Welcome to our latest round-up of news from the technology and hosting world. Here’s what we’ve discovered this week.
Sorted – machine learning robot lands factory job
While robots have been used in factories for decades, the work they undertook didn’t require any thought. Now, thanks to machine learning, they are being employed to tackle more mentally challenging physical tasks. At German logistics company Knapp, a robot fitted with a trio of suction cups and trained using a reinforcement (trial and error) learning algorithm has been taught to do the mundane job of sorting light sockets and switches. Developed by Covariant AI, the machine is quicker and more efficient than a human and benefits from being cheaper to employ and able to work around the clock.
Microsoft let slip
If you’ve been in touch with Microsoft customer support over the last 15 years, then information about you might now be in the hands of cybercriminals. It has recently been reported that 250 million records stored in Elasticsearch databases were openly available on the internet just before the end of last year. Although Microsoft had them secured within two days of discovery, their public exposure means they may have been stolen. Luckily, most of the logs had personal information removed. However, one section did contain plain-text data, including email and IP addresses, case numbers and descriptions and internal notes labelled as ‘confidential’.
The worry is that this information could be used to identify customers and learn about their IT systems, giving cybercriminals the background information needed to pose as Microsoft support and gain access to PCs and business networks.
EE? More like ha-ha come next January
Using your phone abroad in 2021 could be just as expensive as the old days as the potential for roaming charges returns when the Brexit transition period comes to a close. According to the Gov.uk website, free mobile roaming will no longer be guaranteed when travelling to the EU and users will need to contact their phone operators to check if charges will apply.
The EU abolished roaming charges in 2017, however, following the UK’s withdrawal, UK phone users are not given the same automatic protections. There will be new legislation capping roaming fees at £45 per billing period, though how many phone minutes and texts or how much data this includes will be down to the individual operator. Customers can spend more but will need to opt in with their network for this to happen. Parents with data-hungry kids are particularly at risk of being caught out.
iCloud weaknesses laid bare
The naked truth about iCloud vulnerabilities was made public this week when Suffolk resident, Tony Spencer, was given a 32-month prison sentence for hacking into users’ accounts, stealing ‘intimate’ photos and videos and sharing them online. Although police have not revealed which hacking tools were used, he did admit to using third-party software to carry out the attacks.
With millions of iPhone users across the planet automatically backing up every photo or video they take to iCloud, it’s an important reminder to everyone that you should always check your backup settings and use strong passwords or two-factor authentication – especially when storing hyper-sensitive data online.
Whoops – there goes WhatsApp
If you love WhatsApp but hate buying new phones, you won’t be getting any valentine’s messages this year. In fact, you won’t be getting any messages at all after February 1st as it will stop working on older phones that use legacy operating systems. Whether you are an Android or iOS user, if your OS is outdated, it will no longer be able to run the app.
The reason for this is simply one of security. As a result, any OS which is no longer supported for updates will be unable to run WhatsApp. This will include Android versions 2.3.7 and older, and iPhone iOS 8 or older. If your phone is able to update its operating system, you should do so now. However, if your phone cannot update, you may need to buy a new one.
It is not the first time WhatsApp has made such a move. It was pulled from a variety of devices in 2016 and stopped working on Windows phones at the end of last year.
Unknotting the cables – EU makes a stance
Perhaps one thing the UK might still benefit from even after leaving the EU is the potential of a universal charging solution for small portable devices. If you are one of the many people fed up with having to use lots of different cables for all your devices, then European MEPs are on your side, recently voting 582 votes to 40 in favour of requiring a single solution for all such devices, including phones and tablets of both Android and Apple varieties. It is now up to the European Commission (EC) to adopt these new rules. Although the UK is no longer part of the EU, one would suspect that any new charger cable or adaptor that works in the EU would also work in the UK. It would certainly make life a lot simpler for everyone.
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