Tech Yay and Nay of 2016


Apple launch event: new MacBook Pro, US TV app and more – as it happened

Apple announced first new MacBook Pros in more than a year, with a ‘Touch Bar’ above the keyboard that can be used for typing emoji.

What was launched?

MacBook Pros

The new MacBook Pro comes in two flavors, 13in and 15in, and the headline new feature is the Touch Bar, a touch-sensitive display along the top of the laptop, where the function keys used to be. Also added is a Touch ID sensor. It will retail for $1799/£1749 and $2399/£2349 up.

A sort-of new MacBook Pro enters at the bottom of the range, not offering the Touch Bar but replicating the rough physical layout of the top-end laptops. It starts at $1499/£1449.


The Apple TV, iPad and iPhone get the TV app in the US. A clearinghouse for all your disparate TV apps, it lets you select the show to watch from one central location and jump straight in to the correct app. Unless the correct app is Netflix, which won’t support TV. No international launch was announced.





February: iPhone lockout

Apple clashed with the FBI when it refused to unlock an iPhone used by a murderer. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik had killed 14 people in a shooting spree in California before being shot dead themselves. Farook’s iPhone 5C was password-protected and the FBI feared that if it tried and failed to guess the combination, the device would auto-delete.

The agency demanded a bypass, but Apple refused to help saying it would set a dangerous precedent. A legal battle ensued, but then suddenly ended when the FBI declared an unnamed third party had found its own way to access the data. For now, the matter rests. But at the height of the stand-off, Donald Trump called on consumers to boycott Apple. That is likely to serve as a warning to any tech firm tempted to take a similar stance in a future dispute.



Samsung Explode-gate

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was easily the most innovative flagship phone released this year. The South Korean electronics giant reorganized its production cycle to release the phone in August, in advance of the next iPhone. And for a short while it worked: the phone received rave reviews and pre-orders were strong.

Then a month after release in September, the first phone exploded in flames. Then another, causing a plane to be evacuated. All told there were 92 incidents, which spurned two recalls, many forced software updates, and eventually turned bringing the phone onto an airline in the U.S. into a felony.

All told, the incident will cost Samsung at least $5.3 billion (U.S.), but the company soldiers on, and has already said there will be a Samsung Note 8 next year.



Russian hacking and the 2016 election: What you need to know

Washington (CNN) President Barack Obama has vowed the US will retaliate against Russia “at a time and place of our own choosing” for Moscow’s hacking attempts to influence the country’s elections.

A growing chorus of powerful voices on Capitol Hill — including Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate — is calling for a bipartisan probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential vote.

But President-elect Donald Trump has rejected out of hand any suggestions of Russian influence on the election — despite the CIA concluding that Russia acted to help Trump win.




Whether it was baby monitors or hospitals, tech CEOs or the Democratic National Committee, this year, everybody just got hacked. The only bright spot in this dark, dark reality is the increasing user-friendliness of encryption through apps like Signal and WhatsApp.



How we get hacked now

It was the year of ransomware, although Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks just snuck in under the wire as a co-winner on ways that technology can be used against us.

Ransomware is the use of malware that locks up a computer and extorts the user into paying a fee to get their data back. As it can be in almost any attachment, many hospitals and schools have fallen victim to this scam in which an unwitting user clicks a link that infects a network. Some victims have chosen to pay up in order to quickly get back up and running.

DDOS attacks have been around for years, but a new twist now features malware that uses thousands of unsecured devices connected to the Internet (such as webcams) as a “botnet.” In October, this caused a North American-wide internet slowdown. There was also an attack during an online literacy test in Ontario in the same week. Many experts believe these are just the beginning.



Yahoo hack: 1bn accounts compromised by biggest data breach in history

The latest incident to emerge – which happened in 2013 – is probably distinct from the breach of 500m user accounts in 2014

Yahoo said on Wednesday it had discovered another major cyberattack, saying data from more than 1bn user accounts was compromised in August 2013, making it the largest such breach in history.

The number of affected accounts was double the number implicated in a 2014 breach that the internet company disclosed in September and blamed on hackers working on behalf of a government.

“An unauthorized party” broke into the accounts, Yahoo said in a statement posted on its website. The company believes the hacks are connected and that the breaches are “state-sponsored”.