Monday tech roundupLast week, President of China, Xi Jinping, was on an official visit to the United States and it seems to have unearthed stories upon stories about China hacking and attacking the U.S. Whether these were state-sponsored attacks is still to be seen but it surely made for some awkward conversations. Last week the Pope too was in America and he had a few words to change about tech and climate change. Read more in today’s Monday Tech Roundup.

5.6 million fingerprints stolen from U.S!

Recent news revealed that hackers, perhaps from China, stole around 5.6 million U.S. employee fingerprints along with some top-secret federal dossiers. It does sound scary but the fingerprints are not what is so worrisome. Despite the use of biometrics to unlock smart phones and other devices, you can’t do much with a fingerprint.

The most worrying thing is the fact that hackers were able to open up such a huge breach in the first place. The hack was against the Office of Personnel Management, which holds personal data about U.S. government employees and this is not the first time the organization has suffered a breach as it made news back in June for a breach which happened in April where millions of U.S. government employees’ details where compromised.

Pope suggests technology, business and government commitment key to cooling global warming.

The debate over global warming seems to center on slowing the rate of warming by curing on emissions. Scientists believe that is the key, although there is a different school of thought who propose more radical solutions such as seeding the atmosphere so as to block the sun.

The Pope, who visited the United States last week, is himself a scientist – a chemical engineer to be exact. The Holy Father spoke at the US Congress and suggested that climate change needs be taken seriously and inferred that technology – which he didn’t specify – could be part of the solution:

“Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home,” we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them.”

Secrets of Chinese hacking revealed?

The United States and other governments have long blamed China and Chinese authorities for serious state-sponsored hacking. Now a group of security gurus claim they know how China does it.

I doubt they explained every scenario, but it did seem to get one technique nailed. The approach the researchers described was pretty straightforward – simple even. And it’s worrying to see how effective such an easy approach can be.

The technique is the good old tried and tested malicious email approach, that is, just sending a malicious email and let the malware scour the end systems for the data.

The ThreatConnect and Defense Group claims all this sensitive data is forwarded directly to the Chinese Army. The timing of the disclosure couldn’t be worse as it came at the exact time the President of China, Xi Jinping, was on an official visit to the United States. In fact, when meeting with major US tech execs in Seattle, Xi denied state-supported hacking but ThreatConnect further pinpointed Chinese Army member Ge Xing who launched phishing attacks from his “GreenSky27”domain.

3D printers are a revolution in the making

Several years back I went to a 3D software show and saw many of the newest 3D printers. It was pretty cool seeing how you could use your software to design a piece and the printer would recreate a true to life model of it. The pieces, however, were small and made of plastic – so it was more for prototyping than for real work but since then, there have been myriad advances.

The new printer from Glowforge on sale for (US) $1,995 for pre-orders but set to double in price when it ships. That price is certainly no revolution as you can get a 3D printer for far less. What is different are the materials you can use – which changes what you can produce and how these items can be used.

Instead of just raw plastic, you can produce things made out of cardboard, cloth, leather and other materials (including recyclables). You also don’t need a multi-thousand dollar 3D modelling package, as you can use cheaper simpler software on the web to design your objects.

3D printers are a true revolution. They allow an inventive, yet untrained mind to create new items, produce parts that may be part of a restoration project, or just experiment whilst making the production of such items a lot cheaper.