Welcome to our latest round-up of news from the technology and hosting world. Here’s what we’ve discovered this week.
Skeeter – Q’s latest 00 toy
Forget exploding pens and rocket firing Aston Martin’s, the latest gadget being developed for the UK security and military services is a specialised miniature drone that looks and moves like a dragonfly.
Created by Oxford-based Animal Dynamics, Skeeter is described as an innovative micro-drone, whose design is based on the body of a dragonfly and which uses flapping wings to propel itself. The flapping wings give the drone the ability to stay hovering in high winds, something a standard drone can’t do, while improving its manoeuvrability – all of which make it ideal for covert surveillance operations.
Skeeter also uses specially created software that gives it the autonomy to fly around objects as it journeys to and from its objective, removing the level of human control needed to pilot it. Once it reaches its destination, it uses an in-built camera and communications software to report its findings back to its operators. Q, however, isn’t letting on whether it has a sting in its tail.
Microsoft patches Gif gaffe in Teams
If you’ve been keeping lockdown light-hearted by viewing funny Gifs over Microsoft Teams, you may, unwittingly, have compromised security on your device. This is because many of the Gifs were malicious and originated from a hacked domain. As a result, users only had to view the animations to enable the malware to infect their devices. Potential issues were the theft of data, industrial espionage and ransomware attacks.
Following the discovery of the flaw by researchers at CyberArk, Microsoft has now patched the Teams software.
UK coronavirus scammers taken offline
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) took several thousand coronavirus scams offline during March. These included many malware and phishing sites as well as hundreds of online shops selling fake COVID-19 products, such as testing kits, remedies, preventative medicines and PPE equipment. At the same time, the NCSC also removed over 900 bogus investment schemes. These were targeted at investors who had lost money because of stock market falls during the pandemic and offered people significant returns for an up-front, one-off investment. Obviously, once the investment had been paid the investor would never see their money again.
At the heart of these scams was a huge fraudulent email marketing campaign, with millions of spam emails being sent every day, advertising the fake sites and investment schemes. Another warning to everyone to be vigilant with any Covid-19 related emails.
OmniCloud IoT infrastructure for self-driving vehicles
To make self-driving vehicles workable, it is crucial they send and receive data about their immediate environment, no matter where they are, and do so with virtually zero latency. Only then can accurate manoeuvring and safe driving take place. In perhaps one of the world’s most ambitious infrastructure projects, Chinese car manufacturer, the Geely Group, which owns Volvo and Lotus, has plans to build a network of thousands of satellites that can globally monitor all of its products from low orbit.
The spaceside part of the business, known as Geespace, has recently announced the building of a factory that will be able to manufacture 500 of these satellites per annum. Its intention is to build what it calls the OmniCloud, an open platform satellite network that uses data to manage traffic. It aims to provide services such as high-precision vehicle positioning data, public transport fleet management, ride-hailing and ride-sharing.
When built, OmniCloud can monitor the environment with its fully connected infrastructure, enabling it to deliver the AI decision making required by autonomous vehicles. Additionally, it could also allow operators to monitor and control industrial machinery wherever it was located.
Bitcoin – it’s all in the mind
If you thought the Geespace OmniCloud project was farfetched, think again. Microsoft has just patented a way to use brain waves to mine cryptocurrency. The idea is that they can generate cryptocurrency when brain waves indicate that a user has viewed one of their ads.
Cryptocurrencies are created by getting computers to solve problems which generate new blocks in a blockchain and which verify the financial transactions stored in them. This, however, requires enormous amounts of computing resources and Microsoft believes that brain waves generated when someone views an ad can be used as part of the mining process. Rather than rely solely on huge computation, data generated by the brain activity of the user can be used as an alternative way to solve the mathematical problems needed to mine the Bitcoins.
While the whole concept of cryptocurrency mining is hard for anyone to get their heads around, the ultimate question is who will get the bitcoins in the end. If it’s your brain waves doing the hard work, surely, you’re entitled to a share?
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