As 2014 draws to a close, we wanted to take a look back at the top 26 news stories, developments, and trends in technology for the year. These are the good, the bad, and the ugly, and some of these may set the tone for the next several years to come. Let’s run the clocks all the back to January 2014 and work our way through the year to see what had the most impact. In no particular order, neither chronological nor scope, here are the things for which we will always remember, or blame, 2014.
Selfies become a thing
The term ‘selfie’ may have been the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year in 2013, but 2014 is when selfies really hit it big. What was an April fool’s joke for some became a hot selling commodity with camera attachments to let you take selfies from a distance, and Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie (actually taken by Bradley Cooper) took at the Oscars this year literally broke Twitter with over three million retweets.
My fortune cookie says “All your base are belong to us!”
The restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s apparently suffered a widespread breach of data across 33 of its restaurants. Customers’ credit card data, including the CVV numbers, were compromised. Some of the chain’s restaurants went back to manual imprint machines as a result, which of course brings back the old-school hack of stolen carbons.
Drones go mainstream
No, I don’t mean the military’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, I mean small remote controlled aircraft that anyone can fly. With prices dropping to well below $100 US, and options for either onboard cameras or mounts for more robust gear, you can’t go to a sporting event or concert without hearing the buzz of a small multi-prop aircraft skimming along. Pro versions can follow the action on the field for hours, but even the cheapest models can give you an aerial survey of your home and yard or video of your children’s sports team in action.
Knit one, pearl two, steal one, steal two
Michaels arts and crafts store chain reported that up to three million customers’ card information was stolen from their systems using a highly sophisticated malware that propagated across the corporate network.
My heart bleeds for security
Heartbleed was the name given to an attack that exploited a years-old vulnerability in OpenSSL, the technology used by practically everyone to ensure confidentiality and privacy. Suddenly, the very tech that was equated with security turned out not to be so secure after all, and the Internet is still echoing from the sound of millions of people’s jaws hitting the floor.
I always feel like somebody’s watching me
And I have no privacy. I don’t mean government surveillance cameras, but rather rugged cameras like those from GoPro and their competitors. Nearly everyone has a rugged camera these days. They’re like the members only jackets from the 80s. If you don’t have one, apparently you’re just not cool.
If a hack occurred and no one cared, was it really a hack?
Back in September, a file containing 5 million usernames and passwords for Google accounts were posted to an online Bitcoin forum in Russia. Reports state that as many as 60% of those accounts were active. And yet, Google said they were not hacked, and the matter quickly disappeared. Where did the list come from, and how many users use their Gmail address as their username and use the same password on other sites?
Thermostats, light controls, deadbolt locks, window blinds… the list of Internet-connected devices that can control aspects of your home grows bigger every day, with tons of choices and options from mainstream vendors, store brands, and others. There’s even IoT Crock-Pots so you can turn up, or down, the heat on your slow-cooker meal.
Fast sandwiches, faster hack
Restaurant chain Jimmy John’s reported that card information was stolen from them. The data, which was gathered from 216 of the restaurants’ locations, was allegedly compromised when an external vendor’s credentials were stolen and then used to remotely access the point-of-sale systems. So, to review, no multi-factor authentication for vendor accounts, and POS systems on the same network that have Internet egress.
Phones get bigger, and bigger
There was a time (yesterday actually) when most people wanted the smallest phone they could find, thinking that if someone could tell they had one in their pocket, it was too big. Today, with phones and phablets getting bigger and bigger, it’s starting to look like people will want to carry around shoulder bags to haul their devices around, and without a Bluetooth headset, you’re going to look pretty silly with an iPad held up to your face! And yet we continue to see phones looking more and more like tablets.
It’s shocking how widely deployed Bash is
Another major vulnerability to rock the Internet and hit the front pages was when Shellshock started to exploit Linux and Unix systems with a flaw in the Bash shell. But it wasn’t the vulnerability, or even that it hit *nix systems that was so shocking, but rather the millions of firewalls, routers, switches, and other non-traditional computing systems that turned out to be vulnerable too.
Bad… Neiman Marcus hacked. Good… very full disclosure
Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus disclosed a breach of over one million credit cards which resulted from malware installed to capture credit card data. Further analysis led to a more precise number of accounts actually compromised at 350K, but then Neiman Marcus went further and revealed that 9,200 were actually used fraudulently. That’s still a big number, but it’s also very informative to see how many actual cards are used after a hack that starts with a round number like one million.
More malware, more card numbers – that’s the Home Depot hack
Home improvement giant The Home Depot was hacked, with credit card and/or email data on 56 million customers compromised. Again, an external vendor’s credentials were used to gain the initial access.
And wearables are smaller
Wearable computing devices are coming out from Google and Microsoft and many others, perhaps to counteract those huge phones. It’s much easier to glance down at your wrist than to throw out your back trying to retrieve a massive phone from your bag. It’s estimated that over 19 million wearable computing devices will ship by year’s end.
The ALS ice bucket challenge
While it is for a good cause, you have to wonder how dumping a bucket of ice water over someone’s head became all the rage. But there’s no denying that the ice bucket challenge rocked the technology world, with 5.8 million results on YouTube and 3.7 million Instragram Videos. Imagine how much bandwidth was consumed by people just watching these videos.
Celebrity nudes leaked from iCloud
Several very high-profile users of Apple’s iCloud service found their personal photos leaked online, including many images that were probably never meant for public display. After a thorough investigation, Apple maintains that it was not their service that was hacked, but rather that users’ credentials were compromised using a targeted effort at determining usernames, passwords and security questions. If you aren’t using MFA yet, here’s yet another object lesson for you.
And speaking of bandwidth, 2014 saw an estimated 81% growth in mobile bandwidth consumption, probably largely fueled by people watching celebrities doused by ice water. And while mobile bandwidth consumption continues to climb, bandwidth caps continue to become more prominent across almost all carriers.
JP Morgan Chase shows how not to respond to incidents
Media reports put the number of affected customers in the JP Morgan Chase hack north of 80 million users, while some say that number includes 76 million households plus another 7 million businesses. Whatever the number, what seems to be clear is that the bank continues to say nothing substantive about the breach, while media outlets call this the worst security incident in history.
Tea. Earl Gray. Hot
No, we don’t have replicators yet, but 3D Printing has gone so mainstream in 2014 that brick-and-mortar stores are stocking the units now.
The Brazil versus Germany World Cup Game becomes the most tweeted about event in history
And it wasn’t even the final game!
The Cloud goes mainstream
Whether its Microsoft’s Azure and Office 365, Amazon Web Services, Google’s Cloud, or other offerings, cloud computing really hit mainstream in 2014. With consumer offerings, US Federal Government offerings, and second tier service providers now offering their own cloud solutions, 2014 is the year that cloud computing shifted from bleeding edge to business as usual.
Hitchhiking and cabs, both take a hit
Leveraging mobile apps, GPS, and crowdsourcing, startups Uber and Lyft look to put a billion dollar dent into cab companies’ revenues. Protests, strikes, violence, and government authorities that derive revenue directly or indirectly from cab companies are also getting involved but that’s not stopping many from catching a lift from someone looking to make a buck going where they already are.
The world really is a big place, and government surveillance doesn’t see everything
While we all know that Hollywood takes poetic license with both technology and the pervasiveness of government surveillance, I think most people outside of the aviation industry were shocked that Malaysia Airlines flight 370 actually managed to completely disappear somewhere in the Indian Ocean, or maybe the Pacific, or perhaps the South China Sea. Wherever it went down, the event showed that the world is still a very big place, we can’t see everything, and technology can’t solve every mystery (yet.)
I’m feeling blue
The invention of the blue light emitting diode goes back to work started in the 1980s, but scientists Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics this year in recognition of just how much blue LEDs can change the world. In addition to making true white light possible and really cool displays, blue LEDs can help bring solar-charged lighting to the millions of people who live without access to an electrical grid, can enable ultraviolet sterilizers to make drinking water safe, and can even help with food production by illuminating greenhouses.
Not all the biggest technological impacts were good. Ransomware is a new type of malware that became big news in 2014, as files were encrypted and held for ransom. Pay the attacker and maybe they will give you the decryption key to get back your data, but just as likely, your files and now your money are gone. Cryptolocker is the most well-known, but far from the only example of this growing trend.
The Sony Hack
No not the hack of the Sony network, the hack of Sony’s network that led to a leak of movies, internal emails, and personal information on employees and celebrities. Reports state that over 100TB of data was stolen. Personal Information on 3,800 employees was taken and several private emails have leaked that show not everything is sunshine and puppy dogs between Sony execs and major talent on their movies. And the remake of Annie has been shared so many times that there’s probably no point in releasing it now. Some think this was pulled off by North Korea in retaliation for “The Interview”, a comedy about the assassination of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un.
2014 was not known for… the year Linux took over the desktop, the year the government broke up anything, the year Microsoft went open source, or the year Google started respecting privacy. Oh well, there’s always 2015.
Did we miss something? Is there any event, trend, or technology that you think had a profound impact on the world in 2014? Leave a comment below.