#WhatTheTech 10

Written by:
Katie Robertson
Date Posted:
5 July 2019

We’ve handpicked some tech/security related news stories from the past week, in case you missed them.

Bitcoin uses more energy than Switzerland
The University of Cambridge has recently designed a new online tool made to measure Bitcoin’s network energy usage compared with other entities.

Bitcoin has become notorious for its energy consumption and presumably large carbon footprint. Although it doesn’t involve any physical effort, mining Bitcoin is a hugely energy-intensive process, despite the currency only existing digitally.

The new tool revealed that Bitcoin uses as much energy as the whole of Switzerland. Currently, it is estimated that Bitcoin is using around seven gigawatts of electricity, equal to 0.21% of the world’s supply.

(Not so) smart homes?
This week a security flaw was found in Zipato products, which made it easy for hackers to open the smart home locks.

It is said that two of the main vulnerabilities of the device related to the design and implementation of the authentication mechanism in the company’s programming interface. Despite Zipato currently having 112,000 devices in 20,000 households, it is unknown how many of these were affected by the flaw.

Zipato has since spoken out and fixed the issue by implementing a unique private SSH key and other security improvements in its products. The home safety and security protection company has also since discontinued the ZipaMicro hub in favour of one of its newer products.

It is estimated that 14.2 billion internet-connected devices will be in homes worldwide by the end of 2019. 

Alexa won’t forget…will you?
This week Amazon confirmed that their virtual assistant, Alexa, does retain voice recordings that are made. Users have consistently raised privacy concerns about Alexa over the years, particularly about the product’s security features.

Amazon has confirmed that transcripts and voice recordings can be kept indefinitely by the company and, in some cases, are being shared with third-parties.

Currently, users can review, listen to, and delete voice recordings associated with their account however, there are recordings Amazon won’t delete at all, even if users remove the audio using this feature.

Voice recordings can also be passed onto third-party companies such as Uber or major restaurant chains who can use these conversations as a record of transactions or for customer research.

Major outage for social app giants
Did you experience the Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp outage this week? The social app giants suffered a huge outage worldwide where users were unable to upload or view photos, videos and other files.

The platforms faced downtime difficulty for around 11 hours. Facebook blamed the outage on an unspecified issue which had been triggered during ‘routine maintenance’.

This outage doesn’t come as a surprise after Facebook suffered their largest outage ever back in March 2019. This occurred after a ‘server overload’ where they faced a 14-hour disruption, which left the platform mostly inaccessible worldwide.

Luckily, all platforms are up and running again. But, how long until the next outage?

‘Eye.. OS’ 13
A new feature on FaceTime has been revealed in Apple’s iOS 13 update. The ‘Attention Correction’ feature helps users maintain eye contact whilst using the app, making their gaze look more ‘accurate’ during FaceTime video calls. The new feature means that you won’t ever be caught out by not looking at the screen.

Apple appears to do this through the use of ARKit, a suite of software tools for its developers to make augmented reality apps for iOS.

It’s not clear which devices the feature will eventually work with, or whether it will support group calls, but we are certainly intrigued to find out more about this new feature.

We’ll be back next week with more tech news!

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