The rumours of XP’s death have been greatly exaggerated
In response to Microsoft’s plan to stop supporting Windows XP, the UK government has paid the software giant £5.5 million to extend the life of the 13-year-old operating system, while it upgrades the many public-sector personal computers and other devices on which it is dependant.
Windows XP is used in approximately 40% of personal computers world-wide, as well as over 95% of ATMs and a variety of other industrial and medical devices. As of September last year, around 85% of the UK’s National Health Service ran the outdated operating system on 800,000 PCs. Microsoft will no longer produce the continual security updates that ensured XP was relatively safe to use, placing computers, cash machines and devices across the world at risk of being hacked or infected with malware. Developing nations in particular could see a rise in viruses and malware, where the operating system is widely used on low-cost computing hardware.
These problems reveal the outdated IT infrastructure that many organisations rely on – in both public and private sectors. The solution is likely to be increased integration with the cloud, where personal computers and ‘Internet-of-Things’ devices can be updated wirelessly, as seen in mobile operating systems like iOS and Android.
An emergency security advisory posted on Monday warned the IT world of an open bug called “Heartbleed”. The bug (part of OpenSSL – encryption between servers and users, among other things) enables a hacker to grab a chunk of memory from the computer, allowing them to listen in on communications, or even masquerade as the server, thereby collecting all data sent by users.
The bug has been undiscovered for two years, and with two out of three servers using OpenSSL the implications are massive – Google, Gmail, Yahoo, Imgur, Flickr and LastPass have all potentially been affected. Whilst dangerous, the bug only allows the hacker to grab a tiny piece of random data (like fishing), so it’s not a wide open door.
With services moving to the cloud, internet security can make or break trust with users in an instant. A fake app in the Play store this week got millions of downloads and rose to the top of the store by offering ‘virus scanning’… it actually just contained two images that showed ‘scanning’ and then ‘success!’. Google pulled the app after many complaints, but not before the creator had made $40,000 for nothing at all.
The tech giants are all climbing into the legal boxing ring to battle a class-action lawsuit claiming that Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe (among others), colluded to prevent their employees being poached by rivals. The class-action suit claims this suppressed salaries in the industry, causing $9bn in lost wages.
The evidence is damning, with emails surfacing between the CEO’s such as ‘“Please add Google to your ’hands-off’ list. We recently agreed not to recruit from one another’ and ‘“We have a handshake ‘no recruit’ between Eric and myself. I would not like this broadly known.” This could be costly – as although $9bn seems like a large number, it equates to $90,000 per employee – not an unrealistic sounding number.
Silicon Valley characters and politics have had the fun poked out of them this week as the much anticipated new HBO show Silicon Valley was aired. It delivered a lot of fun in-jokes including a cameo by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, a very awkward TED talk and a lot of Jobs vs. Wozniak jokes.
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