News Roundup: Intel faces Meltdown
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News Roundup: Intel faces Meltdown

A roundup of the week’s technology news including drunk droning, IT fashion, and Tango down.

 

Intel Meltdown

Happy New Year! 2018 is less than a week old and we’ve already seen threats of Nuclear war. We’ve also seen some major vulnerabilities within Intel’s chips being disclosed.

Named Meltdown and Spectre, these two vulnerabilities exploit flaws in processors and allow an attacker to steal data from the memory of any program currently running. Discovered by Jann Horn of Google’s Project Zero with the help of others, the bug affects “effectively every [Intel] processor since 1995”.

Intel’s response was a statement which focused more on the fact that there were other companies aside from Intel affected by the bugs, saying the company is “working closely with many other technology companies, including AMD, ARM Holdings and several operating system vendors, to develop an industry-wide approach to resolve this issue promptly and constructively”. It also said the company was planning to disclose the issue next week. Patches issued by Intel can cause noticeable performance drops.

AMD says there is a “near zero risk of exploitation” to its systems, while ARM says its Cortex processors are affected but has issued patches. Patches are starting to be issued by vendors such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

US CERT first advised that the only way to completely remove the danger was to replace the CPU, although the advice page has since changed to remove this claim.

Linux’s Linus Torvalds was less than pleased.

“I think somebody inside of Intel needs to really take a long hard look at their CPU's, and actually admit that they have issues instead of writing PR blurbs that say that everything works as designed,” he wrote this week. “Or is Intel basically saying, "we are committed to selling you shit forever and ever, and never fixing anything"?”

The flaw was discovered last year, and questions are now being raised about the timing of Intel CEO Brian Krzanich selling around $11 million worth of stock late last year. The company has claimed the sale was pre-arranged and unrelated.

In more bad news, Samsung Electronics has overtaken Intel on Gartner’s measurement of the worldwide semiconductor market. 

Also a bad week for HP, which has had to recall over 50,000 Notebooks over battery issues.

 

 Politics and security

Just before Christmas, Kaspersky filed a lawsuit against the US Government over its decision to ban the Russian security company from its systems, a ban Lithuania has also enacted. Also it seems the FBI’s fingerprint analysis software contains Russian code.

  • The US is now officially blaming North Korea for the WannaCry attacks.
  • GCHQ has “over-achieved” in its hacking capabilities.
  • The list of the most insecure passwords is out and variants of ‘password’, ‘123456’, and ‘qwerty’ all feature prominently. For the umpteenth time.
  • Congo and Iran have cracked down on the internet amid protests, and a Vietnamese  general recently admitted the country has a massive internet monitoring unit called Force 47.
  • China is reportedly considering using WeChat as an identity system

 

Apple’s concessions will cost it

Apple’s battery slow-down debacle could cost it more than just brownie points with the customers. Barclays analyst Mark Moskowitz says the company’s decision to reduce the price of a battery upgrade could see millions of customers hold off buying a new iPhone.

“In our base case scenario, 10% of those 519M users take the $29 offer, and around 30% of them decide not to buy a new iPhone this year,” he said. “This means around 16M iPhone sales could be at risk, creating ~4% downside to our current revenue estimate for C2018.”

 

Facebook: fingers crossed for a better 2018

It’s been rough for Facebook lately. So bad in fact, a former employee said the site was “destroying how society works,” the company’s own study admitted social media isn’t good for you, and the CEO’s main goal for this year isn’t learning Mandarin, building a home AI or doing a Presidential-like tour of the US, but making his own website less terrible and toxic.

 

M&A

Salesforce wants to be a $60 billion company by 2034.

Microsoft has acquired Avere Systems, Apple has snapped up app development startup BuddyBuild, Amazon now owns Blink and possibly Sqrrl too, Oracle has bought Aconex, Thales splashed out for Gemalto, and Barracuda has got its hands on PhishLine.

Smartlock maker Otto has shut up shop. In the wake of ARCore, Google is shutting down Project Tango.

 

New stuff

  • Alibaba Cloud is opening a data center in India.
  • Magic Leap finally revealed what its hardware looks like.
  • The McAfee Privacy Phone is coming in February.
  • Bloomberg has open sourced a testing tool for Kubernetes clusters called PowerfulSeal.

 

Bitcoin and the Pineapple Fund

Bitcoins and cryptocurrencies have been in the news a lot of late. Its frankly ridiculous rise in recent months has seen people outside the tech bubble asking how to invest and how to make money. But aside from all the get rich quick scheming, there is one encouraging story.

An anonymous person going under the pseudonym Pine recently announced they were donating 5,057 Bitcoins (value ~$86 million) to various charities and non-profits. The Pineapple fund has already given money to organizations such as the Water Project, PTSD (which works with veterans), the EFF, Mona, and others.

 

No Drunken Droning

While we’re yet to have the deadly collision between a drone and a commercial plane that the tabloids have been hungry for, there’s been no shortage of accidents and near-misses. The US state of New Jersey is taking some sensible precautions and is due to vote on a bill which would ban flying a drone while drunk or under the influence of drugs.

 

IT Fashion

Despite the best efforts of Apple and Will.i.Am, tech is not fashionable. But that doesn’t mean IT workers can’t have a sense of style. According to a survey of 500 UK IT workers by Total Jobs, the average worker spends five months of their life thinking about what to wear to work. These same workers spend an average of £54 per month on work clothes, equivalent to £648 ($877) a year, or a phenomenal £30,456 ($41,233) over the span of their career.

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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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