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Okta plans to weave AI across its entire identity platform using multiple models



One thing is clear this year: generative AI is having a tremendous impact on the software industry, and a week doesn’t pass without software companies announcing their plans to incorporate the seemingly game changing technology into their platforms.

This week, it’s Okta’s turn. The identity company is making a slew of AI-related announcements at the company’s Oktane customer conference, taking place this week in San Francisco.

“I think AI is the next big wave in technology. I think it’s as important and big and impactful as the internet, as cloud, as mobile,” Okta CEO Todd McKinnon told TechCrunch.

For Okta, that means training a model on all of the data it’s been collecting about identity and putting that to work to help make customers safer. “We have a new set of capabilities we’re launching called Okta AI,” he said. “It’s taking all of the really, really valuable data we have from risk signals and usage patterns and customers and policies, and combining them with the latest and greatest AI technology.”

As McKinnon points out, Okta AI isn’t a product per se, so much as a set of capabilities that will be added over time across the platform, some of which will incorporate predictive AI to help security teams understand possible threats, and some of which will allow users to interact with the data to pinpoint problems more easily using generative AI.

While this will involve many different pieces, he highlighted three in particular. The first, Identity Threat Protection looks at traditional identity protection, checking for things like the computer, network, location and other clues to ensure the person signing in, is who they say they are — but it doesn’t stop there.

“With Identity Threat Protection with Okta, AI, the evaluation of your security posture doesn’t stop. It’s continuously getting signals from the entire ecosystem — from CrowdStrike or Palo Alto Networks or Zscalar or any anyone else — and this is integrated with identity fraud protection. The second that there’s any kind of risk anywhere, whether it’s malware on the device or a bad network security posture, [it can identify it],” McKinnon said.

And if it finds something that passes a particular threat threshold, regardless of which system it came from, Okta or one of its partners, it will undertake what McKinnon is calling a ‘universal logout,’ logging the user out from every system until security can resolve the problem.

Next, Policy Recommender proposes an application security configuration based on similar use cases across Okta’s 18,000+ customer base. “You want to get the right balance between ease of use, without checking too much, and still making it secure, especially when the application is sensitive. So Policy Recommender is trained on the policies of thousands and thousands of customers and how they set up these apps,” he said. It uses that data to recommend a policy for each customer, based on their requirements and security posture.

Finally, Log Investigator is a more pure generative AI play, letting users query the Okta logs using natural language to find information. “The basis of this technology is a generative model that looks at all of the queries that people are issuing against the Okta logs to ask questions, and it trains the model on those queries,” he said. “So then the result of it is a natural language interface so customers can just ask questions and the Okta system will respond with answers based on what’s in their logs.”

McKinnon says the company is using a combination of models, depending on the task, including Google, OpenAI and Amazon. The company could also develop its own model in the future, one that will likely be based on open source offerings, he said.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says in the future there will be an ongoing security battle with both sides using AI to gain an advantage, and security and identity companies like Okta have little choice but to get on board.

“Customers know that in the future, AI will be battling AI. So this is just the beginning, and they are expecting their identity providers to be able to handle attacks from other AI systems, as well as proactively preparing,” Wang told TechCrunch.

With these and other announcements, Okta is clearly moving toward this world, but it will be judged on how well it executes on these ideas, while protecting customer privacy. For now, these and other AI features being announced this week will go into beta in the coming months, and be generally available sometime next year.

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SpaceX Rocket Suffers Engine Failure In Starlink Mission, Elon Musk Shares What’ll Happen Next




SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket suffered a rare failure on Friday. The launcher lifted off with 20 Starlink satellites at 8:06 am IST from California but failed to deploy them in the intended orbit.

According to SpaceX, the second stage of Falcon 9 did not complete its second burn necessary for reaching the desired orbit. The booster did its job and safely landed on the droneship in the Pacific Ocean. It was SpaceX‘s 70th mission this year.

Currently, the satellites are in a lower orbit than planned.

“SpaceX has made contact with 5 of the satellites so far and is attempting to have them raise orbit using their ion thrusters,” the company said in a statement on X.

ALSO SEE: Japan’s First Private Rocket Launch Ends In Massive Explosion, Video Goes Viral

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that it might not work “but it’s worth the shot. He also said that the satellites might fall toward Earth and burn up in the atmosphere if their thrusters are overpowered by the atmospheric drag.

In another post, Musk revealed that the upper stage engine exploded for unknown reasons while trying to raise the orbit. “Team is reviewing data tonight to understand root cause,” he said.

Notably, the reputed rocket by SpaceX has suffered only one full in-flight failure during a mission to the International Space Station in 2015.

ALSO SEE: Chinese Rocket Launches Accidentally, Crashes With Massive Explosion Seconds Later

(Image: SpaceX)

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China Plans To Destroy An Asteroid For Planetary Defense Mission By 2030: Report




After the impeccable success of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, China is now planning to deflect an asteroid later this decade. According to The Planetary Society, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) is preparing its first planetary defense test which is expected to launch by 2030.

Scientists have proposed the near-Earth asteroid 2015 XF261 as a candidate for the mission which will include two probes. One will ram into the space rock to deflect it and the second will conduct impact assessment.

The asteroid 2015 XF261 measures about 100 feet or 30 metres in diameter and it made a close flyby of our planet earlier this month. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the asteroid was about 50 million kilometres from our planet on July 9 and was travelling at a speed of around 42,000 kilometres per hour.

ALSO SEE: NASA Drills Freaky Scenario Where Elusive Asteroid Heads Towards Earth

Apart from China, Japan is also eyeing a ‘kinetic impact’ test mission to deflect an asteroid. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reportedly has plans to repurpose its Hayabusa2 spacecraft to collide with 1998 KY26. The probe which launched in 2014 is expected to rendezvous with the space rock in 2031 and potentially change its orbit.

The said missions by the two nations are driven by the success of NASA’s DART mission launched in 2021 which proved that smacking an asteroid can deflect them. It collided with Dimorphos which circles a larger rock Didymos in September 2022 and changed its orbit by about 32 minutes.

These missions are of immense importance as they enable technologies that could save Earth from a planet-killing asteroid. While predicting an impending asteroid armageddon is predictable, it is also the gravest threat that humanity faces.

ALSO SEE: Collision Of NASA’s DART With Asteroid Dimorphos Changed Its Shape; Finding Excites Scientists

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Uzbekistan mobile bank TBC raises $38.2M to expand its financial products




Uzbekistan’s only mobile-exclusive bank, TBC Bank Uzbekistan, owned by London Stock Exchange-listed TBC Bank Group, has raised $38.2 million in a fresh equity investment. It plans to expand its local presence in the country and introduce new financial products as well.

TBC Bank Group has led the latest funding in TBC Bank Uzbekistan by infusing $23 million, while shareholders European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) have participated in the round by investing $7.6 million each.

After serving customers in Georgia, TBC Bank Group decided to expand outside that country’s borders in 2019 and found Uzbekistan as its first international market. The bank started its Uzbekistan operations in 2020 through a separate entity, TBC Group Uzbekistan, which launched the mobile-only bank after its debut, with no physical branches in the country. The plan was to leverage Uzbekistan’s increasing digitization effort and foresee business growth in the country, which has the biggest population after Russia and Ukraine in the region — the second-largest among all the Commonwealth of Independent States countries — and has upright economic and socio-demographics.

“Before TBC came in, there were no banking apps in Uzbekistan … Fast-forward four years, most of the banks have got a mobile app, but TBC is far ahead of the field,” said Oliver Hughes, head of international business at TBC Group, in an exclusive interview.

According to official data, Uzbekistan has a 70% smartphone penetration rate and a 77% internet penetration rate; 59% of its population of 37 million is under 30 years old, making it a viable market for a mobile-specific business.

TBC Bank Uzbekistan offers a mobile app through which customers can open bank accounts and access services, including cash loans and deposits. This omits the requirement of physically going to a bank branch to access banking.

Hughes told TechCrunch that a couple of years ago, customers in Uzbekistan typically had to visit their bank and stand in a queue to get any of their banking work done.

Alongside the mobile-only bank, TBC Group Uzbekistan owns Payme, the digital payments app for individual users and small businesses, as well as the Sharia-compliant credit business called Payme Nasiya. To broaden its coverage, it looks to integrate some experiences from these two businesses within the bank or sync them with the bank’s operations.

For instance, through its app, TBC Group Uzbekistan will offer tips, recommendations and user-generated content on local events, entertainment, concerts and travel to provide complementary services that are not strictly financially related. Some of these features will first arrive on the Payme app but will be available to the TBC Bank Uzbekistan customers over time.

Similarly, Payme Nasiya currently serves Uzbek customers with its point-of-sale and installment loans. To expand the credit business, it will introduce e-commerce and offline buy now, pay later. This is expected to attract more local businesses and eventually help the mobile bank gain more customers.

In addition to the new financial products in the pipeline, TBC Group Uzbekistan plans to bring AI experiences to its mobile bank. Hughes told TechCrunch the group has built a large language model predominantly using its customer dataset and is working on a voice assistant to deliver banking and financial services through a chatbot integrated within its app.

In the fall, TBC Bank Uzbekistan will use the fresh funding to add credit cards and an insurance product next year, Hughes said.

The bank’s roadmap includes additional services such as current accounts, as well as accounting, offline payments, e-commerce payments and lending specifically for small and medium enterprise customers, Hughes added.

“This investment will allow us to further capitalize on the immense opportunities in Uzbekistan, a fast-growing country with a population of over 37 million people where TBC UZ continues to leverage its growth momentum,” said Vakhtang Butskhrikidze, CEO of TBC Bank Group, in a prepared statement.

At the end of 2022, TBC Bank Uzbekistan broke even, and 2023 was the bank’s first full year of profit. As of March 2024, the bank had a user base of 4.8 million unique registered users. It also recorded monthly active users of 1.2 million in the first quarter of 2024.

Overall, TBC Group Uzbekistan, with a registered user base of 15 million users, reached profitability two years after launch and recorded 85% year-on-year revenue growth in the first quarter of this year. The company achieved gross loans of $296 million and deposits of $216 million through all three of its subsidiaries. Its net profit hit $23 million for the financial year 2023, most of which came from Payme. However, TBC did not disclose the mobile bank’s revenues or profits.

“TBC UZ’s impressive growth trajectory and innovative approach align with our mission to support sustainable economic development in the region,” said Andi Aranitasi, head of Uzbekistan, EBRD.

Hughes said that by the end of 2025, TBC Group Uzbekistan is projected to generate $75 million in net profit, most of which would come from TBC Bank Uzbekistan.

“We are encouraged with the progress TBC UZ has made so far and remain confident in its potential to contribute to economic growth and financial inclusion in Uzbekistan,” said Neil McKain, country manager, Uzbekistan, IFC.

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