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Satoshi Nakamot-oh-no he isn’t

Those unable to decide if the self-proclaimed inventor of bitcoin is legit might need IBM’s quantum computer. Google has been quietly slurping up U.K. patient data, and a Finnish schoolkid collected a cool $10K. It’s all happening in our tech roundup this week.


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The cryptocurrency world got its Christmas pantomime eight months early, with a week of “oh yes he is” and “oh no he isn’t.” Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous inventor of the digital currency bitcoin.

Wright, already fingered last year as the technology’s creator by an anonymous source, used a signature said to be used by Satoshi to prove his identity, but this was later debunked by researchers. He then announced plans to move some bitcoins from an address still thought to be under Satoshi’s control, which would prove that he was the mysterious inventor once and for all, but he then backed out.

This leaves the burning question: will we ever know once and for all who Satoshi is?

Bits and qubits

IBM has made its quantum computer available for people to play around with over the web. Quantum computers use qubits. These are like regular computer bits in so much as they represent ones and zeroes, but are unlike them in that they use the weird, spooky characteristics of quantum mechanics to represent both the one and the zero at once.

This puts quantum computers in two minds about everything, which is perhaps why politicians understand them. They also have some unique capabilities, including the ability to work on all possible facets of a problem at once in a highly efficient manner. Not entirely like politicians, then.

Google slurps up patient data

Google and the U.K. National Health Service (NHS) admitted that the firm had been given access to 1.6 million patient records, which it would be feeding into its DeepMind artificial intelligence system. Google’s London-based company DeepMind will use this data to bolster Streams, an app to help doctors and nurses monitor kidney patients. At the heart of its technology is ‘deep learning,’ a technique that applies AI to historical data, identifying useful trends and patterns. One outcome could be predicting that someone has the early stages of a disease.

The anonymous data handed over includes logs of everyday hospital activity, records of patient location and status, and their visitors. The historical records of critical care and accident and emergency departments were also on the menu.

AI can answer lots of questions, given the right data. Sadly, it won’t answer questions such as “how could you give my data to a U.S. multinational without telling me,” “where do I opt out of this please,” or “are we perfectly positive that this anonymized data isn’t identifiable by record matching and entropy analysis?”

Kid gets massive bug bounty

Facebook awarded a 10-year-old Finnish lad $10K for finding a security bug in its Instagram photo-sharing app. The boy, identified only as Jani, found a way to delete user comments from other people’s Instagram accounts. He was too young to have an account of his own and he taught himself to code from Youtube videos. That’s some persistence and talent, right there. He’s going to buy a new bike and a football with the reward money.

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Don’t rely entirely on VPNs for security when using public Wi-Fi. That’s the message from iPass, which surveyed businesses on their attitudes to mobile computers. Blogger Stefan Dubowski notes that only around a quarter of respondents were confident that mobile workers used encrypted VPN connections over time. The problem is that many users won’t bother setting up the VPN if they’re in a hurry, he argues.

VPN links are supposed to give you a private tunnel between your computer and your company’s infrastructure, meaning that anyone with the right tools can see your traffic. If you’re using an HTTPS-encrypted site, it’s less of an issue, but three-quarters of the top 100 web sites still don’t.

Concentrate on hardening your network and educating your people, Dubowski suggests, adding that using third-party cloud security services to help sanitize your data is also a useful step. As with all cybersecurity measures, multiple layers of defense are key to minimize your risk.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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