Last year – perhaps more than ever – the world was powered by the big tech companies.
The families have stayed in touch via Whatsapp, Zoom and FaceTime. Remote working practices that were quickly adopted allowed companies to maintain their services without faltering. Main Street has shifted online at an unprecedented rate, as retailers of all sizes are finding new ways to sell to their customers.
But the pandemic has also highlighted some of the technology’s biggest weaknesses — with many coming to the fore in 2021.
Cyber security is in poor health
The sudden move to remote work last year sparked fears that cybercriminals could exploit poorly prepared networks. But it wasn’t until this year that the country felt the real impact of the digital attack.
In May Health Service Executive announces it has suffered a ‘major’ and ‘sophisticated’ ransomware attack, with criminals blocking access to their systems.
This has effectively made health, safety and environment disconnected, as hospitals have reverted to the old paper-based systems. This has caused a significant slowdown in its operations, resulting in delays and cancellations of appointments.
later report It found that the attack traced its origins to a breach eight weeks ago, when a phishing email was opened within the organization.
The attackers were helped by the « weak » IT system used in HSE, although it was also found that the organization missed many opportunities to deal with the problem before launching the full-scale attack.
Besides the clinical impact, the attack also had a cost of €100 million to the health authority.
As the year drew to a close, it was clear that the problems weren’t over yet, with Comp Hospital had to shut down its IT systems in December due to a cyber attack.
But this year it has also proven that digital attacks aren’t just a problem for large organizations – with Scam texts and phone calls become an almost constant nuisance.
Fraudsters have profited from everything from the pandemic to Brexit – with messages often focused on online banking, delivery notices or even customs duties.
The scammers also used an extra level of sophistication, as they were able to put their fake texts alongside legitimate messages from the likes of AIB and Bank of Ireland.
The devil is in Facebook data
But it was an attack of a different kind that sparked a year of controversy for social media giant Facebook.
While all social media platforms have been grappling with the ‘fake news’ problem for years now, Covid-19 has underlined the ‘life or death’ nature of their efforts.
And in 2021, the biggest platform of them all faced detailed accusations of failing to stem the flow of misinformation.
Frances Haugen, a former employee turned whistleblower, claimed that after the 2020 US presidential election, the company shut down special systems designed to curb misinformation and abuse on its platform.
She said it helped fuel madness Riots at the US Capitol on January 6.
However, Ms. Haugen’s allegations about Facebook’s problems go far beyond US policy, with Whistleblowers who claim the company has a policy that has made executives sacrifice users in pursuit of profit.
This includes amplifying violent hate-filled content because it generated more engagement — and advertising revenue, she said. It also accused Facebook of ignoring its own research that younger users are negatively affected by their experiences with its apps.
Facebook rejected Ms Haugen’s allegations, and said the documents she presented as evidence had been taken out of context. It also noted the steps it has taken to address misinformation and abuse; and protect younger users.
However, it’s not just its content policy that has come under scrutiny this year – with its handling of user data also under the spotlight once again.
This included questions from Irish Data Protection Commission on data leakage of 533 million users, Prospect A fine of 36 million euros for processing personal data, cancel what she has Controversial facial recognition system.
All of this added an extra layer of toxicity to the Facebook brand — possibly fueling its October decision to Changed his name to « Meta »« .
However, the multiple controversies don’t seem to have done much to dampen the group’s appeal among users – b Profit boom And Significant growth planned for the next five years.
Europe doubles down in the Battle of Big Tech
While Frances Hogan has pulled no punches in her criticism of Facebook, she has praised the European Union for its attempts to curb the power of big tech.
This can be seen most clearly in the financial penalties imposed on large companies for alleged violations of union rules – particularly those relating to the General Data Protection Regulations.
Designed to force companies to handle user data more carefully, it came into effect in mid-2018, but it’s already starting to have an impact this year.
Alongside Facebook’s proposed €36m fine, the Irish Data Protection Commission imposed a record A fine of 225 million euros on the Irish arm of the messaging service Whatsapp for violations of the General Data Protection Regulation.
Ireland’s DPC had originally proposed a €50 million fine to the company, but that was raised significantly after a review by the European Data Protection Council. Whatsapp choose Fine Challenge Allegation that it constitutes « the imposition of a criminal penalty ».
Meanwhile, Amazon It was found to be in violation of the General Data Protection Regulation by the Luxembourg data protection authorities, with a fine of 746 million euros.
The tech giant was also hit with a €1.13 billion fine in Italy – this fine for the alleged abuse of its market position.
and with the The European Union is currently making progress on the Digital Services Act and the new Digital Marketing ActMore pressure will likely be put on the big tech companies in the coming months and years.
But the technology’s problems weren’t just digital – the engine of the entire industry continued to struggle in 2021.
Processor makers are starting to run into trouble for the first time in 2020, with the rapid transformation of supply chains and an unprecedented rise in demand. led to a global shortage of computer chips.
This not only affected the production of computers, tablets, smartphones, and servers – but also Completely separate sectors have become highly computerized, such as automakers.
Their problems continued into 2021, forcing major companies to delay and revise plans to launch their products, while also causing a backlog in the European car market.
The problem became so severe that it led to this High-level meetings at the White House, with European authorities are also trying to find ways to meet the challenge.
Officials in both the European Union and the United States agreed that there was a need to increase regional chip production to reduce dependence on Asia.
This should have a positive impact on Ireland, which is destined to be its home More production of Intel chips in the future, with 1,600 new jobs on the way to the L’Exlip campus.
It is also said that Ireland is competing for A separate factory operated by Intel which will produce chips for other companies, although it faces stiff competition from other European countries for this award.
But wherever Intel’s new facility goes, and whatever other chip production is being established in Europe or the United States, it is unlikely to do much to help the current shortage crisis.
The complexity and scale of chip-making facilities mean that it takes years to develop new sites — or for existing sites to dramatically increase production.
This means that it can be Some time before supply and demand balance again.
Broadband plan is behind schedule
It will be years before many Irish households have access to high-quality broadband, despite the seemingly ambitious plans of the National Broadband Scheme – as well as some private operators.
Contracts for the National Broadband Plan – which aims to bring high-speed connections to more than half a million homes – were signed in 2019.
In the past year, there have been positive signals coming from the company behind the rollout – National Broadband Ireland – and other things Looks like he’s on the right track in early 2021.
But as the year went by, problems began to arise.
This means that after 22 months of operation, Just over 3,300 homes and businesses are connected to the network By early December.
But the good news for some is that fewer homes and businesses may have to wait for the NBI to get high-speed broadband, with many companies ramping up their fiber rollout.
In April, Air said its fiber-optic home service was so Available in 800,000 buildings across the country, and in August Announced plans to expand this to 200,000 more buildings.
In October, Ciro – the joint venture between ESB and Vodafone – announced a 620 million euros to expand its network It would bring connections to an additional 320,000 buildings.
Then in November, Virgin Media Ireland has said it will spend €200 million to modernize its networkWhich means that its customers will be able to take advantage of a full fiber service capable of much faster speeds than before.
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