Technology roundup for May 2017 – What you WannaCry About?

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In a month which featured a major announcement from Microsoft and the Google I/O conference, you’d be forgiven for thinking that technology writers would be concentrating on those two events and nothing much else.

Wrong.

There is always something interesting going on in the technology world. This month those interesting things included the relaunch of the iconic Nokia 3310 phone (without added smarts), bugs found in pacemaker code, the admission – again – that the Internet of Things as it currently stands could be prone to security issues, a virtual prison fence to deter drones and a major cyberattack by ransomware on many national and international organisations including the NHS and Nissan in the UK but also other large companies in well over 100 countries.

Bugs in medical device code

The BBC Technology team reports on the known bugs found in pacemaker code, insulin pumps and other medical devices[1]. In the US, where many of the manufacturers have offices, close to half the devices tested were found to have security flaws.

Retro technology to the fore

From an era before viruses and cyberattacks were commonplace comes the rebooted technological legend that is the Nokia 3310 mobile phone[2]. More or less everyone had one of these back in the day. Ahem. Some of us owned more than one, replacing a broken one with a new one. (Being a bit of a known phone destroyer, as I am). The new 3310 has already sold out at Carphone Warehouse and pre-registrations are being taken for the next wave of handsets released. Bad news for your mobile-destroyer-in-chief, however. The new phone does come with an updated version of Snake. But it is lighter and smaller than the original, potentially leading to more dropped phone mishaps. Oh dear.

Issues with the Internet of Things

A guest post on Forbes.com reports that the Internet of Things is likely to provide some security headaches in the future[3]. Simple technology-savvy measures such as changing passwords from the default provided by the manufacturer can provide added layers of security for users, but the piece maintains that the manufacturers should also take some responsibility for improving security on their devices. In an era where smart speakers and virtual personal assistants from the likes of Google and Amazon are always listening, it would be very easy to eavesdrop upon someone’s home life without them realising.

Drone-disrupting technology

Meanwhile, the Telegraph’s site reveals the first UK prison to use drone-disrupting technology[4]. The prisoners held in Guernsey’s Les Nicolles jail probably won’t like it, but the technology has the capability to disrupt a drone’s computers, turn the operating screen black for the controller and repel the drone, forcing it to return in the direction it came.

Cyberattack knocks out some NHS services

Undoubtedly the story of the month, at least for many NHS employees, was the cyberattack on the IT systems of nearly 50 NHS Trusts. It caused untold disruption for many locations, resulting in cancelled operations, inability to book appointments and closed GP surgeries as the staff battled to deal with the fallout. The NHS was not the only organisation to be hit, as the tech attack spread to over 100 countries worldwide, affecting national and global firms. An article on Digital Health two weeks after the attack[5] revealed that the biggest Trust in England, Barts, was just about back on its feet and running operations and clinics as scheduled.

As this goes live, news is breaking of a major technological disruption to British Airways’ systems, causing widespread flight cancellations. Whether it is connected to the recent large cyberattack is yet to be determined.

References

  1. bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40042584 ‘Thousands’ of known bugs found in pacemaker code, BBC Technology, 25 May 2017

  2. wired.co.uk/article/buy-nokia-3310-specs-price-release Nokia 3310 is finally on sale in the UK, James Temperton, Wired, 24 May 2017

  3. forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2017/05/08/security-surprises-arising-from-the-internet-of-things-iot/#7057a28d2495 Security Surprises Arising from the Internet of Things (IoT), Guest post written by Stuart Madnick, Forbes.com, 8 May 2017

  4. telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/16/british-prison-first-use-disruptor-create-drone-proof-shield/ British prison is first to use ‘disruptor’ to create drone-proof ‘shield’ around jail, The Telegraph, 16 May 2017

  5. digitalhealth.net/2017/05/57568/ Two-week wrap of the cyber-attack, Shireen Khalil, Digital Health, 26 May 2017

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