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Week Ending: 29th February - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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It’s been another busy week in the world of I.T. and tech, with 3D printing, facial recognition and a 4G flaw leaving devices vulnerable to attack, all hitting the headlines. If you missed all that, worry not, our trusty roundup will bring you right up to date.

3D printing: The revolution you didn’t know about

When you think about 3D printing, it is likely that you think about plastic models, but, what about hearing aids, medications and food? No? Well, according to a recent report, 3D printing is revolutionising the way products are manufactured across many industries. This is most apparent in the medical industry where products from hearing aids, dental products, – crowns and bridges – prosthetics and even medications can be made using additive manufacturing (3D printing) reducing production time and cost considerably.

Additive manufacturing involves the process of building up layers of materials – usually plastic, metal and resins – and bonding them together until you have a finished product. Scientists across the globe are now experimenting with this technology and it has recently been used to create a skin graft, steak and even a house. A senior research analyst at IDC Europe, Galina Spasova said; "In terms of the technology, there are constantly new applications discovered, with new materials and machines unveiled each year."

In addition to current experimental uses, the technology is being used on a larger scale. Boeing is using 3D-printed parts in its spacecraft, commercial and defence aircraft and BAE Systems uses the technology to make components for the Typhoon fighter. There is even a 3D printer on the International Space Station, where it is used to create spare parts.

Police commissioner hits out at facial recognition critics

The commissioner of The Metropolitan Police Force, Cressida Dick, has attacked critics of facial recognition technology saying they are incorrect and misinformed. Facial recognition technology has come under attack due to the perceived threat to personal privacy. However, Cressida Dick is critical of opponents and claims the technology has led to the arrest of several criminals who would otherwise not have been caught.

She says that the technology does not pose a threat to privacy as it does not store biometric data, has been proven to not have an ethnic bias, and human officers will always make the decision about whether or not to intervene. She went on to say that the only people on the watch list are those who are wanted for serious crimes.

Live Facial Recognition (LFR) critics have responded angrily to Dick’s comments, saying she has ignored reports which do not support the use of the tech and that it is unhelpful to reduce a serious debate to accusations of ‘fake news.’ Hannah Couchman, a policy and campaigns officer at civil liberties group, Liberty, said the language used in her speech was “misleading and dangerous”, maintaining that LFR undermined safety “by handing extraordinary power to the state to control our movements and behaviour”. Read more here.

Flaw in 4G leaves mobile devices vulnerable to attack

Researchers have found a serious bug in 4G connections which can help hackers impersonate other phone users, allowing them to do anything from publishing a company’s private documents to taking out a streaming service at the expense of the device owner. As this is a vulnerability with the 4G network it affects almost all mobile connections including smart phones, tablets and even some household connected appliances.

The flaw may also have an impact on criminal investigations as hackers can not only make purchases in a victim’s name but also visit websites using their identity. The only way to overcome this threat would be to redesign the hardware, and it seems that the rollout of 5G won’t necessarily mitigate the problem either. In order to do this, providers would need to accept the higher costs associated with developing additional protection and all mobile phones that are currently 5G enabled would need to be replaced.

The researchers also said that for a successful attack, the hacker would need to be in the vicinity of the phone they were trying to hack, as they intercept the signal between the base-station and the device.


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