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December 25, 2023

Anonymous Sudan on the rampage, Elon Musk’s AI journey – July 2023 in review

Tesla billionaire launches AI venture as hackers purporting to represent Sudan go on a DDoS rampage.

By Matthew Gooding

In July a new group of hackers made the headlines with a disruptive campaign of DDoS attacks.

Hacking group Anonymous Sudan first shot to prominence in June, when they joined forces with other cybercriminal gangs to issue a threat to take down the European financial system as a show of support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Though these threats never materialised, it was the start of a period of high activity for Anonymous Sudan, which claimed to have breached Paypal, Reddit and fan fiction portal A03 in a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Perhaps its most damaging attack came in Kenya, where the group successfully took down the country’s new system of online public services. The attacks on Kenya’s e-Citizen portal, which allows Kenyans to access 5,000 different government services, left citizens and businesses without access to critical programmes such as buying electricity tokens or making mobile payments.

Anonymous Sudan purported to be representing the interests of Sudan and said it was targeting enemies of Islam. It said its attacks on Kenya are in support of the Sudanese government because officials in Nairobi “released statements doubting the sovereignty of [the Sudanese] government”. Kenya’s president William Ruto was put forward to lead a mediation group as part of efforts to end the ongoing civil conflict in Sudan.

But security researchers believe the gang are Russian hackers causing mischief for Moscow’s opponents. A report on the gang from security vendor Flashpoint said: “Evidence suggests that Anonymous Sudan are likely state-sponsored Russian actors masquerading as Sudanese actors with Islamist motivations, as cover for their actions against western, or western-aligned, entities.”

Elon Musk boards the AI train

Elon Musk has been on a journey in 2023 regarding artificial intelligence. The Tesla billionaire was one of the signatories of an open letter, released in March, calling for a pause on AI development while safety risks posed by the technology were considered. By July, Musk had decided that the best way to develop AI safely was to build it himself and announced his venture to take on the likes of OpenAI and Anthropic.

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Dubbed xAI, the new business was tasked with building an AI that can help “understand the true nature of the universe”. Explaining his decision to launch xAI, Musk said: “If it tried to understand the true nature of the universe, that’s actually the best thing that I can come up with from an AI safety standpoint.” He added: “I think it is going to be pro-humanity from the standpoint that humanity is just much more interesting than not-humanity.” Profound stuff.

xAI hired some big hitters, including former Google Deepmind engineer Igor Babuschkin. It would go on to launch Grok, an AI-powered chatbot similar to ChatGPT, which is available to premium subscribers of Musk’s X social network, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

More from July 2023

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