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Bitpourri - A Bad Week For Technology

A self inflicted wound, some temporary insanity, and AI goes bad

A Mélange Hors d'oeuvres

Welcome to Bitpourri, where we post tidbits that aren’t lengthy enough to warrant a full blog post of their own but still merit sharing. These (usually) unrelated vignettes are quick and easy reads for when you're interested in some food for thought but are feeling more “snackish” than ready for a full meal. You can find more of our Bitpourri series here.

What A Week!!!

We've all had a bad week. Most of the time it's just a collision between bad luck and bad timing. But last week was a week Technology would likely just want to forget.
A Network Upgrade
Temporary Insanity
You Can Trust Me

A Network Upgrade

Last week the AT&T cellular network suffered a widespread outage that lasted over 12 hours. Unsurprisingly, the FCC quickly opened an investigation into the outage, soon followed by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

The outage led to a lot of conspiracy theories, including a cyberattack (unrelated to the Change Healthcare cyberattack covered above), and comparisons to Netflix's Leave the World Behind. Not to mention speculation that it was caused by solar flares.

In the end it was determined to be a self-inflicted wound of the technical and reputational variety (aka a botched network software update). AT&T referred to it as an "application and execution of an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network". This translates to "Oopsy! Our bad."

Temporary Insanity

Here at ElixWare we're putting together a few blog posts about Artificial Intelligence (aka 'AI') at the moment. But we felt this AI news belonged in Bitpourri rather than as part of a much larger post.

You may have already heard about Artificial Intelligence "hallucinations", where the AI software responds with false, misleading or even completely made-up information. To put it bluntly, sometimes AI is a bit inaccurate, and other times it's blatantly lying.

Last week, OpenAI's ChatGPT went a bit further than normal AI hallucinations. In fact, it appears to have gone to crazy town, turned down Gibberish Lane and seemed to make itself at home there for the rest of the day. Reports that ChatGPT was responding in Spanglish, claiming it was a non-physical nurturing entity, and simply going crazy were easier to find than a straight answer from ChatGPT.

OpenAI acknowledged the problems saying, "an optimization to the user experience introduced a bug with how the model processes language." This translates to "Oopsy! Our bad." Another self-inflicted wound, though this one probably raises more questions and concerns than the AT&T snafu.

You Can Trust Me

While we're on the subject of AI, it's never a bad time to feed people's fears about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence. Not what AI will do to mankind (unless Señor Spanglish above gets ahold of the nuclear codes), but rather what AI can do to your computer.

Last week it was discovered that Hugging Face, an AI developer platform, actually infected users' computers with malware and backdoors. Hugging Face allows users to upload Artificial Intelligence machine learning models so others can download the models and run them on their local computers.

This type of breach is commonly known as a software supply chain attack, and is not new. In fact, these types of malicious user submissions have been a reality for sites like PyPI, NPM, GitHub, RubyGems, most of the other leading open source repositories for a decade or more. Trusting online open source repositories is actually much more dangerous than worrying about AI luring you to your death with bacon.

All joking aside, this should not make you think less of Artificial Intelligence. Though it should make you think even less of hackers and cyber criminals.

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