#WhatTheTech

Written by:
Leah Johnston
Date Posted:
21 February 2020

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

Shop in augmented reality
Have you ever been browsing online and wondered what the item would look like in your own space? 

A new update to Apple’s augmented reality feature, Quick Look, will allow iPad and iPhone users to look at products in AR – and even buy them directly through the tool.

Retailers can already offer AR previews of their products by uploading a 3D product model or flat sticker so that shoppers can see how a product may look in a real-world location. However, with the new update, retailers are able to add another button within the AR preview, which allows a customer to immediately purchase the product using Apple Pay.

Retailers such as Wayfair and Home Depot already support the feature – so if you’re looking for a new sofa, the Quick Look feature can show you how it will look in your own living room, and you can then buy it on your mobile!

Bank app phishing scam 
Researchers at mobile cybersecurity company, Lookout, have uncovered an SMS phishing campaign which tricked mobile banking app users into giving up their login details.

Almost 4,000 smartphone users, mostly in the US and Canada, have been deceived into clicking through to links to phoney websites. The scam used an SMS message claiming that the bank’s security system had detected unusual activity on the user’s account, providing a link to check – but this leads to a fake website impersonating major Canadian and US banks. 

The fake versions of banking websites were designed to look like the mobile version of the real thing, with the correct layouts, fonts and sizing, as well as convincing notices about privacy and security. The phishing page took the victims username and password as well as ‘security’ questions such as account number or card expiration date – all essential information needed in order for the hackers to steal the account details. 

Whilst this particular phishing scam isn’t active anymore, it certainly won’t be the last. Ensure you stay safe online with our Top 10 tips.

Robo-Chef
Experimental chef, Heston Blumenthal, is no stranger to bringing science into the kitchen. His innovative and multi-sensory approach to cooking has won him six Michelin stars for his restaurants, The Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head, as well as critical acclaim. 

It seems that robotics is at the heart of the chef’s latest venture, as in October 2019, he joined the board of Karakuri – a London-based startup wanting to bring robot arms to restaurant kitchens. With the increase in people becoming more diet-aware, it is putting pressure on the food industry to keep up with mass customisation and allergy control.  

Based on off-the-shelf robotic arms, Karakuri’s key intellectual property is about developing the infrastructure that goes with them – such as dispensers that have the ability to know when to stop squeezing the ketchup container. Whilst such systems will be useful in reducing food waste and inaccuracy in chains and supermarkets, Blumenthal hopes that robotics will move beyond sandwiches and salads and into Michelin-star level. He believes that robots will allow chefs to be more creative, commenting,

“Let’s get robots to do the measurement stuff for us much better than we can do, and let’s allow human beings to be human.”

Ransomware in the pipeline 
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has declared that a natural gas facility recently suffered a ransomware attack meaning a pipeline had to be shut down for two days.

Detailed in a security alert, the attack appeared to be a “spear-phishing” attack, in which individuals are sent fraudulent, yet believable, scam messages. Staff at the facility were sent a malicious link, which eventually caused the shutdown of the entire pipeline asset. 

Unusually, the operational network which runs computers in the factory was not separate from the office IT – meaning that the ransomware infection was allowed to spread. Ransomware works by encrypting files on the computer of the victim and demands payment in return for unlocking them. Of course, there is no guarantee that the criminals will do as they say after payment. 

The attack was amplified due to a lack of preparation, with the organisations emergency plans focusing on physical attacks instead. The DHS commented, “Consequently, emergency response exercises also failed to provide employees with decision-making experience in dealing with cyber-attacks.”

All organisations should be prepared for the possibility of a ransomware attack, which can be done by implementing off-site backups as a minimum.

We’ll be back soon with more tech news!

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