The year that was


It was an eventful year in IT and we examine some of the highlights.


ANOTHER exciting year for the technology industry is coming to an end and what a year it has been indeed.

There was a change in leadership in one of the industry’s brightest stars, goodbyes were said to an influential icon and social media use grew even more rampant as it played a important part in toppling a dictator or two.

Yes, social media made waves in 2011 and it was the star of the Arab Spring earlier this year which saw the displacement of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

And it all started when a Tunisian vegetable seller set himself aflame after authorities insulted him and took away his cart.

The news spread not through conventional channels but through Facebook which was enough to get people riled up and take to the streets.

But perhaps the most well known political gathering organised over social media was the Tahrir Square protest where Egyptians gathered to call for Mubarak to step down after 30 years of ruling.

The Egyptian government had also tried to shut down the country’s Internet access to prevent protesters from communicating with each other. However, this didn’t stop the protests and Mubarak peacefully stepped down as president amidst the protests.

After the revolution, an iPhone and Blackberry app, called Tahrir Square was launched which gave Egyptians a channel to voice their opinions on the latest topics in Egypt.

Hello iPad 2, goodbye Steve

Besides technology’s contribution to the socio-political climate of Egypt, the year also saw the release of the iPad 2, which was launched by then Apple chief executive officer, Steve Jobs.

Donning his favourite jeans and black turtle neck, Jobs presented the latest tablet with much gusto, going through its features like a boy showing off a toy — an updated A5 dual-core microprocessor which made the iPad 2 two times faster than its predecessor, front and rear cameras and the ability to go to “sleep” when covered — awing the crowd in the way he only knew how.

The presentation in March was to be his last.

Jobs passed away in October after a five year battle with pancreatic cancer. Tech enthusiasts mourned has passing including his long-time rival, Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates.

Apple stores globally set up memorial walls for Jobs with fans leaving messages to the technology icon. Closer to home, some in Penang took the mourning a little further and held a ritual for Jobs to be reincarnated.

Before he passed, Jobs named then chief operating officer, Tim Cook as the new chief executive officer of Apple.

The world saw Jobs as the man who changed how technology is used.

He made it friendlier and less intimidating that children as young as two take to the iOS devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, like fish to water.

Even the iOS developer kits have allowed tech enthusiasts with little or no background in programming to come up with their own applications for such devices. It is no wonder that he was greatly mourned.

Attacks and outages

The year was also marked with a few high profile cyberattacks, the most prominent being the attack of the Sony Playstation Network.

In April, cyberattackers stormed into Sony’s servers and made away with the personal information of 70 million subscribers.

They took names, addresses, e-mail addresses, birthdays, Qriocity IDs, Playstation Online login IDs as well as passwords causing an outage that lasted over 48 hours.

Many fingers pointed at hacktivist group, Anonymous, which had earlier launched a Distributed Denial of Service attack on Sony’s servers.

Anonymous denied the allegations and even released a statement stating “For once, we didn’t do it!” Sony customers were not the only ones to endure an outage.

In October, BlackBerry users also suffered an outage which affected Internet access and the Blackberry Messaging service in Britain, the Middle East and Africa leaving only voice services operational.

Victims of the outage weren’t able to send e-mails and messages from their phones.

Research in Motion, the company behind BlackBerry released a statement saying that the BlackBerry service infrastructure suffered a hardware error and apologised for the outage.

Back home, the Government had its hands full dealing with an attack launched by Anonymous on its websites in June.

The attack was done in protest of the Government blocking 10 filesharing sites in an attempt to stamp out intellectual property infringement activities. Many Malaysians were unhappy and viewed this as an attempt to censor the Internet, something the Government promised not to do when setting up the MSC Malaysia initiative in the mid 1990s.

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at computer security firm, F-Secure broke the news about the intended attack on Twitter.

Anonymous also posted a message on videosharing site, YouTube.

Hiding behind their signature Guy Fawkes mask from the movie V for Vendetta and a digital voice, the group said “We fear that if you make further decisions to take away human freedom, we are obligated to act fast and have no mercy.”

As it promised, Anonymous launched a Denial of Service Attack on 27 local sites but these were not named. It also defaced some of the sites.

According to CyberSecurity Malaysia, the agency that guards the country’s cyberspace borders, programmers worked hard to counter the attacks.

The communication industry’s regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission said the attack had little effect on Malaysians and it didn’t take long for the sites to be recovered.

No to the Bill

Before the year ended, the Malaysian IT scene was shaken by news that the Government plans to come up with a Board for Computing Professionals Bill to regulate the computing profession.

The industry was furious over the draft which many thought would restrict many a tech enthusiast from coming up with new programmes and applications.

Many took to Twitter and Facebook to vent and even started an online petition voting against the bill.

The bill was drafted with good intentions, which was to ensure only qualified and highly skilled IT workers could take part in the industry, especially in the country’s Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII) such as banking, security and defence, healthcare and many more.

However, industry players said the bill was too broad and the sections which were described as the CNII were too vague.

There was so much hue and cry over the Bill on social media sites that the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) organised an open day for the everyone to have their say about the bill.

“It makes a crime of coding for fun,” cried one industry player. “You should have consulted the industry at large,” said another at the open day.

After a day of lively debates and arguing, the Ministry hinted that the Bill may be killed. Mosti deputy minister, Datuk Fadillah Yusof said that if the computing profession did not feel like it needs protection, the discussions would “end here.”

Meanwhile, Mosti Minister Datuk Seri Maximus Johnity Ongkili was more straightforward - “if they are not keen on it...we will have less work,” he said in a press conference to discuss the Bill.

The Bill still hasn’t been passed and the industry has been given 30 days from Dec 13 to send in their feedback.

Indeed 2011 has been quite an exciting year for the tech industry. And as the tech scene moves faster than any other sector, we’re pretty sure that 2012 will also be filled with many interesting incidents. Here’s wishing you a happy new year!

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