This Week in Tech
Those of you who saw "Minority Report" will remember that Tom Cruise's disgraced policeman character had an eye transplant to hide his identity from ubiquitous iris scans - but kept his old eyes in a baggie so that he could still log on to the police network. Iris scans have been touted as even more effective than fingerprints as a form of biometric identification. That's why there was a frisson of excitement that rippled around tech circles when Samsung introduced iris scanning to unlock the new Galaxy S8 smartphone.
We all know that any new security technology is seen by some people as a challenge. AND, no security technology is completely foolproof. So, it didn't take too long before hackers touted that they could fool the iPhone's fingerprint scanner by getting a mould of your fingerprint and casting a replica of the finger. Not something your average girlfriend of boyfriend wanting to check out your texts to see if you are cheating is likely to do. It involves a bit of skill and technique to execute effectively and is definitely more than a 30 second hack.
It is a little faster to hack the iris scan on the S8 - all you need is a camera with night mode (so that it captures infra-red), a good printer and a contact lens. It's still not a 30 second hack, but it's certainly easier to get a photo of someone's eyes than it is to make a mould of their fingerprint.
The lesson is that no biometric security will ever be infallible - people will always find a hack. It's probably better to use a combination of biometrics and the good old PIN / password.
Green power - solar and wind
Tramp and Eskom / the SA Govt have at least one thing in common: they seem determined to cut all support for green renewable energy. This is not the case all over the world though. China just created a 40 Megawatt floating solar power plant that has the added benefit of protecting water supplies by reducing evaporation. Check it out at Digital Trends. In the UK a wind farm of 32 turbines each capable of generating 8 Megawatts has just gone on line. Supposedly a single rotation of one turbine can power a house for 29 months! Read it at Engadget.
Printed Ovaries - that work!
This was meant for last week's blog but somehow got left out. CNN has an article on how scientists created a 3d printed ovary, placed it inside a mouse which mated naturally and then gave birth to two pups. The video is with watching - but put it on silent: there is no voice over and the music is irritating!
WannaCry - and what's next...
Al Jazeera has an interesting video on the ransomware attack and cybersecurity in the future. Worth paying attention to is the fact that EternalRocks is quietly spreading itself in a much stealthier fashion but not delivering any payloads yet. Linux systems also have a vulnerability to the same type of SMB exploit used by the two worms and sysadmins are advised to patch ASAP - info and links to patches at The Hacker News.
CSO Online compares the real cost of ransomware to the actual amounts paid in ransoms.
The Guardian got hold of leaked documents that reveal the guidelines given to the thousands of people employed as moderators for the site (this second article is very interesting, informative and a great source for classroom discussions). This prompted a little bit of internet outrage over where the lines are drawn between what can stay and what can't. It blew over fairly quickly. Basically: it is a grey area and moderators must use their own judgement....
At the same time Facebook is taking steps to counter the rising problem of the filter bubble that isolates people into worlds that only confirm their own biases and viewpoints. Engadget has more on their new approach to trending topics that might bring balance to both the news and the debates and discussions it sparks.
The connected future might belong to Thunderbolt 3
Engadget reveals that Intel is planning to build Thunderbolt controllers into their CPUs (removing the need for controllers on motherboards) and also plans to make the standard royalty free, meaning that putting Thunderbolt 3 ports into computers will cost no more than the hardware. Good news for those who want the fastest external device connection technology available. CNET has an excellent article on the differences between the different types of USB and Thunderbolt. Well worth the read.
FNB is introducing cashless ATMs in rural areas in South Africa. The machines allow people to do banking tasks without having to travel to bank branches.
Walt Mossberg retires
The well regarded tech journalist has written his last article and it is well worth a read: find it at recode.net. In it he discusses what feels like a current lull in technology (iteration of existing products rather than the next big thing) and relates it to preparing the ground for the rise of what he calls 'ambient computing'.
8K Monitor - too good for current computing
If you have R70 000 burning a hole in your pocket and are prepared to spend it all on a monitor you can buy Dell's new 8K beauty. Digital Trends explains just how wonderful the screen is, and how modern computers (and even GPUs) just are not up to the task of getting the best from this screen.
And on that note, that's all for this week folks. Good luck with the exams and marking ahead.
Welcome back after the Easter break. In this blog we'll summarise the news from the holidays, and warn that the next post will only be on 6 May as the author will be away. Happy catching up!
Mastercard test fingerprints in SA
Soon forgetting your PIN / protecting your PIN might not be so important anymore. Mastercard has been trialling a card that includes a fingerprint reader in the card in conjunction with ABSA and Pick n Pay. Many articles from all over. This one from BizNews.
All is not as it seems
Our learners live in a world where they are often bombarded by images of a 'fake perfect' culture. People pose, pimp, preen, ensure the light and camera angle are just so and create that all important 'perfect' image for posting on instafacebooktwitter. These girls at Hello Giggles show the difference between their posts and what they look like most of the time.
Might be worth a discussion about perception, the need to appear perfect and reality....
Bug in Firefox, Chrome and Opera makes phishing almost impossible to detect
This one is a bit technical, but bear with me... The WWW doesn't use ASCII. Instead it prefers utf-8 a unicode character encoding that helps make it easy for browsers to display other languages and symbols. This makes it possible for the web address https://www.xn--80ak6aa92e.com/ to be displayed as apple.com in your browser. A problem for detecting phishing, because one of the first things to do is check that the name in the browser looks correct. Read more at Hackaday.
One fingerprint to rule them all
Mastercard might be too late with its fingerprint reading bank / credit card. Those pesky researchers are at it again, creating not one but a set of 'master fingerprints' that act like skleleton keys and make breaking into digital biometric fingerprint security possible. Check out the article at Digital Trends.
Facebook and murder
So a guy has issues with his girlfriend. He thinks the best way to get her attention is to walk up to a stranger, get them to say his girlfriend's name, shoot them in the head, record it all on video and then post the video to Facebook. Where it remained for three hours before Facebook took it down, despite the video being reported. Discuss.
Learn to think like a computer
An interesting piece from the New York Times on computational thinking.
Germany to parents: 'split on your kid's piracy!'
OK, so its basically a 'tell us who did it or the person paying for the internet connection pays the fine' scenario. So German parents will have to cough up for underage children but will have to choose between splitting on their adult kids piracy activities or paying the fine themselves
10m wide 4k display
Cinemas might not have projectors anymore. Samsung just revealed a 10m wide 4k LED display designed for small cinemas.
Teraco Data Center in JHB
Mybroadband has photos....
That's it for now, back in 2 weeks. Happy teaching
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