Welcome to our latest round-up of news from the technology and hosting world. Here’s what we’ve discovered this month.
Why hackers love a pet owner
Try to write down all the pets’ names you can think of and the chances are it would be a pretty limited list. Indeed, the names different societies use for pets are so limited that a cleverly written brute force hacking tool could blitz through them in a couple of minutes.
Despite this, it’s recently been discovered that many people use these names as their passwords. According to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), 15% of Brits use pets’ names and 14% use the name of someone in their family. A further 13% choose a memorable date and 6% even stick to using the most easily cracked password of all time – ‘password’. For another 20%, it’s either their favourite football club, TV show or a letter or number string (qwerty, abcde, 12345, etc.)
Not only are these passwords easy to crack using sophisticated tools; even not so well-equipped hackers could quickly find possible names from seemingly harmless social media posts, like ‘Watching the Leeds game with Rachel and Rover.’
If you or your employees are using easily guessed passwords, now’s the time to change to strong passwords and two-factor authentication.
Robots 3d printing other robots
As is often the case, what starts as science fiction ends up becoming a reality. Inspired by the replicator machine in Star Trek, boffins at MIT have developed the LaserFactory, a robot that creates other robots and functional devices like drones.
The project involved transforming a 2D commercial laser cutter into an all-in-one, 3D assembler that could build devices capable of flying straight from the assembly line and do so without any human intervention.
Described as a ‘unified design and production pipeline’, LaserFactory can cut out acrylic structures, print circuitry and attach other components in the right order and in the precise place. To do this in a way that prevents the various moving parts from interfering or colliding with each other, the team also developed an ingenious planning algorithm.
A small scale innovation at present, it could transform global manufacturing in the not too distant future. No doubt MIT will also have plans on beaming their products over, rather than relying on old fashioned things like transportation.
EU gets tough on AI
While artificial intelligence can bring enormous benefits, in the wrong hands it can be a dangerous tool. It’s this reasoning that has led the EU to tighten control over how AI is used.
Under the newly proposed legislation, the EU now seeks to ban the use of surveillance equipment that uses AI-based facial recognition, as well as algorithms that can lead a person to change their behaviour, opinion or decisions, for example, social scoring or social and health prediction. Specific examples of things that could be affected include systems that prioritise healthcare or emergency services, allocate educational places, assess individuals for recruitment, undertake credit scoring or predict an individual’s risk of committing a crime.
With proposed sanctions on par with those who fail to comply with GDPR, businesses that develop banned services, or do not give correct information about them, could be fined up to 4% of their annual global income.
Bank of England considering ‘Britcoin’
As the use of cash continues to wane and people shift even more towards digital payments, the Bank of England has begun to look at the possibility of developing its own digital currency. Nicknamed ‘Britcoin’ by journalists, it will in effect be nothing more than a digital pound and have the same value as sterling.
With many businesses now beginning to use crypto-currencies, the bank sees the development of its own version providing the same opportunities for use but without the risks that come from current crypto-currencies, such as widely fluctuating values and a lack of governance. While it’s not likely to be a currency that speculators will invest in, those wanting a digital currency with stability and the backing of a central bank are the intended users.
Another potential benefit is that the currency would allow the Bank of England to know when every electronic transaction took place, enabling it to step in quickly to stimulate the economy if there were warning signs of an economic slowdown.
Cyberattack takes down Hertfordshire University
With lockdown measures still requiring many students to study remotely and take part in online lectures, the last thing any university needed was a full-scale IT disaster. Unfortunately for Hertfordshire University, that’s exactly what happened as a result of a recent cyberattack.
According to the university, the attack has taken down its IT systems in their entirety, including its cloud-based platforms, like Teams, Zoom and Canva. As a result, it has been forced to cancel all online lectures and tutorials. While some lessons were able to take place face to face on campus, those able to attend didn’t have on-site access to computer facilities in labs, libraries and resource centres.
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