Internet News (November 2018)

Facebook hit by massive cyber attack

It is believed that up to 29 million Facebook accounts have been accessed in order to steal data by cyber attackers. Facebook alerted users earlier this month following reports of hackers using an automated program that had the ability to move from one friend onto the next. The recent attacks have been dubbed as their largest-ever data theft. When the attack first came to light, it was thought that up to 50 million profiles had been targeted.

Facebook have, since the attack messaged each of the affected user advising them of the steps that they need to take, as well as providing users with details of the information that had been accessed.

This recent breach has left Facebook users particularly vulnerable to further phishing scams. The attack could cause much unease about the privacy and security settings for future postings, and security experts have been called in to investigate the breach.

It is understood that attackers managed to obtain profile details such as dates of births, employment statuses, education history, religious preferences, as well as information regarding the types of devices and pages they had recently accessed including recent search histories and check-ins from as many as 14 million Facebook users.

A further 15 million accounts were breached in a more restricted manner, but still managing to obtain name and contact details. In addition to this, it is believed that 400,000 user accounts were accessed, where attackers were able to see posts and lists of users’ friends posts and the groups that they belonged to.

Official investigations are now taking place by legislators and investors amid growing concerns that Facebook’s stakeholders are not doing to enough to protect users data.

Facebook shares rose again last month following an unsettled week on Wall Street. The company reduced the number of affected Facebook accounts affected from its earlier estimations following a review, and investigations on the activities on Facebook accounts that may have been affected during the attack. However, experts within the cyber security sector have warned that attackers could still use the stolen information in further phishing scams.

Senior researchers in cyber security have warned that the information and data stolen from Facebook is very much out there and potentially could be used at any time in the near future.

Amazon AI sacked for sexism

An Artificial Intelligence application that was used by Amazon to decide on the best applicant for job vacancies has been scrapped, after members of the team that have been working on the system feared that it had taught itself that male candidates would be preferentially chosen over female applicants.

The software, developed in 2014 by a team based at Amazon’s Edinburgh office was designed to automatically sort through CVs in a bid to select the best applicants. Experts now believe that the software has become “sexist” in its own right, favouring males.

The team soon realised that the system was penalising applications from women that stated the word “women’s”. It is also believed that the software also had developed the prejudicial ability to downgrade female graduates.
The team have discovered that the system was trained on information submitted over a ten-year period by predominantly male applicants, with the intention to review applications and to give scores ranging from 1 to 5 stars, the notion being to mirror the way that shoppers rated products on Amazon, and produce an app that could select the top five applicants out of 100 CVs. By 2015, an obvious glitch was observed where the system was not as effective as originally hoped, not acting in a gender-neutral fashion.

The software was used for a period by recruiters, who in turn perused the recommendations that the software generated, although those recruiters have confirmed that they did not solely rely on the outcomes favoured by the application.
55% of US human resources managers have said that forms of Artificial Intelligence software would play a part in future recruitment within the next 5 years, according to a survey produced by software firm CareerBuilder.

Concerns have been raised about consistency of procedures that have been tested on data that has the potential of being biased. In 2017 it was reported that an AI-generated computer program showed prejudice against black prisoners following a court risk assessment. The system identified that black people had the most potential to become re-offenders due to blemished information fed into it.

With the sector of technology continuing to grow and create larger Artificial Intelligence platforms, experts fear the risks of further prejudices, until AI systems can learn to become unbiased.

General Manager of Global Branding and Design Agency Landor, Charlotte Morrison said: “The fact that Amazon’s system taught itself that male candidates were preferable, penalising resumes that included the word ‘women’s’, is hardly surprising when you consider 89 per cent of the engineering workforce is male”.
Morrison warned that brands need to be cautious when creating new technology ensuring that it does not backfire on societies “imperfections and prejudices”.

Buried Internet Infrastructure at risk in the US

The focus in the UK for many years has been to ensure that communities are connected, with the necessary physical internet infrastructure to do this. Roads have been dug up all over the nation, and fibre optic cables fed through at great speeds, promising even greater broadband speeds.

There is potentially a cautionary scenario from across the Atlantic that we need to consider when setting up new infrastructure areas in the UK. A worrying study that has been released in the US concerning buried fibre optic cables, internet traffic exchanges and termination stations.

It has been predicted that in certain coastal areas of the US, where there are dense populations, could be inundated with seawater in as soon as 15 years – causing the destruction of any buried infrastructure including internet infrastructure networks. It was originally thought that this may not be an issue for around 50 years, but now researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University Oregon believe it could be a problem in as little as 15 years.

The ongoing task now is for engineers to provide protection for the infrastructure on the surface and in the virtual space from cyber-attacks, but also underground from forces of nature such as rising sea levels due to climate change.

New Code of Practice for the IoT

The UK government are working on a new, they claim a ‘world first’, a Code of Practice for the Internet of Things (IoT). The Code of Practice, initially focused on consumer-based services, will ensure that the IoT uses personal data in line with GDPR, as well as ensuring a baseline standard for security measures. It is reported that HP and Centrica Hive are the first two major names to sign up to the code in principle. The Code of Practice will also tie in with the new Kitemark which is in the pipeline from the British Standards Institute (BSI), which will provide confidence that the associated devices are reliable and secure.

Some experts argue that the code does not go far enough, and should be a more global approach to ensure that overseas manufacturers of devices on the IoT are prioritising security rather than adding it onto the device as an afterthought. Others say that the industry should be self-regulating more efficiently and working together on best practices, before the introduction of a rigid piece of regulation which could limit development in the area.

Nick Clegg bags job at Facebook 

Facebook has a new vice-president of global affairs and communications – none other than Sir Nick Clegg, formerly the Deputy Prime Minister, who worked alongside David Cameron in the last UK coalition government. Clegg has faced many difficult questions in Westminster’s House of Commons as well as constant scrutiny from the media. This experience will be essential in his new role, as Facebook is still under intense scrutiny because of problems such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, fake news, fake accounts issues, its reputation and self-regulation policies.

Clegg is reportedly viewing the role as being at the frontier of politics and technology. The giant of social media, Facebook, is on a journey where the company, its users and society at large face new responsibilities to help diminish the negative side effects of social media. Cheryl Sandberg, who was personally involved in Clegg’s recruitment, has said of his appointment that new perspectives are needed to help the company through this time of change.

Opinion is divided from ‘who?’ in the US, to disbelief in the UK on Clegg’s new job, but one thing is for sure – Sir Nick and family will be enjoying the Californian sun permanently from the New Year. How he takes to this new role will be an interesting story to watch, as he tries to improve the reputation of the company.

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Internet News – October 2018

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