Wrap up: the latest in technology...


Uber paid off hackers who breached customer information

In October 2016, Uber paid hackers $100,000 to keep quiet about their breach of the personal information of about 50 million Uber riders and 7 million drivers. Data stolen included names, email addresses and phone numbers but not Social Security numbers, credit card information or trip service details.

Uber recently admitted to the massive breach and payment. According to Bloomberg, the hackers obtained the information after successfully hacking into an Amazon Web Services account. In response to the breach, Uber fired Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan and another executive.

“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said, according to a press release.

The breach is not Uber’s only worry, as the recently revealed “cover-up” may be considered a violation of data breach notification laws.

Net neutrality policy under threat

The buzzword “net neutrality” refers essentially to rules designed to ensure the Internet is free from the influence of Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Any lawful content is to be treated equally in the eyes of ISPs, and thus, there can be no bias that includes blocking or slowing down content.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released the final draft of “Restoring Internet Freedom,” which will achieve the exact opposite. The proposal will reverse net neutrality rules established in 2015. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, known to be an opponent of net neutrality, announced that the FCC will vote to rollback net neutrality on Dec. 14. The vote, however, is basically predetermined, since the commission is divided three-to-two along partisan lines.

What does the end of net neutrality mean? ISPs will have more influence over pricing and service bandwidth.

Bitcoin value surges

In the month of November, bitcoin mining electricity consumption is estimated to have increased by nearly 30 percent and with good reason. At the start of November, bitcoin was valued at $6,750. By press deadline, bitcoin’s value peaked at $9,721. Bitcoin’s market value has increased from $15 billion to $156 billion since January 2017.

According to the Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, an estimated 30.25 TWh of electricity is consumed in a year of bitcoin mining, which is enough to power about 2.8 million U.S. households.

The energy consumption from bitcoin mining is greater than the electricity consumption of more than 12 U.S. states. China leads the world in bitcoin mining, consuming 20 percent of the estimated 30 TWh of electricity. The U.S. is second at 13 percent of total energy consumption from bitcoin mining. Russia, India and Japan follow at 3.3 percent each.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy shrinks under Trump’s presidency

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has been a part of the White House infrastructure for the past 41 years. However, in the 10 months since President Trump was inaugurated, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has been missing both a leader and a mandate for the longest period of time in the office’s history.

Referred to as the OSTP, the office has held only two events since the Trump administration took over. To date, the White House has not made its intentions clear on the exact future of the Office’s leadership. Under the past seven administrations, the OSTP has served to advise the President on a number of policy issues. Regardless, the OSTP staff has fallen from 135 under President Obama to 45 under President Trump. Of the 45 members of the Trump OSTP, the majority do not have a background in science, including the Office’s de facto leader, Deputy White House Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios.

Kratsios, former chief of staff to Trump-ally and tech billionaire Peter Thiel, comes from an investment banking background and lacks any science credentials besides a bachelor’s in political science. According to CBS News, the White House claims this reduction is due to the team being “naturally streamlined” to focus on technology, science and national security.

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