aRTy News Podcast for December 23, 2018

aRTy News Podcast for December 23, 2018
Raymond Tec News

00:00 / 19:03


Hi everyone, welcome to another episode of the aRTy News podcast, brought to you by Raymond Tec. For those of you listening for the first time, we scour the web every week for tech news and curate the articles, tweets, and backchannel sources to provide you, the non-nerd, a concise summary where we answer the question, “Why does this matter to me?”

If you check Raymond Tec dot com regularly you’ve probably noticed that we changed it up a bit this week. We’re no longer doing the daily article summaries, but simply posting links to articles. This will, hopefully, allow us more time to expand the content we offer in the podcast, as well as begin working on the educational resources that will soon be available on the site. We’ve kept the format of the podcast the same, though. You’ll still get the good news at the end to wash down the bitter taste of digital betrayal that starts each podcast. Let’s rip that band aid off.

Data Breaches

This week in data breaches and privacy concerns: NASA got breached and lost employees’ personal information. NASA has determined that only one server was breached, and that server did not affect any upcoming or ongoing missions.

It was tough to decide whether to consider this a data breach or a privacy concern, so here goes. Amazon mistakenly sent recordings from Alexa to another user. When a German citizen exercised his right under the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, to request all his data from Amazon, he received painfully private voice recordings from another user. He sent Amazon a message about the mix up, and when they didn’t respond, he shared the files with a German magazine who tracked down the user.

Amazon’s response was to claim a staff member made, quote, “a one-time error,” end quote.

Security Threats

Take a moment to uncurl from rocking in the fetal position and stretch your muscles. We’re done with the data breaches and privacy concerns. Moving on to security threats.

Hackers have been targeting HRDs, or Human Rights Defenders, in the Middle East and North Africa. Amnesty International has been receiving reports since 2017 where attackers have been crafting targeted phishing emails under the guise of security alerts. The attackers used fake domains that looked like Google and Yahoo’s sites to steal login information, including two-factor authentication codes. The system was automated and would give attackers access to the victim’s emails immediately.

While no reports of these attacks have been released in other areas, I wanted to remind everyone to carefully check links in emails before clicking on them.

The US senate has received a report on Russian meddling and it’s a muddled mess.

Among many issues, Facebook and other platforms supplied incomplete data. Many of the internet giants just didn’t care whether or not Russia was meddling in the election when speculation first started surfacing.

Then there was the bumbling Russians. They left logs on the servers indicating that many of the accounts used for interfering were Russia based. Some of the ads were even purchased in Rubles.

One thing the report is clear about: Russians definitely interfered to assist Donald Trump in becoming President. The report does not speculate on whether that help was requested by Trump or his associates.

Further detail on Russian interfering was provided by the Sophos Naked Security Blog. Instagram is Russian hackers preferred tool for disseminating propaganda. Despite the reach of Facebook, Twitter, and Google subsidiary YouTube, Russian hackers have had the most identifiable success at manipulating people using Instagram. Researchers culling through posts from known Russian propaganda accounts counted more than 187 million comments and reactions to Instagram posts, which was more than Facebook and Twitter engagement combined.

This disinformation and destabilization campaign has spanned multiple years, and was not just limited to the 2016 election, according to the report. The numbers are truly staggering. The Russians went meta by creating memes about themselves and spreading them across social media. One, cited in the article linked to in the show notes was of a woman telling a police officer, “It’s not my fault officer, the Russians hacked my speedometer.”

In news that has me shaking my head, London’s Gatwick airport was shutdown over the course of three days during one of the busiest travel weeks by morons playing with drones in its airspace. Wreaking havoc for travelers on the ground and in the air, these drones caused the airport to request military support for eliminating the threat. Link with more details in the show notes.

Area 1 Security, a California-based security firm, released a report this week revealing that Chinese government hackers have been spying on communications between European government organizations, potentially, for years. They’ve hacked a diplomatic communications platform used by all 28 EU member nations. This report further reveals the extent of China’s state sponsored cyber spying and warfare efforts and showcases how it is everyone’s responsibility to maintain vigilance in matters of cybersecurity.

Privacy Concerns

Mark Zuckerberg’s trajectory has continued its freefall this week as the New York Times released a report based on more internal Facebook documents. The expose revealed that Facebook gave businesses much more access to user data, including private messages, than they previously disclosed.

The breach of trust here is deep and wide. Netflix and Spotify got access to read our private messages. Microsoft’s Bing search engine got the names on our friends lists. And Yahoo, a subsidiary of Verizon, was given the ability to see our friend’s posts, in addition to ours, no matter how our privacy settings were tweaked.

The takeaway here is that any information you share on a private company’s website no longer belongs to you. It’s time to consider a different way socialize online.

Link to the original New York Times article in the show notes. It’s long, but definitely worth the read.

With an uncharacteristic mixture of transparency and a stunning amount of gall, India’s government has granted 10 agencies legal authority to quote, “intercept, monitor, or decrypt information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer,” end quote. This move rivals the lack of foresight of Australia’s Access and Assistance bill. An invasion of privacy this deep is bound to backfire and cause enormous issues for the government.

Previously only people in tinfoil hats would say things like this, but CBS News reported the CIA has confirmed it uses social media to spy on people. If this year has taught us anything it’s that social media is just a way to find out how to better sell us stuff. Companies like Facebook and Twitter are in the game for those sweet advertising dollars, but how better to build government watch lists than to scrape people’s social media accounts for information.

Frighteningly, the CIA’s involvement goes much deeper than finding your favorite brand of baby powder. Since 2004, Google and the CIA have partnered to erode our privacy. In 2010, they jointly invested in a company called Recorded Future. This company’s goal is to create an artificial intelligence that uses data gleaned from the web to predict when, where, why, and with whom events may occur.

There’s a link in the show notes to the CBS News report, if you dare.


‘Other’ News

Now, let’s move closer to the light. It’s time for that gray area I call, other news.

Cord cutters rejoice, because there’re fewer stumbling blocks to getting local news reports if you don’t have cable thanks to this new service from CBSN. They’ve launched a digital only, New York centric, local news reporting stream and have more planned for other major markets soon.

While we’re on the topic of cord cutting, YouTube TV has added support for the NBA League Pass to watch all live, out-of-market games ad-free. For $40 per month or $209 for the full season, basketball fans can watch live games to their heart’s content.

Additionally, YouTube TV has added the Local Now channel which displays Weather Channel forecasts, local news, and restaurant reviews. This brings YouTube TV to 73 channels, plus YouTube Originals programming.

One of Elon Musk’s many companies has reached a new milestone this week. The Boring Company, which is an awesome name, has unveiled its first test tunnel under SpaceX headquarters. That’s right, he means the other kind of boring, where you dig underground tunnels. It’s actually a pretty neat way to reduce traffic above ground. Eventually, Musk hopes to use this technology to create new forms of affordable public transport.

While we’re on the topic of Elon Musk: In a bizarre twist this week, Tesla is no longer a zero-emission vehicle as of the latest software update. Reinforcing the fact that the IT and automotive industries are run by little boys in grown men’s bodies, your $90,000 sedan will now fart on command. Here’s a quick sample of some of the available sound effects, from an enthusiastic Tesla owner.

Keeping it in the family, let’s talk about Square Roots, from Elon’s younger brother Kimbal. Square Root is a company that uses up-cycled shipping containers to grow produce in Urban areas. If this sounds familiar, that’s because we covered a French company called Agricool in our podcast from two weeks ago. Going a step beyond Agricool, Kimbal Musk’s Square Roots is providing an app that allows you to see exactly where, how, and when your produce was grown via QR code scanning on the produce’s packaging.

For now, Square Roots is only available in select NYC supermarkets, but expansions are planned.

In an interview with Business Insider, Waze CEO Noam Bardin, admits the company celebrates an annual Tim Cook Day. He attributes much of Waze’s success to Apple Maps catastrophic failure shortly after its launch in 2012.

I couldn’t decide if this belonged with the good news or the bad news, so I settled on other news.

Google casually stroked Mr. Bigglesworth while announcing this week that its Google Lens app can now recognize more than one billion things. From books to coffee, business cards to your car’s oil filter Google Lens can do a myriad of amazing things. Want to connect to WiFi? Take a picture of the label. Links to the original article as well as a handy how-to guide on using Google Lens from The Verge in the show notes.

Apple’s current generations of iPad Pros have been arriving on retail shelves with a slight bend in them. The aluminum and glass structures are so compact and thin that anything less than perfectly flat seems noticeably bent. Apple’s response, thus far, has been to state that these bends all appear to be within their tolerance of 400 microns or 1/64th of an inch. I can’t decide if I understand where they’re coming from or if I’d want a replacement. What are your thoughts?

The Good News

Finally, the sun is peeking through the clouds, it’s time for the good news.

In a rare bright spot for privacy, Mozilla has rolled out updates this week for its mobile browser, Firefox Focus that improves privacy protection against several types of trackers, including cross site trackers. Let me de-nerd that a bit. A cross site tracker would be like walking into a store and handing that store a list of every item you’ve looked at and considered buying in every store you’ve visited for the last six months. It’s like saying, “Here’s my credit card, sell me stuff.” Mozilla’s Firefox Focus is available on both Android and iOS.

An article from IBM’s SecurityIntelligence blog, this week describes a convergence of educators and the National Institute for Cybersecurity Education, or NICE. This conference was convened to discuss how to change problematic online behaviors into quote “good cyber hygiene.” This is wonderful news for a generation that is growing up never knowing anything but a connected, online, on-demand life. There’s a link to the article in the show notes.

Mountain View, California, headquarters to Google and home of many of its executives, has been inaccessible to average, middle class Americans for more than a decade, and the government has been unable or unwilling to assist in creating affordable housing.

Now, Google has made a move to solve the problem themselves with a proposed 8,000 new residential units. 20 percent, or 1600 of these would be considered affordable housing for someone making a median income in California.

On the other side of the world, the state of New South Wales, Australia is moving towards simplified and transparent digital access to information from all 160 state agencies. The New South Wales Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Victor Dominello, became frustrated trying to access his own birth record, being forced to print a form and hand deliver it with a check, the only form of payment the agency accepts.

I applaud the minister’s efforts at creating a compact, accessible system, but I definitely have concerns about data safety. I’m including it in Good News though, because it feels like a step in the right direction, but time will tell.

Up next is audio from a very powerful speech from the UN Climate Change Summit in Katowice, Poland.

Here in the United States, your political leanings tend to define your stance on renewable energy, but what I can’t understand is why. Developing technologies, like renewable energy, create jobs across all skillsets from design, development, and engineering, to manufacturing, sales, distribution, and maintenance. Beyond the economic growth it provides, renewable energies, thus far, haven’t caused health or environmental crises. There’s no such thing as a solar spill. Windmills don’t create carcinogenic byproducts. This means fewer lawsuits against large producers, which means more money in their pockets.

I’ll get off my soap box, because the real takeaway from this speech, is the fact that a fifteen-year-old from Sweden was able to address the United Nations and spread the message of her generation across the world thanks, in part, to the power of the internet.

In good news from the US Military, NORAD has announced the more than 60-year-old tradition of tracking Santa Claus as he makes his deliveries around the world won’t be affected by the partial US government shutdown. Link to the official NORAD Santa Tracker in the show notes.

My last two exciting and hopeful bits of news come from Redmond, Washington. First is a collaboration between Microsoft’s 343 Industries and Limbitless Solutions to create Halo-themed prosthetic arms for children. This partnership brings video-game style together with 3D printed technology to create a prosthesis that will make children want to show off their uniqueness, rather than feel shame about being different.

Project Emma Writing Sample
Image Credit: Microsoft

The next news article is about Project Emma. Named for Emma Lawton, a graphic designer, who was diagnosed at age 29 with early onset Parkinson’s disease. Emma’s situation was brought to Microsoft’s attention by the BBC Two show, The Big Life Fix. In this series, inventors create life-changing solutions for people in desperate need.

While the exact causes of Parkinson’s aren’t widely understood, a prevailing hypothesis is a broken feedback loop in the brain causes tremors for the sufferers. Basically, the brain detects a movement that may not have happened, compensates, then repeats, causing the constant shaking of sufferers.

The Emma Watch creates what the inventor calls movement white noise. Small motors around the band vibrate helping to calm the brain’s broken feedback loop. I’ve included a picture in the show notes that shows Emma writing her name with and without her watch. The differences are remarkable.

The Emma Watch has given its namesake the ability to resume her graphic design career for many decades.

With that warm and fuzzy hopefulness, gentle listeners, I will leave you to the rest of your day. If you’ve enjoyed the podcast, please subscribe, rate, and review on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher Radio, or TuneIn. The more buttons you press on those sites, the easier it is for other people to find us. Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for tech news updates that matter to you.

Make sure you log on to the site and check the show notes, as there are a couple of bonus links to check out for further reading.

Happy holidays and have a great week, everyone!