Technology taught us some lessons in 2014. Here's what we learnt. Commit to memory immediately.
Hacking an ATM is disturbingly simple
It turns out that all it takes to fool an ATM is a special sequence of buttons on the keypad. Once you know it, it's pretty straightforward to reconfigure the machine to believe that it is dispensing one dollar bills instead of the twenties that are actually loaded into the cash trays, reported
Wired in November.
A Tennessee restaurateur was able to use this relatively low-tech "hack" to withdraw $400,000 over 18 months. Banks have the ability to lock this special sequence of buttons with a master passcode, but, as it turns out, they don't bother changing the defaults.
Moral: Always change your default passwords, PINs and codes for everything!
Bad guys don't just want to infect your data -- they want to hold it to ransom
Earlier this year, a nasty virus called Cryptoware started making its way across the internet. Unlike most other types of viruses that are content to corrupt your files, hook themselves into the guts of your system, and maybe log your keystrokes and show you annoying pop-up ads, Cryptoware went a step ahead.
It simply rounded up all your data, locked it behind some strong encryption, and asked you for money to unlock it. If you didn't pay up within a specified time frame -- poof -- Cryptoware would simply delete all your precious data. If you had a backup of your data on the internet or an external hard drive, you could say "Screw You!" to the virus and simply get it back. The rest of us were, well, screwed -- unless we coughed up a couple hundred dollars.
Moral: Back up your data right now! And don't keep the backup on the same computer as your data, obviously.
Even Apple's walled garden isn't safe enough for your naked pictures
Once you take a picture with your iPhone and iPad, it gets backed up automatically to iCloud, Apple's cloud service that keeps your data safe. Turns out iCloud wasn't safe at all. In August, it was breached by some determined hackers who leaked more than 500, mostly naked images of Hollywood actresses onto the internet. Chaos ensued, Jennifer Lawrence and Lena Dunham screamed bloody murder and Apple CEO Tim Cook had to issue an apology days before going on stage to launch the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch in a high-profile event.
Moral: Take all the naked pictures you want. Just get them off your iPhone. And iCloud.
Phablets aren't going anywhere
Remember how we all laughed and said Samsung was nuts when it came out with the gigantic Galaxy Note in 2011? No one's laughing now. No, we're just snapping up these massive phones and like there's no tomorrow. Some of this year's most popular phones like the HTC One M8, the Xiaomi Redmi 1S, the Nexus 6 and the OnePlus one have screen that are at least 4.7-inches big (the Nexus 6, naturally, is 6 inches).
So hot is the big phone trend right now that even the might Apple has been forced to capitulate with the iPhone 6 now at 4.7 inches and the iPhone 6 Plus at 5.5 inches. It's the end of small phones as we know it.
Moral: If you have small hands, you might want to hang on tight to that iPhone 5S and never let go.
Point and shoot cameras aren't dead yet -- but they will be soon
If you've ever taken a picture from a mid to a high-end smartphone made in 2014, you'll know this: those photos are pretty spectacular. OK, they're probably not good enough to make posters out of yet. But they're pretty darn good for all the things you want to actually do with them like sharing them on Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp and...seriously, what else do you do with your pictures anyway?
Diehard point-and-shoot lovers, we hear your screams of outrage. Yes, there are going to situations like when you want to take that macro of a ladybug, and yes, you'll probably need a more dedicated device than the Nexus 6 for those. But frankly, those are niche use cases.
Moral: Save the cash you were about to drop on that point and shoot cam and maybe just get that fancy smartphone? It might be a little more expensive, but it's worth it.