Welcome to our latest round-up of news from the technology and hosting world. Here’s what we’ve discovered this week.
Co-op’s facial recognition criticised
The Co-op’s decision to trial the use of facial recognition technology in 18 of its food stores has been heavily criticised by privacy campaigners.
The Facewatch system was installed by Southern Co-operative, an independent part of the Co-op brand, to inform its employees if anyone with a history of anti-social behaviour or theft entered the shop. The 18 stores in the trial were those that had the highest incidents of crime and the intention was to protect staff from being attacked and reduce losses due to theft.
However, a number of privacy organisations have been concerned by the trial. Privacy International questioned its legality and wanted to know if the information was shared with the police. Big Brother Watch, meanwhile, thought it was ‘deeply chilling’ to see a company renowned for its ethical vision making use of ‘rights-abusive tech’ that can wrongly identify people.
Curry’s outage causes chaos
Shoppers trying to purchase from the Curry’s PC World website on Black Friday will have been frustrated by a prolonged outage that saw the website eventually crash and go into maintenance mode. Before it did so, it began to work only partially, accepting orders but failing to complete checkouts and losing orders that had been paid for at Black Friday prices. Those that made several attempts to purchase had to queue to rejoin the website, saw items disappear from shopping baskets (and from the sales) and original delivery dates cancelled.
The company blamed the unprecedented number of visitors for the website glitch, which bore all the hallmarks of a site unable to cater for an unexpected spike in traffic. Originally, those who lost out were told they would have to pay the full price for any Black Friday deals that were lost; however, after poor publicity, the company has now made a U-turn on that decision.
For other website owners, it’s a reminder that you need a hosting solution with enough capacity to cater for spikes in demand. For large businesses, like Curry’s, this inevitably means having the scalability of the cloud.
Vaccine details stolen in hack
The European Medicines Agency, which is responsible for authorising the use of medicines in the EU, has reported the theft of documents relating to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine which is now being rolled out in the UK.
The theft was the result of a cyberattack on one of the organisation’s servers. Precise details of what exactly was stolen, or how, have not been released. As the agency tasked with authorising the vaccine, the EMA will have had access to significant amounts of data on how the vaccine was developed and on the results of its medical trials. The hack seems to be part of a larger campaign which has seen organisations dealing with the vaccine’s temperature-controlled storage and transportation hit by a spate of phishing attacks.
While the EMA is working with investigators to find out more about the attack, Pfizer-BioNTech doesn’t expect the issue to delay the EMAs decision to authorise the vaccine’s use.
CIOs out – AI in
A recent survey by Trend Micro has revealed that 41% of IT leaders expect their jobs to be taken over by artificial intelligence by 2030. A further 32% believe automated technology will eventually carry out all cybersecurity work, with only minor human intervention needed. When it comes to increasing security, 24% agreed that access to data will be restricted through biometric and DNA authentication within ten years, eradicating unauthorised access.
Trend Micro, meanwhile, stated that while AI and automation can help organisations deal with critical skills shortages and make some tasks redundant, existing roles and the people who carry them out will evolve and adapt.
Hackers steal advanced security
If you’re one of the world’s leading cybersecurity firms, there’s perhaps nothing more embarrassing than getting hacked. Unfortunately for US outfit, FireEye, which looks after the security of governments, large organisations and blue-chip companies, not only did they get hacked, but the hackers stole their security tools.
What makes this a major theft is that some of the tools stolen were those which are used to mimic attacks on advanced security systems and include complete attack frameworks. As a result, the hackers will have access to those tools to carry out the attacks themselves.
The company say that the attack was carried out by a ‘highly sophisticated state-sponsored adversary with top-tier offensive capabilities.’ Many experts believe it has the hallmarks of Russian actors. With its products now in the wild, FireEye has implemented countermeasures in its tools and shared these with its customers, including governments.
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