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Japan is poised to remove export restrictions on the F-X fighter jet

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In Manila, Philippines, the government of Japan is implementing measures to facilitate the exportation of a stealth fighter aircraft that is now being developed in collaboration with the United Kingdom and Italy.

This action is being taken in response to a change in Japan’s security posture and as the government relaxes strict export controls for weapons after the war. Last year, Japan granted approval for the transfer of radars to the Philippines and the supply of Patriot missiles to the United States, in accordance with amended regulations.

In December, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy initiated a collaborative effort to create the Mitsubishi F-X fighter aircraft as part of the Global Combat Air Program. The program’s objective is to produce new stealth fighter jets by 2035 to replace the outdated F-2s of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, as well as the Eurofighter Typhoons of Britain and Italy.

The relaxation of export regulations for the F-X fighter jet represents the most recent modification in Japan’s regulations for the transfer of materials, following the overhaul of its security strategy in December 2022. Opposition parties, including Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, expressed disagreement with the move.

In his address to the Diet, the Japanese parliament, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed concerns about the potential hindrance of Japan’s aircraft modernization plan and the potential impact on the success of the international cooperative development program if exports are restricted to countries outside the partnership.

According to Kishida, the relaxation of limits on aircraft will contribute to the establishment of a “favorable security environment” for Japan. Additionally, the program is expected to enhance the local military sector.

The participating companies in the initiative have also indicated their plans to export the planes to other nations in order to offset the expenses associated with research and manufacture.

Following extensive negotiations, Komeito has decided to adopt a more lenient position and has agreed to the change on Friday, subject to certain conditions. The parties stated during a joint news conference that the adjustment will specifically only apply to the F-X fighter jet.

In addition, it should be noted that the exportation of fighter jets would necessitate the consent of the Cabinet, and entry would be restricted exclusively to nations that have established military agreements with Japan. The parties also elucidated the prohibition of sales to nations experiencing ongoing armed conflict.

Partners will be able to reveal the F-X plane’s preliminary drawings after the Japanese Cabinet approves the adjustments later this month.

In contrast, significant opposition factions continue to express disapproval towards the modification, asserting that the relaxation of export regulations pertaining to the fighter jet contradicts Japan’s commitment to pacifism and gives rise to concerns regarding the nation’s potential transformation into an arms trader.

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Artificial Intelligence

The company pcTattletale, which develops spyware, has announced that it is ceasing operations and shutting down following a data breach

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The creator of the spyware application pcTattletale declared that his company is now defunct and permanently closed due to a recent data breach that occurred over the weekend.

The shutdown occurred shortly after a hacker vandalized the spyware manufacturer’s website and shared links containing substantial quantities of data from pcTattletale’s servers, including databases of customer information and some stolen data from victims.

pcTattletale was a covert surveillance application, commonly referred to as “stalkerware,” due to its capability to monitor individuals without their awareness. This app enabled the user to remotely access screenshots of the target’s Android or Windows device, as well as their confidential information, from any location worldwide. pcTattletale marketed its spyware application as a means to monitor employees while also openly endorsing its capability to surreptitiously observe spouses and domestic partners without their consent, which is a violation of the law.

According to the data breach notification site Have I Been Pwned, the app, which is no longer in operation, had a total of 138,000 customers who had registered to use the service.

The hacker claimed on the vandalized website that pcTattletale’s servers could be manipulated to disclose the private keys for its Amazon Web Services account. These keys were utilized by the spyware manufacturer to store a vast number of screenshots of the devices on which the spyware was installed.

pcTattletale’s website is currently inaccessible

Bryan Fleming, the founder of pcTattletale, informed me via text message on Tuesday that he no longer possesses the ability to access the Amazon Web Services account of the company.

Fleming stated that they deleted all data as a precautionary measure due to the potential risk of a data breach that could have compromised their customers’ information.

Fleming stated that the account has been closed and the servers have been deleted.

An examination of the compromised data reveals that pcTattletale stored over 300 million screenshots of victims’ devices on its Amazon S3 storage server, spanning several years. I verified that there were screenshots from pcTattletale-monitored devices available to the public.

Amazon appears to have taken measures against the manufacturer of spyware. The Amazon S3 storage server pcTattletale previously utilized for storing device screenshots now displays an error code, “AllAccessDisabled,” which is employed by Amazon to restrict all access to a customer’s account. This includes the customer themselves, who can only seek resolution by contacting Amazon for additional support. Nevertheless, Fleming refrained from providing an answer regarding whether AWS had terminated the service, and AWS spokesperson Grant Milne also declined to comment.

Fleming stated that he did not retain a duplicate of the data and did not provide an explanation for the company’s deletion of the data without prior notification to those individuals whose information was compromised in the data breach. He ceased to reply to our inquiries.

The situation at pcTattletale is not exceptional. Spyware applications are widely recognized for their inherent software flaws and are notorious for their tendency to inadvertently disclose or release data. Inadequate security practices have led federal regulators to prohibit stalkerware makers from participating in the surveillance industry in the past.

FTC spokesperson Juliana Gruenwald Henderson declined to provide any information regarding the agency’s investigation into pcTattletale.

Other manufacturers of spyware have ceased operations following comparable security breaches. The Polish-originated espionage software LetMeSpy was terminated in June 2023 due to a cyber attack that compromised its systems and resulted in the deletion of its clients’ data. Additionally, a state of New York investigation resulted in the shutdown of the spyware programs PhoneSpector and Highster.

 

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Artificial Intelligence

Apple’s Design Award nominees focus on small businesses and independent designers, but they mostly ignore AI (except for Arc)

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Apple is honoring indie apps and startups rather than larger tech companies, including those that provide AI chatbots, through its selection of finalists for the Apple Design Awards.

Amidst scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators regarding its App Store model, Apple is now focusing on recognizing smaller developers in its annual list of the most exceptional and technologically advanced software available on its platform. ChatGPT is notably absent from Apple’s list of finalists. Apple prioritizes small to midsize app developers such as Copilot Money, SmartGym, Crouton (a recipe app), Procreate Dreams (a creative app), Gentler Streak, and others. They also give preference to venture-backed startups like Rooms (a creativity app) and Arc Search (a reimagined web browser).

The latter app has integrated artificial intelligence (AI) with an agent that performs browsing tasks on your behalf. Additionally, it includes a new feature that allows you to ask questions by simply raising the phone to your ear and saying, “Call Arc.” Notably, this app is the only one on the list that explicitly mentions the technology that has gained significant attention and popularity in the App Store and the wider tech industry in the past year.

Despite achieving high download numbers since its launch last year, ChatGPT was not designated as the “app of the year” by either Apple or Google. The ADAs would have provided Apple with another chance to acknowledge the innovation, but once again, it was disregarded.

Apple’s selection of finalists includes indie games such as Rytmos from Floppy Club, a Copenhagen-based game developer; finity, a match-three puzzle game available on Apple Arcade; The Wreck from The Pixel Hunt, an independent game studio based in Paris; The Bear from Mucks Games, a group of creative individuals from Germany; and several others.

The non-game apps highlighted by Apple this year are primarily indie efforts. For instance, India-based independent developer RhythmicWorks Software created the meditation timer Meditate. A small group of independent developers from Italy under the direction of Nicholas Mariniello created Sunlitt, a sun-tracking app. Dudel Draw, a drawing app, is developed by indie outfit Silly Little Apps in the U.S. Isuru Wanasinghe, an Australian developer, created the journaling app Gratitude. Last but not least, ex-Googlers created and a16z backed Rooms, a creative app for designing imaginative spaces in an 8-bit style. Apple has nominated Rooms in two categories, making it doubly blessed.

However, there are indeed some prominent developers included in the list, such as Neowiz from South Korea, which has been nominated for its game “Lies of P”; 505 Games’ “Death Stranding Director’s Cut”; HoYoverse, the creator of “Genshin Impact,” for their game “Honkai: Star Rail”; and Activision’s “Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile.” However, when using Apple technologies like MetalFX or optimizations created especially for its M1 and superior chips (or perhaps incorporating in-app purchases! ), Apple’s decision is at least partially influenced.

Additional titles receiving recognition this year include What the Car?, NYT Games, Hello Kitty Island Adventure, Cityscapes: Sim Builder, How We Feel, Ahead: Emotions Coach, The Bear, Lost in Play, Wavelength, Little Nightmares, and a few select apps and games specifically designed for the Vision Pro, such as Blackbox, Loóna, Synth Riders, djay, NBA, and Sky Guide. Significantly, a number of these applications were initially developed for iOS and subsequently adapted for Vision Pro.

Additionally, the presence of an “Inclusivity” section enhances Apple’s worldwide app community, which includes individuals in the European Union (EU), where the Digital Markets Act is currently being implemented. Apple nominations in this section encompass a range of applications and games. These include the app “oko” from Belgium, designed specifically for low-vision users. Another notable nomination is “Complete Anatomy 2024” from Ireland, which focuses on diversity. Additionally, the app “Tiimo” from Denmark caters to neurodivergent users. The nominated games include “Unpacking” from the digital storefront Humble Bundle, “Quadline,” developed by Kovalov Ivan from Ukraine, and “Crayola Adventures.”

 

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Engineering

China’s $47 billion semiconductor fund prioritizes chip sovereignty as a key focus

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China has just shut down a third government-supported investment fund in order to strengthen its semiconductor industry and decrease dependence on other countries for the production and use of wafers. This move is aimed at emphasizing what is known as chip sovereignty.

The National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund of China, commonly referred to as ‘the Big Fund,’ has had two previous iterations: Big Fund I (2014–2019) and Big Fund II (2019–2024). The latter was considerably more substantial than the earlier, but Big Fund III surpasses both with a total of 344 billion yuan, equivalent to around $47.5 billion, as disclosed in official filings.

The size of Big Fund III, which surpasses expectations, further demonstrates Huawei’s growing dependence on Chinese suppliers and reflects the country’s determination to attain self-reliance in semiconductor manufacture. It serves as a reminder that the ongoing competition in semiconductor technology between China and Western countries is reciprocal.

Both the United States and Europe share the desire to decrease their reliance on their long-standing technological competitors. China also has concerns regarding its supply, which extend beyond the potential impact on shipments from the U.S. and its allies.

Taiwan is the primary focus when it comes to chip manufacturing. If China were to take control of its production capabilities, it would greatly disadvantage the United States and its allies. Currently, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) produces approximately 90% of the world’s most advanced chips.

However, according to sources, Bloomberg has learned that ASML, a company located in the Netherlands, and TSMC have methods to render chip-making machinery inoperable in the case of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

China now manufactures over 60% of legacy chips, which are often used in automobiles and household appliances, according to a statement made by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

The competition between legacy and modern chips has expanded, yielding varying outcomes.

The Chinese official stance is that the policies of the United States is having a negative effect, resulting in a decline in exports from prominent American chip manufacturers. This viewpoint is shared by others as well.

According to Hebe Chen, a market analyst at IG, Nvidia is faced with the challenge of balancing its presence in the Chinese market while also managing the tensions between the United States and China. Due to U.S. sanctions, the company developed three customized chips specifically for the Chinese market. However, in order to remain competitive, the company had to cut the price of these chips, compromising its desired pricing strategy.

Nevertheless, it might be contended that the financial challenges faced by Western chip manufacturers may be justified if it hinders China’s rapid development and acquisition of more sophisticated semiconductors compared to its rivals.

Indications suggest that China may face significant consequences if limitations are imposed, such as the potential loss of access to Nvidia’s advanced chips for its AI companies or increased difficulties for its leading company, SMIC, in manufacturing its own chips.

The existence of Big Fund III indicates that China is experiencing significant pressure. As per reports, the cash will be allocated for both large-scale wafer fabrication, similar to past investments, as well as for the production of high-bandwidth memory chips. HBM chips, often referred to as high-bandwidth memory chips, are utilized in many applications such as artificial intelligence (AI), 5G technology, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

However, the most significant indicator is its size.

With the support of six prominent state-owned banks, Big Fund III has surpassed the $39 billion in direct incentives allocated by the U.S. government for chip manufacture under the CHIPS Act. Nevertheless, the total amount of federal assistance is $280 billion.

The EU Chips Act, valued at €43 billion, appears relatively modest compared to South Korea’s $19 billion support package. It is likely that the markets have taken note of this.

The announcement of Big Fund III triggered a surge in the stock prices of Chinese semiconductor businesses that are poised to gain from this fresh infusion of funding. Nevertheless, Bloomberg observed that Beijing’s previous investments have not consistently yielded positive results.

Specifically, China’s highest-ranking officials were dissatisfied with the prolonged inability to create semiconductors capable of replacing American circuitry. Furthermore, the media outlet highlighted that the previous leader of the Big Fund was dismissed and subjected to an investigation due to allegations of corruption.

Even in the absence of corruption, implementing significant modifications to semiconductor manufacturing is a time-consuming endeavor. In both Europe and the United States, the process takes a considerable amount of time. However, there are noteworthy and innovative advancements occurring.

Diamfab, a French deep-tech startup, is currently developing diamond semiconductors that have the potential to facilitate the green transition, specifically in the automobile sector. Although it is still a few years in the future, these Western ideas have the potential to be just as intriguing to monitor as the actions of established Chinese companies.

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