AI startup working on Project Maven was hacked
And fired an employee for trying to report it 😳
Posted on June 13, 2018 11:50 PM.
A lawsuit filed by former employee Amy Liu this month alleges that Clarifai’s computer systems were compromised by one or more people in Russia, potentially exposing technology used by the US military to an adversary. The lawsuit says Clarifai learned of the breach last November, but that Clarifai’s CEO and other executives did not promptly report it to the Pentagon.
The CEO and executives at Clarifai didn't immediately report it to the pentagon, ...
... despite learning of the breach last November, the CEO and other executives
Liu claims she was fired days after the breach was discovered for asking the company to report the incident to the Pentagon, while an unnamed former employee says handling of the breach led him to leave the company. Multiple employees left due to the company’s involvement with Maven.
Clarifai was awarded a six-month, $7M contract to work on Project Maven, to help the Pentagon classify objects in drone imagery. Google was also involved in the project, until numerous employees quit out of protest, and a petition was signed by hundreds of academics and researchers, questioning Google's ethical stance on their use of AI.
In early November, Clarifai was informed by internet service provider Cogent that one of its servers appeared to be attacking Indiana University. The report says that all the company’s code and the credentials to its Amazon Web Services account that stored customer data could have been compromised, and that the malware appeared to have originated from a computer in Russia.
Liu heard about the hack from other employees, and Clarifai's general counsel asked Liu to meet in a broom closet, where she explained what executives knew, and told Liu not to report the hack to the DoD. After making a note in the agenda to bring it up with her manager, she was let go, alledgedly due to a misalignment with Clarifai's sales team.
Her complaint was filed with the Department of Defense Inspector General, alleging that Clarifai broke Pentagon rules by not reporting the breach within 72 hours, and broke military law prohibiting reprisals against contractor employees trying to disclose information about breaches of department regulations.
In response to allegations of employee turmoil, Zeiler said two employees requested and were granted reassignment from the Maven project.
Now, as discussion surrounding the ethical implications of AI arise, companies like Google have published their stances on the use of AI, and how they intend to keep their actions aligned with their principles. While the focus for Clarifai will likely be the security breach, it'll be interesting to see if startups like Clarifai take after Google, and publish principles of their own.
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