Telecoms job cuts, Cl0p targets further victims, and the AI Godfather waves goodbye – The May Tech Digest
It’s summer: the sun is shining and London’s parks are packed, with the sweet smell of ice lollies and SPF hanging in the air. But despite the sunny outlook, some of the headlines we saw in May were…a little less sweet.
For the tech sector especially, May was a rocky month: more job cuts, cyberattacks, and the fearful departure of AI’s Godfather. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, and rays of sunshine shone on the Fintech sector, which has seen a rise in open banking, with new regulations around the corner…
Without further ado, let’s dive deeper into some of the top stories in May:
Telecoms – BT and Vodafone job cuts
Let’s kick off with telecoms. The sector saw a series of layoffs from providers BT and Vodafone last month. The two mobile network operators announced their plans back-to-back, shocking the industry and creating further insecurity amongst telecommunication professionals.
First came Vodafone, announcing its plans to cut 11,000 jobs over the next three years, both at its UK headquarters and in local markets. Vodafone’s chief executive, Margherita Della Valle, advises that there must be change in the sector, as Vodafone results reflected poor performance in even its largest market. The job cuts equate to 12% of the 90,000 individuals employed globally.
Then came BT, two days after the Vodafone announcement, with plans to slash 42% of its workforce by 2030. More specifically, BT said last week that it would cut between 40,000 and 55,000 jobs, including employees and third-party contractors, by 2030.
It’s a worrying moment for the telco industry, and all eyes will be tracking how these operators are planning to move forward with their services and workforce!
Cybersecurity – Brace yourselves, Cl0p is black… the MOVEit cyberattack
Cyberattacks continued to haunt the tech world this month. If you remember our blog in March, we spoke about the rise of the Cl0p gang and their victims. This month, the group was back in action, with a cyberattack that affected British Airways, the BBC, the media watchdog Ofcom and Boots, all via the same third-party software breach.
Announced on May 27th, the mass Cl0p hack breached the file transfer software MOVEit, which is used by thousands of organisations and is designed to securely move sensitive files, such as employee addresses or bank account details, and is used by companies around the world.
As we move into H2 2023, this is definitely an attack to track, as the cyber group seems determined to cause havoc!
Hacking on this scale is a relatively new phenomenon that has escalated into a nearly inescapable daily occurrence, and cybercrime dominates news headlines every month, with businesses well aware of its dangers. While the number of malicious actors has increased, so too have the security researchers who gather intelligence on security threats and vulnerability points. This intelligence is critical, so it is great to see the industry taking the necessary steps.
My colleague and associate director at Babel, Ed Cooper, recently wrote a blog about the role of cybersecurity research, you can also hear him in conversation with Beth Maundrill, editor at Infosecurity, here!
FinTech – Open banking rises and Crypto regulation is in the works
Let us shift our attention to the Fintech sector, which has seen several successes in May. New data claims that open banking use is set to increase by 470% in the next four years. Particularly in Europe, open banking covers more services than ever before. Furthermore, recent research found that seven million people in the UK used open banking last year, according to the figures reported to Open Banking Limited (OBL).
The Fintech sector is also witnessing promising advances in the cryptocurrency space. Earlier this month, the IOSCO, a group of regulators, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, revealed its plans to regulate crypto assets and digital markets, following last year’s FTX liquidity crisis, which sparked anxiety in the industry concerning consumer protection. The IOSCO has asked regulators to step in, so as to put a stop to conflicts of interest. These plans represent a turning point in cryptocurrency, as crises were never dealt with to this extent before.
The proposed regulations will aim to deal with conflicts of interest, market manipulation, cross-border regulatory cooperation, custody of crypto assets, operational risks, and treatment of retail customers.
AI – Bye, bye Godfather
In the world of AI, at the moment, the headlines don’t stop. In April’s blog, we spoke about ChatGPT and the rising security concerns within the industry. This month, the AI world saw a worrying departure, with Dr. Geoffrey Hinton, the so-called “Godfather of AI”, quit his post at Google. Not only that, he proceeded to discuss AI’s dangerous nature and touched upon fears around misinformation and bias, as well as the existential risk that humanity finds itself in with the rapid advancements. Yikes.
Hinton’s primary concern in the short term is something that has been heavily discussed in the past couple of weeks but has been creeping in for some time – that people will not be able to tell the truth between AI-generated photos, videos, and text online, and human-generated content! As admitted to the BBC, he believes that the intelligence AI is developing is scary and very different from our own, something that should therefore not be taken lightly. As if that were not enough, Hinton admitted his concern about AI replacing jobs in the future and what that will mean for the wider industry.
Whilst this can sound alarming, ongoing conversations in the industry and the advancement of knowledge around AI is aiming to address these concerns. In my honest opinion, every generation has seen a rapid change throughout its time – I am 24 years old and this is the new hot thing, but I remember my parents sitting at our kitchen table, looking at the first iPhone that came out and being absolutely mesmerised by its features. Can you remember how in awe you were of the first iPhone? I’m not saying that AI is the same, but building an understanding of it will equip the industry with the knowledge it needs to address those rising concerns.
GreenTech – Chevron and rising concerns:
In GreenTech, there was one emerging story that piqued everyone’s interest. Chevron, the multinational fossil-fuel energy corporation, has been targeted by a new investigation. The fossil-fuel company relies on “junk” carbon offsets and “unviable” technologies – little has been done to offset its vast carbon emissions, which in turn, ends up harming the environment and local communities.
This is rather frustrating for the industry. Chevron said it aspires to reach net zero upstream emissions by 2050, a promise that is now skewed by the recent findings. The new research conducted by Corporate Accountability, a non-profit, transnational watchdog, found that 93% of the offsets were environmentally problematic. While it is rather specific, it does make one think just how behind the world is when it comes to tackling emissions and ensuring sustainability.
Whilst this is a rather specific story, it does reflect a wider issue the industry is facing. The world is quite behind when it comes to tackling emissions and ensuring sustainability – greenwashing is quite problematic across the industry, taking a strain on both the environment and businesses that are actually aiming to have an impact.
Overall, the headlines that appeared in May were… less than positive. Once again, our beloved tech world was shaken up by some severely negative headlines in cybersecurity, telecoms, GreenTech, and AI. We are hopeful, as the summer holiday season approaches, that we will have some good news to report next month. Stay tuned and join us next month for our wrap-up of the top news in tech!