Week Ending: 20th August - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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It’s that time of the week again, but before you head off to enjoy the weekend, don’t forget to catch up on the stories from the I.T. and tech world that have got us talking.

The T-Mobile data breach has most certainly taken the top spot this week as updates surrounding the extent of the leak continue to be revealed. According to latest reports, the updated figure on users impacted by the breach is 40 million, which is a lot less than the 100 million predicted earlier in the week, but still an alarming figure.

In other news this week, we look at how more than 83 million smart devices, including baby monitors, could be at risk from hackers, Mastercard’s move to strip-less cards and the end of the landline telephone.

Let’s bring you up to date.

Over 83 million smart home devices, including baby monitors, could be vulnerable to cyber attack

Almost half the UK population is thought to now own a smart home device, though according to US cybersecurity firm, Mandiant, and the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency some of these devices may now be at risk from hackers.

It was announced this week that 83 million devices, including smart cameras and baby monitors, have found to be affected by a critical vulnerability which could allow hackers to control, listen to and watch live audio and video feeds.

This vulnerability, according to Mandiant, could “pose a huge risk” to people’s security and privacy.

The issue they say is in an IoT software protocol called Kalay, developed by Taiwanese company, ThroughTek.

The UK security services were first alerted to this vulnerability in early 2020, however, since then, the issue has continued to grow as smart home devices have become more integrated in our lives.

At first, the vulnerability was only thought to be a threat to default passwords, however, now Mandiant has warned it could also affect devices that do not use default passwords and could allow attackers to remotely control devices as well as snoop on them.

Before the disclosure was made, ThroughTek did advise users to update their software to stop hackers accessing "sensitive information in transmission and on victim devices." However, confirming which devices have been affected continues to be an issue. Mandiant said that, because Kalay protocol is installed by both original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and resellers before the devices reach the consumer, they are unable to determine which devices are at risk.

Earlier in the year the British government announced plans to introduce a new law which will force OEMs and resellers of smart devices to meet minimum security requirements in the UK, although this is yet to be made law.

In the meantime, the advice offered by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is for “individuals to keep their software up to date by installing the latest vendor updates as soon as practicable."

Read more on this here.

Mastercard announces move to strip-less cards

Mastercard has announced this week that it is to stop issuing cards with a magnetic strip.

The credit card company stated that by 2023 it will no longer issue debit or credit cards with a strip. It also announced that by 2024 banks in many regions, including Europe, will also be able issue strip-less cards.

With chip and pin now considered the norm when making credit and debit card payments, Mastercard explained that now was the right time to phase out the magnetic strip and for them to lead the way in phasing out the somewhat ‘dated’ technology.

They explained that chip and pin and the new biometric cards that use fingerprints, offer greater security for customers and should become the new method of card payment going forward.

We’re certain that the pandemic has been a key driver in making these changes. Mastercard said that over the last few years customers have “expressed an increased appetite for different methods of payment.” Contactless payments, for example, have increased by more than one billion in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year.

So, what’s next? Biometric systems of payment are currently being tested which include facial and fingerprint recognition to confirm identity. We’ll watch this space.

Read more on this story here.

The end of the landline

There was a time when every home in the country had a landline telephone, however in the last 20 years the number of households with a landline has fallen drastically with a suggested 40% of people in the UK having stopped using them altogether.

It’s because of this fall in usage that UK landline operators will be hanging up the landline and switching off the technology, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), that currently powers them.

The switch, which is expected to be made by 2025, will see all landline operators in the UK switch every home phone in the UK to an internet-based connection instead of traditional, copper-wire landlines.

The change is anticipated to impact 14 million lines and a large percentage of the population who still rely on their landline telephones.

How will it work?

Landline operators have assured customers that old landline telephones will still work after the changes and handsets will not need replacing either. However, users will have to plug their phone into an internet router or new wall socket.

This will mean that, once the switch has been made, households will need an internet connection in order to make a phone call using a landline telephone.

When will it happen?

Openreach, which manages the UK’s phone and internet network, has already begun switching people over to the new connection and is planning hundreds of trials for exchanges in towns across the UK this year and next.

Read more on this story 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.