State of the Cloud, November 2019
Hello and welcome to this latest State of the Cloud, our monthly column where we go over the biggest stories from the cloud and tech industries. October was an eventful month, but November moved at an almost breakneck speed, so strap in as we review all the goings on in our niche.
Of course, our usual suspects of Facebook and Libra, its supremely dodgy currency, will make an appearance, but we’re not just throwing our usual stones from our glass house. Also checking in are the streaming wars and some shorter stories. First, though, we’ll be talking about a pretty serious security breach affecting one of our favorite VPN providers, NordVPN.
Early in the month, news came to light that a NordVPN server had been breached back in March 2018. The attack was possible due to an error made by the data center operator, which the VPN is no longer in business with, but no records were exposed.
All in all, it’s not the biggest deal, really, considering cybercrime can hit anybody and at any time, but it does raise the issue of transparency.
After all, why did we not find out till October 2019, almost 18 months later, that this attack had taken place? Anybody grounded in the realities of online business knows attacks happen and occasionally the people behind them will gain access, but as long as you encrypt all your data and, like in the case of NordVPN, don’t keep user logs, there’s no harm done, usually.
Though the service did quickly come out with a statement answering these questions, as well as an explanation of what exactly happened, we have decided to ding the service a little in our NordVPN review, if only just a few points. That said, we still have faith in NordVPN, though this episode does remind us all that nothing is completely safe online.
Streaming Wars: The High Seas Might Win
On a less serious note, the streaming wars heated up ahead of the launch of Disney+ in the U.S. on November 12, with launches all over the world following soon after. If you’d like to know more about the service or would like to figure out how to access it from anywhere, check out our guide on how to watch Disney+.
The new behemoth on the scene — offering the full Star Wars and Marvel universe experiences, as well as everything Disney has ever produced — is a serious threat to existing channels. Somehow this hasn’t deterred anybody from doing what they’re doing, though, and in some cases even launching new competitors.
However, much as we said in the August edition of this column, all that this is likely to do is make piracy more attractive. Disney has effectively stolen away a huge chunk of Netflix’s library and is setting up a killer deal with Hulu that will package it with Disney+, but Netflix still has enough to offer viewers, so it’s unlikely people will give it up.
Having subscriptions to both Netflix and Disney+ will cost you roughly $20 per month, which should be doable for most. However, if you add any other entertainment subscriptions or start thinking in annual terms, then many consumers might decide it’s all costing too much.
While these large corporations are battling over market share, they might very well find the market is shrinking simply because people are busy torrenting.
I Am Robot: The Zuck Faces Congress (Again)
Mark Zuckerberg became a meme after his testimony on Capitol Hill in May 2018, thanks to his robotic performance and evasive answers, not to mention his excessive drinking of water. Since then, the boy wonder hasn’t gotten much in the way of media training, it seems, though several U.S. politicians have sharpened up their tech knowledge.
This was evident during The Zuck’s hearing on the Libra, his would-be digital currency. To cut a long story short, it seems that nobody within Facebook has any real idea of how Libra would work, what the risks are to consumers (and their privacy) and what exactly the company hopes to achieve with its introduction.
As you would expect, many backers of the Zuck Buck quickly abandoned ship after the massive public outcry following the hearing.
Adding to Facebook’s woes — and yes, you may picture us rubbing our hands in barely suppressed glee — a massive class action lawsuit filed against it over its misuse of facial recognition technology has received the go-ahead from a judge, a federal one, no less.
The price tag for this could be as high as $35 billion, plus whatever court costs, potentially stymying Zuckerberg’s steamroller for the foreseeable future. We can only hope.
Huawei To Let Them Build Networks?
To finish up our regular coverage, there’s yet another chapter being written in the saga of whether or not Western countries should let Huawei build (part of) nascent 5G networks.
As we talked about in our June edition, the only companies capable right now of delivering on the superfast data connections are from the Middle Kingdom, and all those come with the very real threat of spying by the Chinese intelligence services.
Thus, the EU had a risk assessment commissioned on what we can and cannot expect when its member states let Huawei work on its 5G networks. Though it’s a long, nuanced report, what it boils down to is that the risks are manageable, provided that the right precautions are taken. In turn, Germany has decided to open the doors to Huawei, though not completely.
However, this completely ignores the problem that any time China is given any way in, it exploits this opening mercilessly; for examples, just see what’s going on in its nearby waters or the brutal suppression of Hong Kong.
The problem lies in the fact that rational Western politicians see China as a reasonable partner, which it very much is not. Letting Huawei work on telecommunications is just sowing the wind.
To see the damage that could possibly be wrought by somebody with access to countrywide computer systems, look no further than Georgia — the Caucasian nation, rather than the U.S. state. A massive cyberattack pretty much laid the entire country out, causing untold damage and likely seriously freaking people out.
However, according to at least one Chinese official, it’s actually the West that is to blame for all these problems, thanks to the “Cold War mentality” that hinders “mutual trust” in cyberspace. We have a feeling Chinese censorship and its human rights abuses might be partially to blame for that, too, though.
In better news, Google has banned a whole mess of payday loan apps from the Play Store, to the chagrin of said loan sharks. Anything that makes one of the most predatory industries upset is a good move in our book, so all praise to Mountain View in this case.
In other Google-related news, the company has unveiled a quantum computing breakthrough that, according to people a lot smarter than we are, is pretty great, but not as huge as announced. We’ll be honest, all we could think of is whether or not it could run The Witcher 3 on full settings on a big screen.
With that, we’ll leave you for this month. November is shaping up to be another exciting month, and we’re already looking forward to telling you all about it in December. For now, we wish you luck with the darkening days in the Northern Hemisphere and much enjoyment of the spring in the Southern.
Did we miss any important news from October? Or did we wildly misinterpret any facts? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.