This week’s roundup in I.T. and tech news focusses on the big players in tech, with the shutdown of Google+, an AI algorithm causing concern for Amazon, and US security threats.
Google+ shutting down after users’ data is exposed
Up to 500,000 accounts are known to be affected by a bug in Google’s software which meant that personal information, which users believed to be private, was in fact accessible by third party programs. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the company knew about the issue in March, however chose not to share the information with the public.
When using the site, if a user gave permission to an app to access their public profile data, it allowed these developers to access the user’s non-public profile fields as well as those of their friends. That means names, emails, birthdays, genders, photos, places lived, relationships and anything else that was stored here were potentially exposed.
Google has said in a statement that it has no evidence to believe that any of the data that was accessed was misused by the 438 third-party apps that could have had access.
Read more on this via the BBC.
“Sexist” AI tool allegedly scrapped by Amazon
An algorithm which was being tested by Amazon has been scrapped due to it being sexist, a Reuters report has claimed. The AI received data over a 10 year period which was mostly from men, meaning that the algorithm effectively taught itself that males were preferable.
Reuters spoke to a number of members of the team who did not want to be named.
“They literally wanted it to be an engine where I’m going to give you 100 resumes, it will spit out the top five, and we’ll hire those,” commented an engineer who spoke to Reuters.
The recruitment system was designed as a quicker and efficient way to rank candidates however the AI even began to penalise CVs which included the word ‘women’ once it saw that the majority of CVs received were from men. The news undoubtedly raises doubts around algorithms and machine learning, especially when it comes to human-related databases.
Amazon has yet to respond to the claims made by Reuters so we’ll be watching this one carefully.
“Nearly All” new Pentagon weapons critically vulnerable to cyber-security attacks, auditors Say
Nearly all of the US government’s new weaponry have been found to be critically vulnerable to cyber threats, suggesting that the US has rushed to develop and computerise new systems, without fully taking cyber security into account.
The findings were released this week in a report from the Government Accountability Office.
The report drew on years of security audits conducted from 2012 - 2017 by skilled “testers” - essentially friendly hackers employed to probe Pentagon networks for holes, replicating the process of a hack in order to find security weaknesses.
The importance of cyber security in today’s world is more prevalent than ever, however the Pentagon has only relatively recently made it a vital priority to ensure the cybersecurity of its weapon systems, therefore it is still only determining how to reach that end goal.
“The DOD does not know the full scale of its weapon system vulnerabilities”.
Among the report’s findings, security testers explained that they were able to covertly take control of an unspecified weapons system, view its operators’ computer screens and manipulate the system itself.
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