News Roundup: Microsoft is working on a programming language for quantum computers Credit: Image via Wikimedia
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News Roundup: Microsoft is working on a programming language for quantum computers

A roundup of the week’s tech news including cyber-conscription, Amazon smartglasses, and naked ransomware.

 

Microsoft wants to own Quantum Coding

Quantum computing is still in its nascent stage. But Microsoft – probably still wary of missing a trick like it did with mobile – has already staked its claim on the space. The Redmond Company announced this week that it is developing a language for programming quantum bits. The as-yet-unnamed language should be available for preview by the end of the year.

Elsewhere during the company’s Ignite conference, Microsoft announced Office 2019, LinkedIn integration with Office 365, a new box for physically sending data to the Azure Cloud, and confirmed Teams will replaced Skype for Business.

Despite reportedly claiming around a third of the market, Bing isn’t exactly the de facto search engine Microsoft would like it to be. This week saw Apple ditch Bing from Siri search results and instead rely on Google. This didn’t stop the company announcing Bing for Business, which is designed to help businesses search internal Microsoft products and find records such as emails, expenses and more.

 

Wikilkeaks

After revealing secrets about the NSA and CIA, WikiLeaks has now turned its attention towards Russia. The whistleblower site last week released information about Russia’s internet surveillance infrastructure. According to the leaked documents, a Russian company called Peter-Service is a a contractor for Russian state surveillance.

In other news, the NSA didn’t think it was worth hacking file-sharing services, and has collected information on more than 100,000 foreign nationals outside the US. 

 

EFF vs W3C

July saw the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) approve Digital Rights Management (DRM) as a new HMTL5 web standard. The controversial decision has led to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to resign from the consortium in protest.

“Today, the W3C bequeaths a legally unauditable attack-surface to browsers used by billions of people,” EFF representative Cory Doctorow wrote in a statement. “They give media companies the power to sue or intimidate away those who might re-purpose video for people with disabilities. They side against the archivists who are scrambling to preserve the public record of our era.”

 

Equifax and Avast woes

The fallout from the Equifax breach continues. CEO Richard Smith this week became the third exec to the leave the company – with a very healthy bank balance -  with APAC President Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. taking the reins for the interim. Barros immediately issued an apology and admitted the company failed to “live up to expectations.”

“We were hacked,” he said. “But we compounded the problem with insufficient support for consumers. Our website did not function as it should have, and our call center couldn’t manage the volume of calls we received.”

Much like WannaCry, it could be an attack that comes back to haunt the ill-prepared. Sonatype researchers claim there could be thousands of companies still vulnerable to the Apache Struts exploit used against Equifax.

Meanwhile, Avast has been trying to recover from the news that its CCleaner product had been infecting users with malware. The malware – possibly thought to be of Chinese origin -  was in the wild for around four weeks, with over 2 million users were affected, and some 40 PCs belonging to major tech companies receiving a second payload.

 

Cyber tours of duty

Could cyber-conscription help governments with their technology problems? One US lawmaker thinks so. Texas Republican Representative Will Hurd is pushing for “Cyber National Guard” where qualified security workers are loaned to the government for 10 days per quarter in order to plug cyber-security talent gaps within government agencies. How would you feel about losing some of your tech talent for two weeks at a time?

 

M&A

Fresh from snapping up part of HTC’s phone business, Google has acquired Cloud Identity startup Bitium, SAP has snapped up Gigya, ABB now owns GE’s Industrial Solutions business (which includes data center construction), and Investment firm Canyon Bridge has got its hands on troubled chipmaker Imagination Technologies.

In other news, Commcast has snapped up IFTTT rival Stringify to power its Xfinity Home smart-home platform, Ikea has bought ‘Uber for odd-jobs’ TaskRabbit, and Daimler has splashed out for German carpooling startup Flinc to add to its Mobility Services unit.

Hitachi Data Systems, Hitachi Insight Group, and Pentaho have been rolled into one business, called Hitachi Vantara, and Google has spun out its Google Shopping business into a separate unit after the EU ruled its practices were uncompetitive.

 

Open Source

The Free Software Foundation has launched a new campaign called  Public Money Public Code, which wants all software developed by Public Sector organizations to be under a Free and Open Source Software licence.

Facebook has relicensed its React, Jest, Flow, and Immutable.js projects from the unpopular BSD + Patents license – which the Apache recently blacklisted - to the more popular MIT license.

Yahoo!’s new owners has open-sourced Vespa, the Big Data Processing and Serving Engine it used for search results when it had users.

Google has open-sourced a set of security tools for its Cloud Platform, and a set of libraries for project development called Abseil.

 

New stuff

As well as announcing a new range of Echo devices, Amazon is rumoured to be working on a pair of Alexa-enabled smart glasses.

Google and Levi have announced a connected jacket you can only wash 10 times.

Keybase has announced a Slack competitor called Teams. Bet Microsoft is happy about that.

Intel has skilled off its Project Alloy VR headset, but announced some self-learning AI chips.

Verizon has killed off its Wear24 smartwatch after 4 months.

In the phone space, Andy Rubin’s Essential phone has reportedly only sold 5,000 units since it was released. The e-Ink Yotaphone is making another comeback, and Sirin Labs – creators of the $10,000 smartphone – has announced the FINNEY blockchain phone.  This security-centric phone promises “a crypto wallet, secure exchange access, encrypted communications, and a P2P resource sharing ecosystem for payment and apps.” There will also be a FINNEY PC.

 

Nude Ransomware

Traditionally ransomware attackers always want their payment in Bitcoins or some other hard to trace cryptocurrency. But what if they wanted something more personal?

Security group the Malware Hunter Team discovered a new variant of ransomware – actually just an amateur screenlocker – that demands “10 nude pictures” to unlock your computer. The attack – called nRansom – plays the music file your-mom-gay.mp3 (in reality the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme tune) on repeat. The MHT said they had not seen examples of anyone actually being hit with this attack.

In other news, researchers have developed a new protocol to help detect if anyone has intercepted your WhatsApps. Detecting Endpoint Compromise in Messaging (DECIM) aims to notify users of any compromise to messaging apps. Useful at a time when every government going wants to intercept our communications.

 

Egg whites and electronics

The end of Moore’s Law is nigh. Researchers are looking to the likes of Graphene to further the relentless need for progress. And some researchers have discovered that eggs might make good electronics. Egg white—also known as egg albumen – has very good dielectric properties, and is both transparency and elasticity. Researchers claim this means it has potential to create flexible and transparent electronics. You can read about their research in the paper, Hydrogen-peroxide-modified egg albumen for transparent and flexible resistive switching memory.

"As a promising alternative to the conventional silicon-based nonvolatile memory, the egg albumen has more advantages than other materials," Qunliang Song at Southwest University, China, told Phys.org. "The bio-organic material egg albumen may have potential applications in the imitation of biological memory behavior, artificial intelligence, and brain-like intelligence because of the good compatibility."

Who wants their electronics sunny side up?

 

God is an AI

We often talk about the Cult of Steve Jobs, but it’s unlikely anyone thinks he was an actual deity. But it seems we’re entering an age when Silicon Valley types can found religions. Anthony Levandowsk – currently at the centre of the Waymo/Otto/Uber lawsuit around stolen IP – is the creator of an AI-worshipping religion called Way of the Future. First broken by Wired, the religion is apparently dedicated to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect. Writes about all manner of tech from driverless cars, AI, and Green IT to Cloudy stuff, security, and IoT. Dislikes autoplay ads/videos and garbage written about 'milliennials'.  

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