Week Ending: 14th May - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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COVID-19 restrictions are lifting next week, with cinemas and indoor dining available to book, you may have missed the latest developments in the I.T. and Tech industry.

A ransomware cyberattack on a major US fuel pipeline, how digital homes of the future might look and how private your Gmail account actually is; just a few of the news stories you may have missed.

Let’s get you up to date.

US fuel pipeline hackers ‘didn’t mean to create problems’

A major US fuel pipeline was taken offline this week due to a hack by a cybercriminal gang. Colonial Pipeline, the largest pipeline system for refined oil products in the US, was hit by a ransomware cyberattack that ultimately cut the flow of oil. DarkSide, officially confirmed by the FBI as the group behind the attack, stated on its website that “Our goal is to make money and not create problems for society.”

The modern operation run by Colonial Pipeline is highly digital, with all operational technology connected by a central system. Pressure sensors, thermostats, valves and pumps are used to monitor and control the flow of diesel, petrol and jet fuel across hundreds of miles of piping, they even have a high-tech ‘smart pig’ robot that travels through the pipes checking for anomalies. Although direct attacks on operational technology are uncommon, due to the level of security employed by these systems, where there is connectivity there is always the threat of cyberattack.

The pipeline transports nearly half of the east coast’s fuel supplies and this cyberattack is being seen as one of the most significant attacks on critical national infrastructure in history. The prices at pumps are expected to rise if the outage is long lasting.

The attack is being investigated with some theories suggesting that employees, tricked into downloading malware in order to gain access to computer systems, could be the cause.

Joe Biden, US President commented

“The agencies across the government have acted quickly to mitigate any impact on our fuel supply. We're prepared to take additional steps depending on how quickly the company is able to bring its pipeline back up to capacity."

DarkSide has spoken out, stating it does not participate in geopolitics and will introduce moderation and checks on each company to avoid social consequences in the future.

Explore more here.

The future of digital technology in our homes

Technology is continuously evolving and it’s thought houses will one day be designed from the comfort of your sofa then simply clicked and delivered onto site. It’s believed that underground greenhouses will enable us to grow food and that smart-home tech will further revolutionise the way we live. A recent report shows that improvements in home technology and connected living are rising more rapidly than any other change in our history.

Imagine each family member being able to personalise artwork and views from their window using smart glasses and remote workers being able to view hologram versions of their colleagues sitting beside them. This is believed to be the future of smart-home technology!

Architect Piers Taylor, creator of the Homes of the Future: Connectivity & Communities report commented,

“We have radically altered what we do in our domestic spaces following the outbreak of the pandemic. Looking ahead into the next 20 years, we can expect to see vast differences not only in the way our houses look and feel, but in the way we are connected through our homes, with everything we do being assisted by digital technology.”

According to the Homes of the Future: Connectivity & Communities report, robots will keep our pets company whilst owners are not at home, entertaining them and even feeding them. Drones will fly around homes to keep an eye on children and tech-enabled care will have sensors in the floor to notify carers if someone has fallen.

Our home requirements are changing, according to research commissioned by Vodafone. 21% of homeowners polled said they are frustrated by a lack of space indoors, 68% feel it is important to use all corners of their home and 48% require more outdoor space. As tech continues to advance we continue to expect more from it, but what changes do you think home technology will bring?

Read more here.

How private is your Gmail, and should you switch?

Gmail, Google’s email service, and others, collect a surprising amount of data about us without our knowledge. Following Gmail’s recently published app ‘privacy label,’ many are questioning how secure our data is when using an email account.

Most people are aware of some of the tracking that goes on across the web such as cookies, Google search and targeted ads, but email services such as Gmail have recently come under the spotlight on privacy. The ‘privacy label,’ which has a self-declared breakdown of the data it collects and shares with advertisers, has unsurprisingly caused some alarm amongst Gmail users.

According to the label, those that allow the appropriate permission to the iOS Gmail app can expect Google to share information including their approximate location, user ID and data about the ads they have viewed online with advertisers. Holding this data is said, by Google, “to build better services” and every way a user interacts with their Gmail account can be monitored.

Andy Yen, founder and CEO of ProtonMail commented,

“It remains a fact that Google keeps a record of these events and logs them regardless. People are aware of cookies because of privacy and data protection law – which states that planting trackers on your device requires your consent, and you have the right to be told about what is happening to your data. In Europe, those protections cover email tracking as well, but there hasn’t been much enforcement in this area.”

Other email providers also collect data but, as the most popular email service, Gmail remains the biggest data collector and the iOS ‘privacy label’ highlights the stark difference in approach to data collection.

If you are unconcerned about Google’s data collecting habits, you may revise your opinion after using its privacy check-up function to review the amount of data it holds about you.

Discover more here.

Those were some of this week’s biggest stories in I.T. and tech, but if you want more content, follow us across our four social media channels.