by Sarah Potter
In this week’s Tech News, North Korean hackers have been charged by the US government, Huawei turn to pig farming, Facebook plunged Australia into a news blackout, Nvidia puts limits on crypto mining and WhatsApp goes ahead with controversial new features.
The United States has charged three North Korean men with stealing and extorting more than $1.3bn (£940m) from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges around the world.
The charges follow a confidential UN report circulated among Security Council members, that is believed to have claimed that North Korea had continued to maintain and develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes through funding secured with cyber heists.
The three men: Jon Chang Hyok, 31; Kim Il, 27; and Park Jin Hyok, 36, are accused of working for North Korea's military intelligence services.
The men are also accused of being involved in the cyber-attack on Sony, and the NHS WannaCry ransomware. WE think this serves as a timely reminder to check on your systems, to see how robust they are in the face of increasingly intelligent attackers. Read more here.
Huawei is turning to technology for pig farmers as it deals with tough sanctions on its smartphones. The Chinese telecoms giant was stopped from accessing vital components after the Trump administration labelled it a threat to US national security, and UK governments have also expressed their concerns.
Along with developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) tech for pig farmers, Huawei is also collaborating with the coal mining industry. Huawei's smartphone sales plunged 42% in the last quarter of 2020 as it struggled with a limited supply of microchips due to the sanctions.
Huawei has also been locked out of the development of 5G in several countries, including the UK, amid fears over national security. So how does pig farming fit into all of this?
Well, China has the world's biggest pig farming industry and is home to half the world's live hogs. Technology is helping to modernise pig farms with AI being introduced to detect diseases and track pigs. Facial recognition technology can identify individual pigs, while other technology monitors their weight, diet and exercise. From 5G to recognising individual snouts – the Chinese technology giants are ensuring that they don’t over rely on phone sales alone. Read more here.
Facebook has started restricting the sharing of news on its platform in Australia, defying a controversial proposed law that would require technology companies to pay publishers when their articles are posted by users.
The ban constitutes the strongest action yet in response to the proposed legislation, which would force Facebook and Google to pay publishers for the value their articles generate on the social networking website. News outlets have demanded such payments, arguing they should be fairly compensated for their journalism as Google and Facebook capture much of the advertising market. We think this argument will rage on – and will set a precedent for future cases to come. Read more here.
Graphics card-maker Nvidia says it will deliberately reduce the efficiency of its latest card by 50% when it is used to mine the crypto-currency Ethereum. Crypto-currency enthusiasts have contributed to a shortage of graphics cards by snapping up supplies to use for non-gaming purposes.
Nvidia said it had intervened to make sure its products "end up in the hands of gamers".
But not to be left behind during the crypto-craze - Nvidia will also be selling a bespoke crypto-currency mining processor.
So, gamers and miners rejoice – you’ll both be able to get your hands on a tool fit for purpose.
Read more here.
WhatsApp is pushing ahead with controversial changes to its terms of service but altering the way it notifies users following a backlash. After its first announcement in January, millions of users downloaded apps from WhatsApp's competitors.
The phrasing of the warning in the initial push led to widespread fears that it was going to share large amounts of WhatsApp data with Facebook. In reality, very little had changed in that area - and almost all users had previously accepted the type of data sharing involved.
WhatsApp says the data it shares with its parent company does not include messages, groups or call logs. Instead, it says the new terms focus on changes to allow users to message businesses. WhatsApp already shares information with Facebook, such as your IP address and information about your phone, as well as purchases made via the platform.
However, this does not apply in Europe and the UK, where different privacy laws exist. Read more here.
It remains to be seen how this one will play out for the messaging giant – as more and more users become more aware of their right to privacy. Watch this space…