Weekly Industry News – Week of May 13

Yura Nunes

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Week of Week of May 13, 2024

Here are the main industry highlights of this week.

U.S. Senators Advocate $32 Billion Annual Investment to Boost AI Innovation and Outcompete China

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, advocates for a significant increase in government funding for AI research to bolster America’s leadership in AI innovation. The senatorial group is championing this initiative due to their concerns about AI’s potential to disrupt jobs and electoral processes and surpass human capabilities. Their proposal includes a targeted annual investment of at least $32 billion for non-defense AI innovation and emphasizes the need to outcompete countries like China. The plan also features a comprehensive AI research and development initiative, including an “AI-ready data” program and enhanced infrastructure for AI testing within government agencies.

NIST Updates NICE Framework to Include AI Security and Cyber Resiliency

BThe National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has updated the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) framework to include new competencies and update existing skills. This aims to address the shortage of qualified cyber professionals and expand roles to cover areas like AI security and cyber resiliency. Despite these efforts, only 14% of organizations currently use the NICE framework in job postings, indicating a need for broader adoption.

Google Unveils On-Device AI Feature to Detect Phone Scams at Google I/O 202

At the 2024 Google I/O developer conference, Google revealed a new feature to detect potential phone call scams. The feature, powered by Gemini Nano, Google’s on-device AI, listens for scam patterns and alerts users. It will be opt-in to protect privacy, but some concerns about listening to conversations remain. No release date is set, but it demonstrates the potential of Gemini Nano.

Pennsylvania Introduces Identity Verification Kiosks to Streamline Unemployment Claims

Pennsylvania has introduced identity verification kiosks in CareerLink and UPS locations to improve the unemployment compensation filing process. These kiosks, staffed with trained personnel, allow claimants to use physical documents, enhancing accessibility for those without home computers or mobile phones. The initiative addresses issues faced with digital verification and aims to help more people navigate the system effectively.

LogRhythm and Exabeam Join Forces to Enhance AI-Driven Cybersecurity Solutions Amid Industry Consolidation

Thoma Bravo’s SIEM company, LogRhythm , is merging with Exabeam, another cybersecurity firm backed by Cisco and Lightspeed Venture Partners. This merger is the latest trend of consolidation within the cybersecurity industry. LogRhythm had previously raised $126 million before Thoma Bravo acquired a majority stake, while Exabeam’s total funding reached nearly $400 million by its 2021 Series F round. The merger, expected to close in Q3 2024, aims to advance AI-driven cybersecurity solutions, concentrating on their security operations product portfolio.

Koodoo Partners with Resistant AI to Enhance Document Checking with Advanced Forensics

Koodoo has teamed up with Resistant AI to enhance its Document Checking service with advanced Document Forensics technology. This partnership aims to provide financial services firms with a solution to verify customer documents, extract information, and detect signs of fraud. Resistant AI’s technology uses AI to identify subtle document irregularities, improving fraud detection accuracy and streamlining financial institutions’ operational processes.

TabaPay Withdraws from Synapse Acquisition Amid Disputes Over Financial Obligations

TabaPay has withdrawn from a planned acquisition of assets from Synapse due to unmet closing conditions. Synapse accused Evolve Bank & Trust of not fulfilling funding obligations, but Evolve refutes involvement. There are further complications involving Mercury, which disputes Synapse’s claims. Despite this, Synapse remains hopeful for a resolution.

Australia Allocates AU$288.1 Million for National Digital Identity Program Launch in July

Australia’s federal government has allocated AU$288.1 million (US$190.9 million) to develop a national digital identity program set to commence in July. The funding will be used for private sector pilot programs, infrastructure enhancements, and enhancing regulatory and security measures. A significant portion will go towards upgrading the myGovID platform, soon to be rebranded as myID, to facilitate secure access to government services for businesses. Other budget allocations include developing data standards, performing security assessments, and enhancing the identity exchange managed by Services Australia. Additionally, funding includes upgrading the Credential Protection Register in response to the 2022 Optus data breach and rolling out digital driver licenses in the Northern Territory.

Data Zoo Secures $35 Million Investment from Ellerston Capital and Appoints New CEO to Drive Global Expansion

Sydney-based identity verification company Data Zoo secured $35 million in its first external funding round, led by Ashok Jacob’s Ellerston Capital through its JAADE fund. This investment values Data Zoo at over $100 million and supports its software, which enhances KYC compliance and fraud prevention for financial institutions and fintech startups. Developed by founder Tony Fitzgibbon and CIO Memoona Anwar, the technology reduces costs and risks while protecting customer privacy by eliminating the need to store identity data. Following the investment, Fitzgibbon stepped down as CEO, with former London Stock Exchange executive Charlie Minutella taking over the role in New York. The new funds will promote the adoption and innovation of Data Zoo’s software.

Accenture Wins $789M Contract to Enhance U.S Navy Cybersecurity with SHARKCAGE Systems

The U.S. Navy awarded Accenture Federal Services a $789 million, ten-year contract to enhance cybersecurity for Navy and Marine Corps networks. The contract involves unifying operations within the SHARKCAGE environment and providing integrated systems using commercial hardware and software. Accenture’s responsibilities include design, testing, production, and support, as well as improving cyber monitoring and attack sensing for Navy fleets.

StrongDM Secures $34 Million for Global Expansion and Enhanced Security Features

StrongDM , a Zero Trust PAM company, raised $34 million in a Series C funding round led by Anchor Capital Advisors LLC, totaling $96 million in funding. The funds will expand global operations and establish a Polish engineering center. StrongDM plans to enhance its PAM solution with advanced security features like micro-authorizations and contextual enforcement.

CUBE Enhances Regulatory Intelligence Capabilities with Acquisition of Reg-Room

CUBE, an automated regulatory intelligence company, acquired New York-based Reg-Room LLC, known for its expertise in monitoring regulatory changes in financial services. Reg-Room offers products like Reg-Track, Reg-Impact, and Regulatory Risk Report. Supported by an investment from HgCapital Trust, the acquisition will enhance CUBE’s compliance data management and workflow automation with Reg-Room’s precise regulatory updates.

BlockTower Capital Suffers Major Hack, Losing Funds from Main Hedge Fund

BlockTower Capital, a major investment firm with $1.7 billion in assets under management, has fallen victim to a hack, resulting in its main hedge fund being partially drained by fraudsters. The stolen funds are still missing, and the hacker remains at large. Crypto hacks continue to impact the industry, with fraudsters stealing approximately $1.7 billion from various projects last year. BlockTower, founded in 2017 and based in Miami and New York, has invested in companies like Dapper Labs, Sky Mavis, and Terraform Labs. In 2022, the firm raised a $150 million venture fund.

Deepfake Scam Targets WPP CEO in Sophisticated Corporate Fraud Attempt

Scammers used AI-generated deepfakes to impersonate WPP CEO Mark Read in a failed fraud attempt. They created a fake WhatsApp account, arranged a Microsoft Teams meeting, and used cloned voices and visuals to mimic Read and another executive. The goal was to deceive an agency leader into initiating a fraudulent business venture. This incident highlights the need for better deepfake detection and vigilance against digital impersonation in corporate settings.

US Senate Passes FAA Authorization with Controversial Expansion of TSA Facial Recognition

The US Senate passed a bill to extend FAA programs for 5 years, including TSA’s controversial expansion of facial recognition from 25 to over 430 airports. Senators Jeff Merkley and John Kennedy proposed an amendment to halt this until 2027 due to privacy concerns but it didn’t pass. Debate continues on balancing biometric innovation with civil liberties. 

Australian Federal Court Refuses to Extend Order for Social Media Platform X to Hide Violent Video

An Australian court declined to extend an order requiring social media platform X to hide a video of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel’s stabbing, highlighting conflicts over content restrictions. X had initially geo-blocked the video, but it remained accessible globally and via VPNs. The decision raised concerns about content control and free speech, with Elon Musk calling it governmental overreach. Australia is reviewing its online safety laws, reflecting ongoing debates over digital platform regulations and censorship.

FINTRAC Fines Binance $4.4 Million for Regulatory Violations in Canada

Canada’s Fintract Global fined Binance $4.4 million for not registering as a foreign money services business and breaching anti-money laundering laws. Using blockchain analytics, FINTRAC found that Binance failed to report over 5,900 transactions between June 2021 and July 2023. This highlights the need for stricter oversight of international cryptocurrency trading. The penalty reflects a global trend towards increased regulation and transparency in the crypto market.

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