A global ransomware attack, an uncharacteristic leak of iPhone features and the misadventures of a self-driving vehicle proved to be some of the biggest tech stories of 2017.
In its end-of-year round-up, BBC Technology identified its biggest stories of the past 12 months, taken from the number of views each article had. Perhaps unsurprisingly, announcements that could impact readers directly, and some fun stories that raise a wry smile, most piqued the public’s attention.
Among the biggest tech stories of 2017 was the devastating WannaCry ransomware attack. This hack was unprecedented in that it impacted so many people across the world. Furthermore, this didn’t stop at corporate accounts, but even infected public systems, including those of the NHS.
As the BBC put it: “A common refrain with cyber-security alerts is that, despite there being a hullabaloo of expert opinions, there’s typically little real impact to the public. WannaCry was the exception.”
Though a ‘kill switch’ was identified relatively quickly – which prevented WannaCry from reaching its full potential – it still managed to cause huge disruption and even caused the NHS to postpone some operations.
iPhone leak generates more traffic than news of the launch
Elsewhere, the BBC also had a great deal of interest surrounding its coverage of leaked information on the new iPhone – which was later named the iPhone X. The news was that Apple had set up facial recognition on its latest devices, as well as functionality that enabled users to create animated emoji. Remarkably, news of this leak actually generated more page views for the BBC than its coverage of the actual device launch, when all the features were officially unveiled without the doubt and uncertainty that inevitably comes with leaked information.
Another popular story came later in the year, when Apple admitted purposefully slowing down older devices, to maximise battery efficiency. It later promised pricing changes to help its users mitigate the change, if they so wish.
Finally, the wry tale of a self-driving vehicle gone wrong made the list, after it was involved in a crash on its very first outing. The Navya self-driving shuttle bus proclaimed “The future is here” on its maiden voyage around Las Vegas in November, but things didn’t quite go to plan. The driver of an articulated lorry reversed into the bus, causing only superficial damage but a lot of red faces.
Human error was identified as the issue, not the tech-equipped vehicle, although a police report did note that the trucker had sounded their horn and put reverse lights on to indicate their intention to straighten the cab. What hadn’t been anticipated was for a vehicle behind to stay completely stationary and not do anything to avoid impact.