Weekly Tech Roundup: December 19

Weekly Tech Roundup: December 19

This week’s biggest tech headlines touch on many different aspects of the industry—from trends in ransomware to data encryption regulations. It’s apparent that the evolving world of tech is getting bigger, and everyone is rushing to keep up with the next big thing — be it a cyber attack, a technological innovation or public outcry.

Here are a handpicked few we found interesting. What did you miss?

Ransomware spiked in 2016

Ransomware is the sneaky cyber threat that keeps getting sneakier, and in 2016, attacks increased an astounding 6,000 percent.

Infosecurity Magazine reports that in 2016, 40 percent of all spam messages contained ransomware. This is up from 0.6 percent in 2015. And the numbers just get scarier.

In 2016, 70 percent of businesses hacked by ransomware paid the ransom in order to get their data back. A breakdown of these victims shows that half of them paid more than $10,000, and one-fifth paid more than $40,000.

55 percent of consumers surveyed said they’d be willing to pay the ransom to get their precious memories back. 37 percent said they’d pay more than $100.

"The digitization of memories, financial information and trade secrets require a renewed vigilance to protect it from extortion schemes like ransomware. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of our reliance on devices and digital data creating pressure points that test our willingness to lose precious memories or financial security," said IBM Executive Security Advisor Limor Kessem.

RELATED: What is Ransomware?

Breached Yahoo data for sale on dark web

Yahoo recently disclosed information about a 2013 attack, in which hackers infiltrated their systems and stole data from more than 1 billion users. This information included names, birth dates, phone numbers and passwords, according to the New York Times.

Alongside this personal data, hackers also gained access to security questions and backup email addresses, making it easier for these criminals to hack into other accounts. It also makes it easier for these cybercriminals to hack into government computers—many of the users hacked were government employees.

The hackers didn’t seem to do anything with the data after the 2013 breach, but in August, someone decided to put it up for sale on the dark web. The data was sold to three entities, and each paid $300,000 for a copy of the stolen information.

Yahoo disclosed the hack on Dec. 14 when they discovered it. The amount of information stolen makes it the largest company breach in history.

No one yet knows who broke into Yahoo’s systems, how they broke in, or what they did with the data, but the attack is believed to have been motivated by money, not politics.

The FBI released a statement saying it was performing an investigation of the breach.

Would you be OK with Evernote employees reading your notes?

Evernote is making changes to its privacy policy starting in January, Computerworld reports.

The change will allow employees to read customers’ notes—and users can’t opt out. Instead, the company is giving users until January 23 to move their notes out of the Evernote system and delete their accounts. Evernote Business users can have administrators opt out, but individual employees have no control over the company looking into their notes.

The reason for the change is to allow for the growth and enhancement of its machine learning capabilities. Allowing employees to look through notes helps to develop these algorithms.

Evernote Business users can keep their notes hidden if they decide to opt out of machine learning features—but this doesn’t apply to regular Evernote users.

Before employees are allowed to look through these notes, they will be subject to background checks and special security and privacy training. However, this isn’t doing much to quell users’ fears.

Another option for users is encryption.

In order to keep their data safe, users can take the text from inside a note and choose to encrypt it. This will keep employees from being able to read the information.

However, this won’t keep Evernote employees from being able to access photos and audio.

Journalists and filmmakers calling for digital camera encryption

The Freedom of the Press Foundation released an open letter on December 14, 2016, calling for built-in encryption features for digital cameras and video recorders.

According to CNet, more than 150 documentary journalists and filmmakers signed the letter. Some of the names include Oscar-winning director and journalist Laura Poitras, and Alex Gibney, maker of the Scientology documentary “Going Clear”.

"We work in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, often attempting to uncover wrongdoing in the interests of justice. On countless occasions, filmmakers and photojournalists have seen their footage seized by authoritarian governments or criminals all over the world. Because the contents of their cameras are not and cannot be encrypted, there is no way to protect any of the footage once it has been taken. This puts ourselves, our sources and our work at risk," the letter reads.

Android and iPhone devices already have built-in encryption features, as does WhatsApp—they are in place to protect users’ data automatically, but other devices are still behind when it comes to data encryption.

The letter was sent to Nikon, Sony, Canon, Olympus and Fuji.

Signers of the letter said they’d be willing to work with these companies in order to come up with the best way to get these encryption features included going forward.

Overstock trades shares via the Bitcoin blockchain

Overstock made history this week, becoming the first public company issue stock over the internet.

According to Wired, the online retailer doled out more than 126,000 shares of its company stock via blockchain technology.

Overstock has been working towards this innovative way of trading stock for two years now, and while it’s just beginning, its streamlined process is evident when compared to stock exchanges like the NASDAQ. Going forward, the hope is that this blockchain technology will eliminate the loopholes and middlemen that permeate the market today. It also cuts down the time involved in securing a stock trade — bringing the time from 3 days to 0.

Not everyone is ready to jump on the blockchain bandwagon, however. While a few companies like State Street and Wells Fargo have put resources towards blockchain, many like Goldman Sachs have backed out.

The decrease in blockchain excitement is a result of people fearing the technology won’t be able to keep up with evolving markets.

“I can’t imagine the NASDAQ on a blockchain. The technology is not up to snuff. And it’s unlikely regulators will get comfortable with this,” said Rick Stinchfield, head of technology at Finadium.

Despite pushback however, it’s very likely that the stock trading market of the future will look very different from the way it does now.

RELATED: What is Blockchain?