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Your face is all over the internet

On the subway, you see someone out of the corner of your eye. Do you recognize them? A former classmate? A coworker from three jobs ago? Maybe a short-lived fling? That question nags in your head: Who are they?

AI has an answer: You covertly snap a photo when they’re not looking and upload it to a facial recognition software that searches millions of webpages for that same unique face. Ping! That face pops up in the background of a photo at Walt Disney World, and there they are at a protest, and there they are on someone’s old Flickr page. Oh, but actually one links to a wedding album. They were in the bridal party. The website is still active. A face. A name. Identity unlocked. You finally figured out who they were – the mystery is solved.

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Startup Cerebras System's new AI supercomputer Andromeda is seen at a data center in Santa Clara, California, U.S. October 2022.

Rebecca Lewington/Cerebras Systems/Handout via REUTERS

Hard Numbers: Electricity drain, Coal in demand, Ignoring AI, Deal for Palantir, China’s chip fund

9.1: The nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute estimates that data centers will drain up to 9.1% of US electricity by 2030. Last year it was just 4%, but the rise of artificial intelligence has placed newfound demands for easily accessible computing power.

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Why privacy is priceless
Why privacy is priceless | Global Stage | GZERO Media

Why privacy is priceless

If someone were to get a few pictures off your phone without your permission, what's the big deal, right? Don't be so blasé, says human rights attorney David Haigh, who was prominently targeted with the powerful Pegasus spyware in 2021.

"If someone breaches your private life, that is a gateway to very, very serious breaches of other human rights, like your right to life and right to all sorts of other things," he said. "That's why I think a lot of governments and public sector don't take things as seriously as they should."

Right now, he says, dictators can buy your privacy, "and with it, your life."

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How cyberattacks hurt people in war zones
How cyberattack immiserate people in war zones | Global Stage | GZERO Media

How cyberattacks hurt people in war zones

They may not be bombs or tanks, but hacks and cyberattacks can still make life miserable for people caught in the crosshairs of conflicts. By targeting key infrastructure and humanitarian organizations, warring governments can deny crucial services to civilians on the other side of no-man's-land.

And just like with conventional weapons, there can be collateral damage, said Stéphane Duguin, CEO of the Cyber Peace Institute. "We have 53 countries in the world targeted by these attacks across 23 sectors of critical infrastructure or essential services," he said. "At the end of the day, you end up having civilians who cannot benefit from essential services because of what has been escalated into another part of the world."

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Why snooping in your private life is big business
Why snooping in your private life is big business | Caught in the Digital Crosshairs | GZERO Media

Why snooping in your private life is big business

Kaja Ciglic, senior director of digital diplomacy at Microsoft, said, "cybersecurity is the defining challenge of our time" amid a spike in misinformation campaigns thanks to wars in Ukraine and Gaza, growing interest from governments in building cyberweapons, and plain old profit-motivated thieves.

"We are seeing private sector enterprises that, effectively, are selling services, products that allow their customers to break into, whether it's a personal account, whether it's into an organization's account," she said. "The cyber mercenary market that is also emerging is also a very strong concern for Microsoft."

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How rogue states use cyberattacks to undermine stability
How rogue states use cyberattacks to undermine stability | Global Stage | GZERO Media

How rogue states use cyberattacks to undermine stability

Cyberattacks are about a lot more than just money these days. Both unscrupulous governments and extremist groups are increasingly using hacking to advance political aims, says Kaja Ciglic, senior director of digital diplomacy at Microsoft.

When the International Committee for the Red Cross or International Court of Justice experiences cyberattacks, she said, "These are all organizations that are trying to defend peace and stability, they're trying to advocate for all of our human rights." The fact that unscrupulous governments are spending taxpayer money to purchase tools that interrupt their work, she noted, is worth taking a stand against.

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The devastating impact of cyberattacks and how to protect against them
The devastating impact of cyberattacks and how to protect against them | Global Stage | GZERO Media

The devastating impact of cyberattacks and how to protect against them

Imagine one day you found out someone had hacked your phone. What would that mean for your life? With the right software, the bad guys might be able to get into your bank account, surveil your messages, or even steal your fingerprints and facial scans.

That's what happened to human rights attorney David Haigh, who became the first-known British victim of the powerful Pegasus spyware in 2021 while trying to help women of Emirati and Jordanian royalty escape alleged abuse. He learned that his phone was under surveillance – so his communications and the information stored on the device were compromised.

Two years on, he still lives in fear for the privacy of his loved ones and clients. "The police have done nothing,” he says. “There's no support from the government. There's no real information.”

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Podcast: Cyber mercenaries and the global surveillance-for-hire market

Transcript

Listen: The use of mercenaries is nothing new in kinetic warfare, but they are becoming a growing threat in cyberspace as well. The weapon of choice for cyber mercenaries is malicious spyware that undermines otherwise benign technologies and can be sold for profit. Luckily, awareness about this threat is also growing, and increasing global coordination efforts are being put forth to combat this dangerous trend.

In episode 2, season 2 of Patching the System, we're focusing on the international system of bringing peace and security online. In this episode, we look at what governments and private enterprises are doing to combat the growth of the cyber mercenary industry.

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