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INQ’s tech heroes of 2017

BETWEEN ransomware attacks, dodgy privacy laws and regulatory concerns, 2017 has been a difficult one for the tech industry.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of those individuals and companies that we think deserve to be recognised for their work in this shifting business segment, and who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to both technology and people.

Marcus Hutchins, WannaCry champion

More than any other, 2017 was the year of ransomware, and the most notable of these was WannaCry. First appearing in mid-May, the virus spread through infected systems with shocking speed, including those owned by several NHS trusts.

If it hadn’t been for the (admittedly accidental) discovery of a weakness in WannaCry by security researcher Marcus Hutchins, aka MalwareTech, which stopped the attack in its tracks, then the damage could have been much worse.

Shortly after his role in stopping WannaCry came to light, Hutchins was arrested in the USA for his part in creating his own malware, Kronos, in 2014.

Lisa Su, CEO of AMD

Taiwan-born Su has executed a great turnaround at AMD, which had been struggling to prove itself against Intel and Nvidia. The new Zen processor architecture and Vega graphics architecture, launched this year, prove that the company is ready to hold its own once again – and helped to raise AMD’s Compute Group quarterly revenue by 74 per cent. The firm has even managed to combine the best of both processors onto a single chip, Ryzen Mobile, and is working with Intel to make a new GPU aimed at taking market share from Nvidia.

In the enterprise space, AMD’s EPYC server processors have been growing well, too. Traditionally enterprise platform adoption has a long tail, but three of the ‘Super Seven’ enterprise data centre customers are already involved with EPYC systems.

Su has also overseen the move of AMD’s headquarters, from Sunnyvale to Santa Clara. All of that while also refocusing the company to new areas like graphics and gaming.

Liberty/Privacy International, privacy campaigners

Many organisations, among them civil rights group Liberty; charity Privacy International and the Open Rights Group fought against the Investigatory Powers Act, or ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, before it was introduced into law this year. Liberty even launched a crowdfunding campaign aimed at stopping the Bill in January.

The work of these groups led to several amendments being made, including the requirement for independent authorisation from the new Office for Communications Data Authorisations, and limits on the wholesale gathering of data. Liberty director Martha Spurrier said that the changes were “encouraging,” but didn’t go far enough. Liberty, Privacy International, Amnesty International and others are still working to challenge surveillance legislation.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla

Most of the world sees Elon Musk, the man who proved that electric cars could travel faster than the average lawnmower, as a sort of cross between Mark Zuckerberg, Back to the Future‘s ‘Doc’ Brown and Oprah Winfrey. While we’ll be the first to admit that many of his ‘achievements’ are really only announcements of things to come, Musk and his various companies have made several breakthroughs in 2017.

Let’s start with Tesla. The firm announced its cheapest all-electric car, the Model 3, last year, and this July they began to roll off of the production line – with the first delivered to Musk himself. Mass production is still a way off, with Tesla targeting 5,000 vehicles a month by March. The firm also announced and made its first sales of electric trucks, the Tesla Semi, to customers including Pepsi, Cisco and Walmart.

Then there’s Musk’s new business, The Boring Company. Musk is working on ways to minimise traffic as well as speed up travel times with this tunnel-digging business. The Boring Company tested its first car elevators – which will ferry vehicles down to and through the tunnel system at speeds of up to 200kph – this year. The company will also eventually be instrumental in building his proposed Hyperloop system, which will propel pods through a vacuum-sealed environment at high speeds.

He’s also sold a lot of hats.

Max Schrems, lawyer and activist

Schrems is known for his role in successfully taking Facebook to court and thereby helping to kill off Safe Harbour. Since then, he has continued to fight for data privacy – arguing against model contract clauses and establishing a not-for-profit organisation to help citizens take on multinational firms in court, using the GDPR. µ

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