Guns, Google And No More HottiesIt’s been another action-packed month in the world of tech and online. Well, when I say action-packed I don’t mean the sort of action involving rich people, jockeys, footy dickheads, brothel owners and a horse with a sore neck – that would be way too exciting!
During the month we saw a fuss break out about some Yanks creating a working version of a 3D printed plastic hand gun. Despite America being one of the easiest places to procure a gun in the developed world, the US government quickly tried to shut down online distribution of the plans. This made plenty of sense, as it was a gun that could pass through airport security and other scanners, and no one wants that. Even Kim Dotcom weighed in, agreeing to remove the blueprints from his otherwise insanely illegal file distribution business. However, there is something worrying about it, as 3D printer technology is rapidly dropping in price and increasing in capability. We might all be able to print our own weapons at home within two to three years. Keeping people off your front lawn will be easier than ever.
In other news, the Australian Google headquarters was sensationally hacked – according to the media’s fantastically overwrought headlines. Like everyone else I envisioned mysterious agents from one of the countries of the Axis of Evil sitting in a darkened room, staring intently at a laptop as they wreaked havoc on innocent Australian Google queries. Alas, it was nothing like that at all. Two very sensible security consultants tapped into the building management systems and worked out they could frig with the air conditioning. Did they? No. They immediately contacted Google and informed them of the issue. Google thanked them and fixed the problem. All very civilised.
Yet many of these old ‘internal’ building software systems, used for heating, cooling, lighting, power, machinery and other critical functions, have increasingly been connected online to make it easier to monitor them. The problem is that most of them were invented well before the Internet. In fact, many of them haven’t changed since the ‘70s and are inherently insecure, a bit like Tony Abbott. These same systems control traffic lights, nuclear power plants and power grids all over the world. If you get a chance, do a bit of reading on Stuxnet, the incurable computer virus that was (allegedly) created by Israel and the US to attack the control systems within Iran’s nuclear facilities. It’s now gone rogue, of course, and the Chinese (allegedly) are using it on their version of the bad guys – i.e. everyone.
This month has also witnessed the end of an era for those of us that were on the Internet between 1996 and 2003. In early May, the legendary (or infamous) Hotmail was closed by Microsoft and replaced by Outlook.com. Hotmail was used by many as the default email account when signing up for anything online. The thing was terminally prone to spam – anyone for Nigerian riches or a bigger dick? However, we all had a soft spot for its hopelessly clunky and unstylish interface, and it was the go-to application for millions of people.
While we won’t miss the never-ending spam that cast aspersions on our penis size, or the fact it could be hacked by a 12 year-old, I think we all hope it rests in digital peace.