Tech Beat by Namecheap – 7 April 2023
Picture the vibrant ’80s, where Rubik’s Cubes puzzled minds, Pac-Man gobbled up quarters, and the floppy disk reigned supreme in the digital kingdom. It’s now 2023, and floppies aren’t quite ready for the tech graveyard, as they’re still used in various applications from aviation to music — proving that sometimes, old habits die hard. In this week’s article, learn how the humble floppy disk keeps on ticking, byte by byte. 💾
In other news
- Malware targeting Tor browser users. Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky discovered new malware, named ‘Clipboard Tor’, that operates within the Tor browser to steal cryptocurrency. It works by monitoring the clipboard of the infected device, searching for Bitcoin addresses, and replacing them with the attacker’s address, allowing the hacker to steal Bitcoin intended for other people. According to The Register, security experts believe the malware gets distributed via malicious downloads or spam emails.
- The pitfalls of relying on AI content. When he announced the use of AI, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti told CNN their content would be “more personalized, more creative, more dynamic,” but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Although AI was initially just used for quizzes, Futurism describes how the publication has shifted to AI-generated articles that are noteworthy for repetitive, cliched phrases such as “hidden gems” and “I know what you’re thinking.” Non-editorial staff works with the AI to create these pieces as part of BuzzFeed’s experimentation with “new formats that allow anyone (with or without a formal background in writing or content creation) to contribute their ideas and unique perspectives on our site.” Judging by this example, swapping out journalists for a combo of account execs and AI might not be the best plan.
- US police used Clearview AI nearly one million times. Hoan Ton-That, the founder and CEO of facial recognition firm Clearview, told the BBC the AI software has run nearly a million searches on behalf of US police forces. The AI has also scraped almost 30 billion images from platforms like Facebook without user permission. Considered one of the most powerful facial recognition systems globally, Clearview lets users upload a photo of a face and seek matches within its database of billions of images. Ton-That also revealed that hundreds of police forces use the service, though most won’t admit it. The Miami police, however, have admitted to using it 450 times per year for every type of crime, from murders to shoplifting.
- US bakery chain to adopt palm-reading payment systems. Panera will soon let customers pay with Amazon One’s biometric palm-scanning system. According to The Guardian, a quick palm swipe will allow customers to access their credit card, loyalty account information, and recommendations based on past orders. Panera is the first nationwide chain to use the Amazon tool. Privacy advocates have criticized the rollout due to security concerns, claiming there’s a high risk of the data being hacked and stolen. And unlike a password, a palm print cannot be changed in the aftermath of a data beach.
- Ransomware gangs release sensitive medical records. WIRED reports that the Russian BlackCat ransomware group released photos and patient information for cancer patients of Lehigh Valley Health Network in Pennsylvania after the healthcare group refused to pay a ransom demand. Another ransomware gang, Medusa, leaked sensitive data of students from Minneapolis Public Schools dating back to 1995, including allegations of sexual assault. The data was released after the school district refused to pay a ransom of $1 million. Experts have suggested that cybercriminal gangs are resorting to more extreme measures after more victims of ransomware attacks are refusing to pay up.
- Plants scream when they’re not happy! Researchers in Israel have discovered that tomato and tobacco plants under stress emit sounds that can be heard over three feet away, according to Gizmodo. It was already known that plants make ultrasonic vibrations, but the sounds detected from these two plants travel through the air and seem comparable to humans moaning in pain. The popping or clicking sounds produced resulted from the plants not being watered for a few days or having their stems cut. Researchers are still looking into how other organisms respond to these sounds and whether plants have their own kind of consciousness.
- Italy bans ChatGPT due to privacy. The BBC reports that Italy has blocked the AI chatbot in widespread use since its release last November over concerns that it may not be in compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The ban has come into effect in Italy immediately while an Italian watchdog investigates the possible non-compliance. Other concerns raised in recent months have been over potential job losses and whether the software has a tendency towards bias and misinformation. Data protection authorities in Ireland have said they are also looking into places ChatGPT may have overstepped the GDPR line.
Tip of the week: Get yourself an external hard drive
If you work with a lot of data and video content or just need to keep a backup of important files, getting yourself an external hard drive is an absolute must. Think of them as the new floppy disk — secure, reliable, and available in fun colors.
An external hard drive is a valuable device for storing digital files and transferring a large amount of data much faster than uploading to or downloading from a cloud server. It provides extra storage for digital content without a subscription fee, and unlike cloud-based storage solutions, your files are securely tucked away in your desk drawer or pocket. When you use an external hard drive, your data belongs only to you, and you have physical possession of all that sensitive information, ensuring data security.
Another advantage of owning an external hard drive is that it is highly portable and can be connected to numerous computers. For example, suppose you are working on a video project with several large files. In that case, you can quickly move between your laptop and desktop computers or get a friend’s input without uploading everything to the cloud. Furthermore, an external hard drive allows easy data backup without an Internet connection.