Week Ending: 17th December - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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Busy buying last minute Christmas gifts as opposed to catching up with all the latest I.T. and tech headlines? Don’t worry, this week, our trusty roundup covers everything from Apple’s launch of an app for Android smartphones amid AirTag privacy concerns, the UK Government’s new National Cyber Strategy and the accidental suspension of Instagram account, @metaverse.

Let’s get you up to speed.

Apple launches new Android app to reduce tracking fears

Rather surprisingly, this week Apple launched an app for Android smartphones, after Apple’s AirTags have sparked concern over privacy. However, the portable location trackers are now being used with malicious intent – being planted on people without their knowledge or consent.

The new PlayStore App would enable Android users to detect nearby trackers that the user is unaware of and doesn’t own. Whilst enabling a powerful tracking network by leveraging millions of Apple devices, the small and inexpensive tags are, however, easily accessible for users who want to target victims’ possessions and track their whereabouts. Notably, two months after their release, amid concerns, Apple introduced a feature where iPhones would notify users if an ‘unknown AirTag’ or other compatible third-party device was detected ‘moving with you over time’. The new Android app aims to replicate the safety feature given to Apple users. In its support documentation, Apple says “the app looks for item trackers within Bluetooth range that are separated from its owner” … “If you think someone is using an AirTag or another item tracker to track your location, you can scan to try to find it”. The app also allows users to play a sound on AirTag to help locate it if it has been nearby for at least 10 minutes. It also contains instructions on how to remove the battery and disable if one is found.

Learn more about the app here.

UK Government announces new National Cyber Strategy

This week, the UK Government published its new National Cyber Security Strategy which details how the UK will solidify its position as a global cyber power. The strategy builds on the significant progress made on cyber over the past five years which has grown rapidly. By way of the strategy, the Government is calling on all parts of society to ensure that they reinforce the UK’s economic and strategic strengths in cybersecurity by creating more diversity in the workplace and levelling up and prioritising cybersecurity in digital supply chains, for example.

Steve Barclay, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, commented:

“The new National Cyber Strategy transforms how the UK will advance its national interests in cyberspace” and “it sets out a clear vision for building cyber expertise in all parts of the country” … “and comes with record funding to match”.

This announcement was also combined with the announcement of a new online training platform, appropriately titled ‘Cyber Explorers’, which aims to teach young people cyber skills in the classroom.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said:

“This strategy will significantly improve the Government’s response to the everchanging threat from cybercrime and strengthen law enforcement’s response”.

These plans are supported by the £2.6 billion investment in cyber announced in this year’s Spending Review.

Read the plans in more depth here.

Instagram apologises for blocking user named metaverse

In early November, Australian technologist and artist Thea-Mai Baumann had been “blocked for pretending to be someone else” by Instagram. The handle in question, which was blocked for a month, was @metaverse. Instagram declined to state whether the account blockade was due to the rebrand by the parent company which took place in late October.

Since opening her account in 2012, Ms Baumann used the platform for her creative work and augmented reality business, whose products include “appcessories” such as Metaverse Nails, enabling users to obtain virtual glam.

Prior to Facebook’s rebrand, the account had fewer than 1,000 followers but now has over 3,500. The decision to disable the account hit Ms Baumann hard who said that the account “is a decade of my life and work” and that she didn’t want her “contributions to the metaverse be wiped from the internet”. After trying to have the account re-instated, without success, it was only after the New York Times approached Instagram that they admitted their mistake. Ms Baumann is now working to turn her experience into art, but also wants to ensure that it is more inclusive and not corrupted by ‘Silicon Valley tech bros’.

Find out more here.

Those were just some of this week’s top stories but if you want more content, follow us across our four social media channels: