Every year at this time I sit down to pen a piece looking back at the top technical news of the year just past.
This year is without a doubt the most difficult due to the nature of the top technology news being so enormous and incomprehensible to the non-tech-savvy. In no particular order I will look back at the first three that come to mind.
Computer hacking and its impact on the U.S. presidential election got a lot of press. Responsible for this could have been the Russians, or the Chinese running a false-flag operation, or some teenage hacker working out of his or her parent’s basement. The fact is that nobody knows for sure and the truth may never be proved. All of the private correspondence leaked by the hackers might have impacted on the outcome of the election, or not. That is something else we may never know. How this hacking happened, when, and by whom is all so amorphous that it makes both cause and effect hard to know.
Many companies and government agencies were in the news for having failed to protect the privacy of their data … too many to list here. Leading the pack was Yahoo as it was revealed the company had been hacked resulting in over one billion accounts compromised by the biggest data breach in history, surpassing last year’s Yahoo data breach which was the largest in history. Then it emerged that this latest incident had occurred in 2013 with the company keeping a lid on the news. Yahoo had its hands full dealing with the 500,000,000 user account hacking last year. And there is evidence some that the billion password hack reported this year is probably distinct from the 500 million password hack last year.
Then there is all the ominous albeit beneath-the-radar news concerning the IoT (Internet of Things). A certain wise British PM might have called it the “gathering storm.” 2016 saw the introduction of countless new electronic gadgets designed to be connected to the internet, but not necessarily designed with any kind of security in mind. It is now possible to purchase smart light bulbs that communicate wirelessly via the internet. This is promoted as being a big convenience to be able to dim and be able to turn on or off these bulbs from anywhere using your smart phone… but it took only a short time for computer hackers to find the lack of security could be exploited from anywhere. They were not at all interested in turning bulbs on or off when they discovered that hacking the same wireless channels used by the bulbs also created a back door into your home network and from there a window into your bank account and other online activities.
This is not to say the year has been completely devoid of good news. Apple unveiled a new MacBook Pro that looks to be the best ever. Information Technology in general continued progress toward more reliable and less expensive, so it is unfortunate that 2016 was overshadowed by so much dark news.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with more than 20 years IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico. The opinions expressed are his own. He may be contacted through his web site at SMAguru.com.