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Week Ending: 22nd November - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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From gambling receiving an AI makeover to a hotel group leaving a terabyte of data exposed and Interpol stepping in to condemn strong encryption, it’s been another busy week in the world of I.T. and tech. If you missed all that worry not, our trusty roundup will bring you right up to date.

Interpol condemns strong encryption

A report this week revealed that the international police organisation, Interpol, is planning to condemn the spread of strong encryption. It said in a statement that, among other issues, strong encryption protects child sex predators.

Social media giant Facebook moved to the front of this political fight earlier this year when it announced plans to make its Messenger communication service app encrypted end-to-end. This would mean that neither Facebook nor law enforcement could view content unless they have access to one of the endpoint devices.

Interpol’s involvement could provide greater political cover for countries to pass laws or regulations barring unbreakable encryption or requiring companies to be capable of hacking their own users. Here in the UK and in Australia, laws have recently been passed moving in that direction, though it is unclear how widely they are being implemented.

Interpol joining the political conversation is notable because the group includes Russia and other countries without rules against mass surveillance or spying on political minorities and activists.

Tech activists are alarmed by this political and legal trend highlighting how governments have abused "exceptional access" in the past. Andrew Crocker, an attorney at the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation said: "The idea that the U.S. is so concerned about having lawful exceptional access to end-to-end encryption that they are willing to spread that to nearly every jurisdiction in the world, including authoritarian states with which we would otherwise not share information, is unthinkable to me."

"To give that power to Russia, China and other authoritarian states is complete dereliction of duty of the U.S. government to protect us."

Gambling to get AI update

Gambling machines in UK betting shops are to be updated with AI software designed to detect and prevent problematic behaviour in players. The system will lock gamblers out of machines for 30 seconds if erratic or excessive play is detected. During this time warnings about safe gambling will be displayed.

The AI “Anonymous Player Awareness System” was launched this month and aims to detect behaviour patterns such as chasing losses, spending too long on a single machine and playing a succession of games rapidly.

So far Betfred, Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill have confirmed that the software has been installed on their machines.

However, some have questioned how effective the 30 second breaks will be. "This is a step in the right direction but obviously needs to be monitored and evaluated," said Mark Griffiths, professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University. He added, "The mandatory break is probably not long enough to have a positive effect."

So far research has found that the break causes "no significant effect" on the amount of money staked during a subsequent gambling session or how long that session lasted. Read more here.

Hotel group leaves terabyte of data exposed

Security researchers have found that one of Europe’s largest hotel booking companies left more than a terabyte of sensitive data exposed on a public server. The database belongs to an Accor Group subsidiary, Gekko Group, and stores information on 140,000 clients. The exposed data included names, home addresses, lodging, children’s personal information, credit card numbers and thousands of passwords stored in plaintext.

Fabrice Perdoncini, Gekko Group’s CEO, said that the company has secured the database and is launching an internal investigation on its I.T. systems. Perdoncini said in a statement. "We acknowledge the seriousness of this matter and confirm that no malicious use or misuse of data has been reported so far."

The company said it has informed affected clients and that less than 1,000 unencrypted credit card numbers were stored on the database. However, more credit card numbers could have been seen in document scans stored on the server.

The database also had a significant amount of data from websites like Booking.com and Hotelbeds.com open to the public, including personal information and credit card numbers, meaning that individuals who have never directly interacted with Accor Group could still be affected.


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