Welcome to our latest round-up of news from the technology and hosting world. Here’s what we’ve discovered this week.
AI app saving Zambia’s farms
Over 40,000 Zambian farmers are benefitting from the AI-enabled AgriPredict smartphone app that provides them with instant information about plant diseases. The app scans images of a farm’s diseased plants and uses AI to accurately identify the specific disease that the crop is affected by. Until now, the country’s rural farmers have had to call in human experts to do this job, something which was often expensive and took so long that many crops had been devastated before the expert arrived. Now, identification is swift, enabling treatment to take place before the harvest is lost.
As well as identifying plant disease, the app also provides farmers with 14-day weather forecasts for their location and sends alerts for unexpected weather phenomena. This way, farmers can take action to prevent the effects of droughts or flooding.
Finally, the app also allows farmers to sell their products to buyers, something which has been increasingly difficult during the pandemic when many traditional markets have been closed. This has helped the country’s agricultural supply chain keep going during the pandemic.
Cloud to bring personalised in-car experiences
Amazon and BlackBerry have teamed up to develop an intelligent vehicle data platform that will enable car makers to gather and analyse data from their vehicles’ sensors. Known as the IVY Platform, it is designed to support the operating systems used by multiple manufacturers and can work across multi-cloud deployments.
The platform will have built-in auto data and IoT and machine learning capabilities that can access and utilise the specialised formats of vehicle sensor data. The current difficulty in accessing this data has been blamed for slowing the innovation of new solutions for customers. It is hoped that by utilising machine learning to provide insights, the new platform will speed up time to market for innovations, including personalised experiences for vehicle users.
Once developed, the platform will be embedded into a car’s existing system and be managed remotely via the cloud. Edge computing will be used to speed up the processing of the car’s data.
New form of ransomware
According to security experts, a new form of ransomware, Egregor, has claimed over 70 business victims over the last month. These have included bookstore, Barnes & Noble, and game developers Crytek and Ubisoft. The data stolen included Windows Registry hives, containing company financial data, and source code for computer game titles.
The new strain of ransomware has similarities with the Maze strain that has been used successfully by hackers throughout the pandemic. Both target organisations from the industrial goods and services sector and the cybercriminals involved release sensitive data stolen during an attack on the dark web while demanding large ransom payments to stop future leaks.
Although new, attacks using Egregor have increased from 15 in September to 71 in November, an increase of almost 500%. Experts expect attacks using this ransomware to become increasingly prevalent over the next year.
cPanel patches 2FA bug
cPanel has patched a security bug that would have enabled cybercriminals to bypass its two-factor authentication protocols and undertake brute force attacks. According to security experts at Digital Defense, the vulnerability meant a successful brute force attack could be carried out in minutes, giving hackers free rein over a website’s cPanel management tools.
cPanel quickly released an advisory stating that its 2FA security policy had failed to prevent attackers from submitting repeated authentication codes and that this could let them bypass its 2FA checks using brute force techniques. However, a fix was speedily developed and cPanel users can rest assured that, moving forward, any incorrect 2FA codes will be treated in the same manner as a failed password attempt.
UK dumping tech waste
The UK is not doing a very good job of recycling its old digital technology according to the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee. The country is the second-worst in the world for e-waste, chucking away 23.9kg per person, compared to 16.2kg in the EU and 7.3kg globally. Only Norway dumps more.
Rather than sending it for recycling, most of it is buried in landfill and much of that is sent to countries known to have poor environmental standards. Surprisingly, even items collected by local authorities have found their way abroad. The impact on the environment is significant, with toxic chemicals like arsenic, lead and mercury being released into the environment alongside the carbon emissions created during transport. Additionally, not recycling contributes to the increased demand for rare earth and precious metals who’s mining also causes devastating environmental impact.
The House of Commons Committee claims that manufacturers and sellers of technology have contributed to the problem, making devices with short lifespans and which are difficult to repair while not providing recycling services. Apple, Samsung, Amazon and eBay were on the Committee’s naughty list, while Dixons Carphone and AO were praised for their take-back schemes.
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