Week Ending: 5th November - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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Remember, remember the 5th of November! Bonfire night is upon us… Before you finish and go and enjoy the fireworks, we’re here to get you up to speed on the big tech and I.T. news from the last seven days.

This week we cover everything from the Labour party members’ data being hit by a cyber incident, Microsoft Teams adding 3D avatars as it lays out metaverse ambitions and Netflix launches its first games on smartphones.

Let’s get you up to speed.

Labour Party members’ data hit by cyber incident

Personal information from Labour Party members and supporters was among a “significant quantity; of data” affected by the recent cyber incident. The incident involved an I.T. firm which handles data on Labour’s behalf. The National Crime Agency (NCA) is leading a criminal investigation into what happened.

The full scale of the incident is being investigated but Labour’s own data systems were thankfully unaffected. This incident comes after one of the party’s suppliers, Blackbaud was hacked in August last year, with personal data been stolen on that occasion.

A Labour spokesperson has commented

“The third party told us that the incident had resulted in a significant quantity of party data being rendered inaccessible on their systems. As soon as the party was notified of these matters, we engaged third-party experts and the incident was immediately reported to the relevant authorities.”

The Labour party is now working closely and on an urgent basis with the I.T. firm in order to understand the full nature, circumstances and impact of the incident. They are also urging members and supporters who may have been affected to take extra precautions online, in line with NCSC guidance.

With the incident being shrouded in mystery, many people are speculating that this type of attack could be a ransomware attack, meaning someone, somewhere, is demanding a ransom in exchange for the safe return of the databases they have taken control of.

Find out more here.

Microsoft Teams adds 3D avatars as it lays out metaverse ambitions

Microsoft has announced it will be adding 3D virtual avatars and environments to its Teams chat system as part of a push towards the ‘metaverse’. The new platform ‘Mesh’ will let people meet in the virtual space, with or without a virtual reality headset.

The new features, which will be called ‘immersive meetings’, will be available at the beginning of 2022. This comes after Facebook showcased similar virtual chat rooms as part of its rebrand to name itself Meta.

While no one knows what the metaverse will be, most versions envision a future version of the internet with a diverse range of interconnected virtual worlds, covering everything from gaming to education.

Microsoft, however, is focusing less on the need for virtual reality or augmented reality, the 3D avatars will be able to represent a person in a remote Teams meeting when they do not want to turn on their webcam and can appear on a normal two-dimensional computer screen.

John Roach at Microsoft commented

“The system will use AI to imitate movements and gestures that enable you to bring your physical presence into the conversation, even when your camera is off. Too many people, too much of the time, are a static picture or bubble with initials. The avatars will also be able to animate the movement of a mouth when a microphone picks up the user speaking, to ‘bring additional expressivity.”

Bringing the Mesh platform to Teams is a gateway to the metaverse and it is believed that people who try it will agree that it is a more expressive, immersive space and that people will prefer it to traditional remote meetings.

Discover more here.

Netflix launches first games on smartphones

Netflix is trying to break into the game subscription market by offering subscribers five free mobile games to play on Android phones. Launching earlier this week, two of the games are based on Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things and the other three billed as basic card or skill games.

The Silicon Valley-based company is promising more to come and also hopes to make the games available to Apple customers by rolling them out to iOS devices ‘in the coming months’.

Netflix has commented

“We’re excited to take our first step in launching Netflix games on mobile to the world. We want to begin to build a library of games that offers something for everyone. While this is just the beginning of a long journey, we’re excited to provide a gaming experience that is differentiated from what is available today, exclusive mobile games with no ads, no in-app payments, included with your Netflix membership.”

Netflix recruited video game veteran Mike Verdu, who previously worked at games giant, EA and later at Facebook on augmented and virtual reality, to head up its gaming team. The initial games, which have relatively simple graphics, were in the very early stages, but ultimately Netflix plan to create ones ‘for every kind of player’.

The games available now are, Stranger Things: 1984, Stranger Things 3: The Game, Shooting Hoops, Teeter Up and Card Blast.

No adverts or in-app purchases feature in the games, unlike with many other mobile games. All you need to access them is a Netflix subscription and you’ll need an android device for now.

Explore more here.

Those were some of this week’s biggest stories in I.T. and tech, but if you want more content, follow us across our four social media channels.