The 10 worst tech stories of 2021

Have fond recollections of 2021? They in all probability do not embrace these 10 tales or the services surrounding them.

Ransomware concept

Picture: Wetzkaz Graphics/Shutterstock

Plenty of stuff has occurred up to now 12 months, particularly within the tech world. It appeared like each time you turned your head in 2021 there was a brand new digital catastrophe unfolding: Delicate information was leaked, ransoms took networks offline and plain previous trend gender discrimination circumstances have all rocked the tech world up to now 12 months.

Certain, there’s been good things, nevertheless it was far simpler to provide you with this one than the previous. Mainly, it has been a tough 12 months.

What’s sizzling at TechRepublic

You’ll have missed a few of these objects, nevertheless it’s extra doubtless you have heard about each. They had been onerous to overlook, even among the many different tales that stored us on edge this previous 12 months.

The Colonial Pipeline assault

When the Colonial Pipeline Firm was pressured to close down its operations resulting from a ransomware assault in Could, portion of the east coast of the U.S. was left worrying about operating out of gasoline, giving us one in every of our first actual photos of what it regarded like when the specter of cybercrime spilled over into the bodily world.

The assault was an eye fixed opener that not solely highlighted how harmful ransomware may very well be, but in addition how susceptible important infrastructure was to assault. 

To make issues worse, take into consideration how safe infrastructure ought to be, after which take into consideration yours: Are you prepared for an assault like that?

In different ransomware information, it is all over the place

Because the Colonial Pipeline assault confirmed us, ransomware is a severe menace to everybody all over the place, even those that do not make a lot use of expertise: If it may well have an effect on infrastructure, it may well have an effect on all the things.

To make issues worse, ransomware accounted for 69% of all assaults involving malware in Q2 2021, a 30% leap from the identical interval in 2020. We have entered the ransomware age. 

Governments, medical and industrial corporations, scientific establishments and academic services are on the highest danger of being attacked by ransomware, however they don’t seem to be the one ones who want to fret. 

On a constructive notice, ransomware actors appear to love leveraging recognized safety vulnerabilities, so conserving your programs up to date ought to go a great distance towards decreasing your assault footprint. 

Bitcoin units the world on hearth

Yeah, Bitcoin is sizzling this 12 months, however that is not what I imply: I am speaking in regards to the huge power and carbon footprint that has bloomed up because the Bitcoin community continues to develop. We have lastly began to concentrate to it in 2021, with Elon Musk calling its power consumption “insane,” and calling into query its usefulness (neither Tesla nor Musk have divested themselves of Bitcoin holdings).

It is true that Bitcoin makes use of an absurd quantity of power, and 2021 was the 12 months that it actually skyrocketed, rising from someplace round a 77 TWh/12 months forecast at first of the 12 months to greater than 200 TWh/12 months by December 25. At this level, the Bitcoin community is burning by means of the identical quantity of energy and gasoline as some medium-sized international locations, and a person transaction eats up extra energy than a median U.S. family makes use of in 70 days. 

Bitcoin, and different cryptocurrencies, want one thing huge, like a transition to proof-of-stake, if they will survive a bigger world transition to greener power.

SEE: Google Chrome: Safety and UI suggestions that you must know  (TechRepublic Premium)

SolarWinds attackers hold hacking 

In late 2020, a gaggle of what’s now believed to be Russian state-sponsored hackers broke into authorities programs by exploiting flaws in SolarWinds’ Orion community administration software program. It was a classy assault that leveraged deep-level vulnerabilities and it left the cybersecurity world scrambling. 

The group behind it did not let up, and is believed to be chargeable for a collection of phishing assaults towards authorities companies and NGOs in Could, and makes an attempt it made to impersonate cloud service resellers in a bid to realize entry to buyer IT programs in October.

The group behind the assaults is called Nobelium, and it is simply the newest in a string of government-sponsored assaults towards IT infrastructure and firms in overseas international locations. It is unlikely to be the final group both, so proceed to be on guard, particularly should you do work in an affected trade. It’s possible you’ll not assume it, however your group might function an unnoticed manner in for harmful attackers.

The chips are very, very down

It has been a tough couple of years for anybody who manufactures merchandise that make use of semiconductors. Sadly, meaning largely everybody within the fashionable world. 

The chip scarcity that began because of COVID-19 provide chain interruptions continues on unabated, leaving numerous merchandise disadvantaged of important parts. 

The massive downside with the semiconductor trade is how inflexible it’s, and must be: Materials prices are excessive, merchandise are made-to-order and sudden interruptions within the provide chain can result in years of delays, as we’re experiencing now. 

Predictions as to an ending range, however count on us to function in some kind of scarcity till at the very least mid-2023 or early 2024.

Alternate will get pwned

If there are just a few tales duking it out for the title of worst of the 12 months, the 4 zero-day Microsoft Alternate server vulnerabilities found in March are positively a contender. 

The quartet of exploits got here to gentle when assaults by a Chinese language state-sponsored actor often known as Hafnium had been detected concentrating on on-premise Alternate servers with the first goal of exhilarating delicate or in any other case precious information. 

Patches for this exploit have been launched, so anybody chargeable for a machine operating Alternate Server 2013, 2016 or 2019 ought to make certain these patches are utilized. In the event you do not set up them and get hit you may solely have your self in charge. 

NFTs: You are shopping for nothing, however somebody’s gaining

In the event you learn my earlier article on the perfect tech of 2021, you is perhaps confused to see NFTs right here, as a result of they’re in there, too. 

The idea of the NFT is nice: They’re distinctive tokens that reside on a blockchain and could be tied to something, which provides them loads of potential functions. Up to now, the one utility to realize steam has been yet one more speculative market akin to the one surrounding Bitcoin. 

NFTs have largely been used to promote digital art work and different collectible objects by ostensibly naming the NFT the “authentic” digital merchandise. Typically, patrons do not get any type of copyright management or replica rights—that often stays with the creator or vendor. 

So, what are you shopping for if you purchase an NFT? Nothing. How a lot are you spending? Doubtlessly thousands and thousands. An NFT might rise in worth, or it might end up all of us resolve they’re simply as precious as beanie infants, Troll dolls or Tomagotchi.

SEE: Password breach: Why popular culture and passwords do not combine (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

AWS crashes … and crashes … and crashes

We have come to depend on the cloud in a comparatively quick period of time, and we turned much more depending on it because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is purported to be secure, however Amazon’s AWS internet hosting service, which accounts for a good portion of the websites on the web, simply stored taking place in December. As of publication, AWS has had three outages in December, bringing enterprise to a halt for its clients at an extremely essential time. 

Digital transformation initiatives compressed from years to weeks as a result of pandemic, and an ever-increasing variety of corporations going cloud native means we’re pushing our infrastructure more durable than ever. AWS, arguably the chief in all issues cloud, is not scoring any factors with its clients with continued outages. If it does not step up its sport in 2022 others will certainly attempt to take its place. 

Fb has had a YEAR

It has been a tough 12 months for Fb, and that is placing it calmly. 2020 was dangerous, too, and lots of the general public ire that Fb incurred in 2021 was sewn in an already fertile mattress fertilized with final 12 months’s information privateness scandal. 

Do not get me improper: Fb’s tough 12 months has been solely of its personal making. The most important story, Fb product supervisor Frances Haugen’s whistleblowing, opened up some deep closets stuffed with soiled laundry that Mark Zuckerberg would doubtless quite stayed closed.

Haugen got here to the general public armed with a trove of over 1,000 pages of inside paperwork that exposed Fb’s consciousness of the issues it stoked by permitting misinformation to unfold and failing to police content material. 

A month later, information stolen from over 1.5 billion Fb customers appeared on the darkish internet. Absolutely unrelated to its mounting scandals, Fb determined to rebrand itself to Meta shortly thereafter. 

Meta’s new aim appears to be all about making a digital “metaverse” the place it sees people working and taking part in in a digital world of Fb-based, er… “Meta”-based digital actuality. 

It stays to be seen if Fb/Meta has sufficient model capital to reach the face of a lot current unfavorable publicity.

We realized how far we nonetheless must go on equality 

It is not precisely a secret that the tech trade has lengthy had an issue with gender equality. Girls in tech commonly say they’ve skilled sexism first hand, and research have discovered for a while that girls proceed to make lower than males doing the identical work.

To make issues worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit ladies within the tech sector notably onerous, with many saying it has brought about a regression of gender roles that has set ladies’s development within the trade again by a long time.

To wrap all of it up with a not-so-pretty bow was the revelations that got here out of World of Warcraft writer Activision Blizzard that confirmed a pervasive tradition of sexism and gender discrimination, which is placing it calmly. 

There are lots of ways in which the tech trade has been made to replicate on itself up to now couple of years, and this problem isn’t any completely different. 

Shareholders are actually suing Activision Blizzard for financial injury incurred because of withheld data, all whereas 4 Blizzard staff have mounted a lawsuit alleging discrimination and hostility at work. Oh, toss an SEC investigation into the allegations onto the pile, too, and gamers sad over each the corporate scenario and what they see as poor storytelling in World of Warcraft leaving in droves. 

The entire blowback Activision Blizzard is getting seems like the primary instance of a mega company being pushed to dire straits because of the poor conduct of its management group. Those that permit, perpetrate or ignore dangerous conduct at main companies ought to hold a watchful eye on these proceedings and their consequence.

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