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Accounting Today

Yet another deepfake scam, and other tech stories you may have missed

By July 5, 2024No Comments

(This column originally appeared in Accounting Today)

1. Scammers target LastPass employe

A cyber incident making headlines involves yet another deepfake scheme. Password application LastPass has alerted the public of fraudulent calls from individuals posing as employers using deepfake audio after the company was hit with such an attack. The infiltrator created a WhatsApp account and contacted a LastPass employee pretending to be the CEO, Karim Toubba. Among the communications was a “forced urgency” message with the goal of coercing the employee. In this case, it was flagged right away, and the employee immediately reported the situation. Afterward, LastPass posted a warning on its website about the “proliferation of ‘deepfake’ technology.” No damages were incurred by the attempt. (Source: PCMag)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: It’s not comforting that deepfake scammers are focusing on software vault companies like LastPass. But it is comforting to know that there are employees who can identify these types of scams. Yes, deepfake scams will continue to proliferate and become more and more discernible from real messages. But in the end it’s the human who has to let the bad actors in, and the more we ensure that our employees are trained and aware the more protected we’ll be.

2. Microsoft unbundles Office and Teams

As of April 1, new subscribers to Microsoft 365 will need to sign up for the collaboration tool Microsoft Teams separately. Based on strong objections from competitors like Slack that generated an antitrust investigation by the European Union, Microsoft has chosen to discontinue the inclusion of Teams in 365’s application suite. It’s now available through a separate plan, starting at around $4 a month. The concerns raised by competitors have been sustained by the European Commission as it has gone on the record: “The commission is concerned that Microsoft may grant Teams a distribution advantage by not giving customers the choice on whether or not to include access to that product.” Microsoft has indicated existing customers who have a Teams bundle will not see their subscriptions altered. (Source: TechCrunch)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: This does not apply to U.S. businesses, but who knows if this will happen in the future? I think having Teams available as an app separate from Office makes sense for many businesses, particularly if you’re a Google customer but want to just have Teams and not have to incur the cost and complexity of the full Office suite.

3. OfficeSuite: A fair alternative to Office (for less)

How-To Geek reviewed OfficeSuite as a suitable tool for those who want to try something other than Microsoft Office. To see the full review, visit the link. (Source: How-To Geek)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: This is a less expensive option and will read/accept Microsoft Office or OpenOffice files according to the review (“cross-compatibility”). Additionally, its apps are similar to those in Microsoft Office, making it a user-friendly transition. Key differences include certain functions like inserting tables. Another issue is Mac users won’t see all of OfficeSuite’s apps on the macOS (to be worked on, according to OfficeSuite). Other highlights include a built-in AI assistant and OfficeSuite Slides for its organization and support of dated content/slides.

4. Google Workspace gets GenAI pricing, vids app

A new subscription option has been added to Google Workspace to access its AI tools. At $10 a month, you can use Google Meet’s enhanced video quality, noise cancellation, and real-time caption translations. Additionally, other features such as screenshare watermarking and automated notetaking will be added in the coming months. The other update is the new Workspace app, “Vids.” The AI assistant guides the user through simplified instructions to create and edit videos for Workspace collaborations such as training videos. (Source: Computerworld)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: I share my thoughts here.

5. Ikea to train thousands of its employees to use AI

When it comes to integrating artificial intelligence with business operations, Ikea is focused on employee engagement, as the home goods merchant is planning to train 3,500 of its employees in AI literacy. (Source: Digital Commerce 360)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: According to the company, rather than scaling back its workforce with automation, Ikea is investing in its workers with this training to expand their capabilities. According to the report, the extent of the training will be based on the individual’s role in the company. Executives will take part in “AI Exploration Days” to strategize how the technology will align with company priorities. I think we’ll be seeing many companies do this to not only allay fears of AI but to introduce ways for people to do their jobs faster and with greater ease.

6. iOS 18: Apple’s plans for on-device AI

At this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June, Apple announced iOS 18. This “on-device” AI-powered system won’t require a connection to a cloud server — giving iPhones a major performance upgrade. Applications such as Siri will have enhanced intelligence akin to chatbots. Apple Music will have an automated playlist function, plus a series of other upgrades to be announced. There’s also been a lot of chatter that Apple is focusing on privacy issues that this AI system will reinforce. Reports from the tech community indicate iOS 18 will be released in September 2024. (Source: 9to5 Mac)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Whenever I speak about AI to business groups, I usually focus on Microsoft, Google, OpenAI and other players, but rarely mention Apple. Why? Because Apple’s AI strategy is different. Rather than releasing AI products, they’re quietly and quickly building AI into their existing products so that both business and consumer users can benefit.

7. Zendesk unveils more AI features

CRM stware company Zendesk has announced “Zendesk AI” to provide a faster and “more personalized” experience. With tools like AI agents that can perform faster and “more independently than the average bot,” complex customer interactions can be handled autonomously. The AI will also learn company policies to effectively handle complicated problem-solving tasks. It’s programmed to attend to unique customer needs while automating basic tasks like sending personalized emails. (Source: Martech Series)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Where are companies getting the most value from AI in 2024? It’s customer service. Large companies are investing millions in automated chatbots to be human-like agents. And many other software companies — like Zendesk — are spending millions on updating their software to leverage AI features. Whatever customer service platform you’re using, spend time with the software provider and learn what AI features they’re currently providing, or have planned.

8. Salesforce AI beta aims to make everyone a data expert

Data analytics platform Tableau now includes the beta version of Einstein Copilot allowing users to do a “dive deep into their data,” Salesforce said. (Source: Salesforce)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Developed as a conversational assistant that’s programmed to have a comprehensive understanding of company data, Einstein Copilot made its debut this past February. Tableau helps companies to see that data making it more accessible. Einstein will bolster the task of data mining using “Tableau’s powerful analytical engine through natural language to query and derive rich insights,” as described on the Salesforce page. Einstein is also equipped with a security tool — “Einstein Trust Layer” — that protects sensitive information while refining the AI’s results to maintain accuracy.

9. Taco Bell, Pizza Hut going ‘AI-first’

Fox Business reported in a Wall Street Journal article that featured Yum! Brands — whose operations include Pizza Hut and KFC — about their current plans to make fast food service super-efficient and automated with AI. Yum’s chief digital and tech manager, Joe Park, shared that the company’s investment in high-tech has increased significantly over the past four years. (Source: Fox Business)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: The story included an app developed by the company called “SuperApp” that can organize employee shifts and will provide answers to restaurant-related questions. According to the report, the app is being used in over 8,000 KFC and Pizza Hut establishments. Big brands are investing in AI apps to increase productivity and replace employees (which are already hard to find). Look for more apps like this to be available for smaller companies in the not-so-distant future.

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