Week Ending: 16th July - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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It’s Friday! You know what that means, it’s time for our Weekly Roundup. Bringing you up to date with the latest developments in the I.T. and Tech world. Don’t worry if you missed it in the news this week, we’ll make sure you’re caught up.

This week’s round-up covers everything from Sir Richard Branson becoming the first billionaire in space, cyber-attacks spurred by staff working from home and debates over the future of the NHS Track and Trace app.

Let’s get you up to speed.

Sir Richard Branson becomes first billionaire in space

UK businessman and founder of Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson, has become the first billionaire to reach space. After releasing from the mothership earlier this week, the VSS Unity spaceplane reached its maximum altitude at 55 miles, at the edge of space.

The British entrepreneur announced his plan to reach space in the rocket plane, that Virgin Galactic has been developing for 17 years, just nine days before Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, was set to launch aboard his own mission. Sir Richard, who first announced his intention to develop a space plane in 2004, had the expectation he’d have a commercial service available by 2007, this was postponed after a number of technical issues and a fatal crash during a development flight in 2014.

Sir Richard commented,

“I’ve wanted to go to space since I was a kid, and I want to enable hopefully hundreds of thousands of other people over the next 100 years to be able to go to space, and why shouldn't they go to space? Space is extraordinary; the Universe is magnificent. I want people to be able to look back at our beautiful Earth and come home and work very hard to try to do magic to it to look after it.”

The vehicle, known as Unity, is initially carried by a much bigger aeroplane to the altitude of around 15km (50,000ft), where it is released. From there, a rocket motor at the back of Unity ignites to push the ship upwards. Once Unity achieves its maximum height, passengers are able to take off their seatbelts to view the Earth’s horizon and experience weightlessness, before gliding home.

Branson, who returned safely to Earth in little over an hour after take-off, intended to use the flight as a test for space tourism, evaluating the experience himself before allowing paying customers aboard from next year. Fingers crossed we may soon get a chance to go to space!

Discover more here.

Cyber-attacks spurred by staff working from home

Remote working has reached an all-time high, and flexible working is expected to become the new normal. However, according to Specops Software research, 41% of employees have not been provided with adequate cyber security training while working from home, posing a number of threats to businesses.

The Financial Stability Board (FSB), reported that the pandemic-induced trend of working from home has opened new opportunities for cyber-attacks, including phishing, malware and ransomware.

According to FSB research, cyber activities grew from less than 5,000 per week in February 2020 to more than 200,000 per week in late April 2021. Unfortunately, the financial services sector seems to be hardest hit.

The FSB commented,

“Most cyber frameworks did not envisage a scenario of near-universal remote working and the exploitation of such a situation by cyber threat actors. Financial institutions have been resilient but they may need to consider adjustments to cyber risk management processes, cyber incident reporting, response and recovery activities, as well as management of critical third-party service providers, for example cloud services.”

With lockdown restrictions easing, businesses allowing employees to work from any location, at any time and potentially on any device, will need to ensure it is done in a secure manner. Passwords are a weak link, so making sure that employees are following the correct steps to regularly change them will help prevent potential attacks.

Read more here.

NHS Covid app: Should it stay or should it go?

The NHS Test and Trace app has become a topic of debate in recent days. Should it be effectively ditched as a key weapon against Covid-19, or become even more prominent as cases of the virus multiply?

Following a recent poll conducted by Savanta ComRes, one in five people have already deleted the app due to the amount of notifications it sends out. Ministers have suggested that the sensitivity may need to be adjusted. However, scientists and software developers have claimed that it is performing exactly the way it was designed to.

With restrictions lifting on Monday 19th, many people will want to avert any threat to their freedom, including installing an app notifying them to self-isolate. The app will be updated on Monday to feature new language that stresses the advisory nature of the advice, rather than compulsory messages.

Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick has expressed concerns about the amount of people off work due to advice from the app, he commented,

“It is important that we have the app, that we take it seriously, that when we do get those messages we act accordingly. But we are going to give further thought to how we can ensure it is a proportionate response. We have indicated that for those who have been double-vaccinated there are opportunities to take a more proportionate approach.”

Many remain confident that the app is working and a peer-reviewed paper in the journal, Nature, showed that last autumn the app averted as many as 600,000 cases and could have saved up to 8,000 lives. Some scientists believe the app is only sending out so many notifications because there has been a surge in cases, as more people are coming into close contact following the relaxing of restrictions.

Will the latest developments to the app make people more comfortable in using it or will it get deleted and forgotten about?

Read 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.