In this week’s episode of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna are joined by investigations editor Bill Goodwin to delve deeper into the Travelex cyber attack and related affairs, and to discuss public sector cloud trends, AI and the NHS, and the Hangar 51 startups accelerator programme.
- Before getting down to all of that, the team briefly take note of the day of recording being Brexit Day (31 January), and mark the government’s decision to let “risky” companies (mainly Huawei) into 35% of the UK’s telecoms network, in defiance of Trump’s America.
- Bill Goodwin broke the story, as 2020 began, of Travelex being attacked by an organised cyber crime group that uses the Sodinokibi ransomware. As a consequence of that, he has appeared on the BBC, including on Newsnight opposite Emily Maitlis. The gang has also attacked a German automotive group Gedia, threatening to raid the bank accounts of customers and employees, following a major cyber attack, Bill recounts. The firm was forced to shut down its IT systems and send home more than 300 employees from its head office following the cyber attack on 21 January. Nevertheless, Bill says cyber criminals do sometimes evince a conscience, as when they have either disabled or rewritten malware to exclude certain countries, such as Syria. There is much more to come on the Travelex story, says Bill, and he asks anyone affected to get in touch with Computer Weekly.
- From the murky depths of cyber crime, Caroline then raises the team’s sights to the cloud, specifically public sector trends, with a side-glance at Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) most recent financial results. Contributors to UKCloud’s public sector-focused State of cloud adoption report, reports Caroline, have flagged barriers to using off-premise technologies, and posed the question: could adopting a multicloud strategy assist with overcoming those? Caroline assures the team that the survey on which the report was based had a decently big sample size. She also highlights a concern that AWS is getting too cosy with the public sector, and that the bad old habit of large, US-based IT companies muscling out smaller UK competitors from government IT could have crept back in, despite a shift to cloud provision.
- Brian then speculates that a possible answer to this problem could be suggested by a competition launched by Matt Hancock, the social care secretary, and someone who has often figured on the podcast, for the government has put a £140m award in play to solicit innovative technologies for the NHS that use artificial intelligence.
- Still on the theme of technology innovation among startups, Clare tells the team about the Hangar 51 accelerator event she attended last week in Barcelona, held under the aegis of the IAG – the International Airlines Group that includes Aer Lingus, Vueling and British Airways. Clare attended the demo day at which the 14 startups selected for the 10-week programme presented their business ideas to aviation industry executives. The ideas included using drones for aircraft inspections, and carbon capture technologies that sounded, says Clare, pretty “far out”.