being undertaken by Pyongyang’s Lazarus Group, and is “designed to impersonate government agencies, departments, and trade associations who are tasked to oversee the disbursement of the fiscal aid,” according to a report by Cyfirma, a security-research firm with offices in Singapore and Tokyo.

The campaign is slated to launch this weekend in the U.S., U.K., India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

The firm said researchers first discovered evidence of North Korea’s campaign earlier this month after finding seven email templates impersonating government departments and institutions.

They included the Bank of England, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, Japan’s Ministry of Finance and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Lazarus Group is expected to use millions of email addresses and business-contact details to target victims via the spoofed domains, Cyfirma said. In many cases, the phishing messages will claim to offer a new government-backed payment for business.

“The hacking campaign involved using phishing emails under the guise of local authorities in charge of dispensing government-funded COVID-19 support initiatives,” Cyfirma said in the report.

“These phishing emails are designed to drive recipients to fake websites, where they will be deceived into divulging personal and financial information.”

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Over 1,000 AI Experts Condemn Racist Algorithms Claiming to Predict Crime

More than 1,000 scholars and technologists have denounced algorithms that seek to predict crime based solely on an individual’s face, saying that publishing such studies reinforces preexisting racial bias in the criminal justice system.

The Monday letter was signed by academics and AI experts from Harvard, MIT, Google and Microsoft. It also calls on the scientific journal Nature to halt publication of an upcoming paper, Vice.com reports.

The paper describes a system the authors claim can predict whether someone will commit crimes based solely on a picture of their face, with “80 percent accuracy” and “no racial bias.”

“There is simply no way to develop a system that can predict ‘criminality’ that is not racially biased, because criminal-justice data is inherently racist,” Audrey Beard, one of the letter’s organizers, told Vice.

The document called on Nature and its parent company, Springer Publishing of Berlin, to retract the paper, release a statement condemning the use of such methods and commit to not publishing similar studies in the future.

“As numerous scholars have demonstrated, historical court and arrest data reflect the policies and practices of the criminal justice system,” the letter said.

“These data reflect who police choose to arrest, how judges choose to rule and which people are granted longer or more lenient sentences.

“Thus, any software built within the existing criminal legal framework will inevitably echo those same prejudices and fundamental inaccuracies when it comes to determining if a person has the ‘face of a criminal,’” the letter said.

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France’s Coronavirus App Not Popular; Only 68 Users So Far

France’s COVID contact-tracing app is not gaining favor with citizens, as only 68 people have used it to register a positive test result in the three weeks since its launch — though 1.9 million downloaded it to their phones.

The StopCovid app, which is meant to automatically inform users if they come into contact with an infected person, has sent only 14 notifications to other users, The Financial Times reports.

But the pace at which people uninstalled the app from their phones has also picked up in recent days, even as France lifted its final lockdown restrictions on businesses and schools, Cédric O, France’s junior minister for digital affairs, told the Times.

“We can only infer that, just as people are not adhering as much to mask-wearing and social-distancing lately, that some do not think they need the app now that the virus is less active,” he said. “It may reflect that French people are simply less worried about the epidemic right now.”

France opted to develop its own technology for the app, spurning the Apple and Google-backed standard that most European countries have chosen. The country was among the first to launch its system.

Olivier Blazy, a computer science professor at the University of Limoges, questioned whether the app would contribute to the country’s public-health efforts.

“Adoption has been derisory and the results are ridiculous,” he said. “There were more people involved in the creation of the app than people who have benefited from it.”

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Source: Justice Dept., State AGs to Meet Friday on Google Antitrust Probe

U.S. Justice Department officials and some state attorneys general are to meet Friday to discuss ongoing antitrust probes into Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The federal government and nearly all state attorneys general have opened investigations into allegations that Google has broken antitrust laws.

The federal investigation focuses on search bias, advertising and management of Google’s Android operating system, Reuters reports.

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— By DPN Staff