Weekly Tech News for March 17, 2019
Welcome to the March 17th, 2019 episode of the Raymond Tec News podcast. Each week I curate the articles, tweets, and backchannel sources to provide a 15 to 20-minute summary of tech news.
I’ll start off, like I always do, with the headlines to keep you up at night; data breaches, privacy concerns, and security threats. I’ll follow that with the feature of the week, which is 5G. Then, to balance out the negative chi at the start of the show, I’ll finish out with a series of stories to restore your faith in technology, and, maybe, humanity.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
Gearbest, a Chinese company that ships worldwide and has hundreds of thousands of sales per day, has been exposing unencrypted customer information on the web. VPN Mentor
A security researcher discovered a database containing more than a quarter million legal documents from all over the US. 30-40% of the documents were not intended for publication. The source of the database is unknown because it was taken down shortly after it was discovered. ZDNet
Box, a cloud storage provider like Google Drive and Dropbox, was leaking information of dozens of companies because of misconfiguration by those companies. TechCrunch
63red Safe, an app billed as the Yelp for Conservatives, has been leaking user records and business reviews according to a French security researcher. ZDNet
Singapore’s state-run health system has suffered another breach, this time exposing the data of more than 800,000 blood donors. ZDNet
Two mental healthcare providers announced they were hit with ransomware in two separate attacks. The affected practices are Delaware Guidance Services for Children and Youth and Green Ridge Behavioral Health in Maryland. Data Breach Today
Concord, Massachusetts-based Emerson Hospital has suffered a breach affecting 7,000 patients. Health IT Security
Hackers have broken into a system called Slate, which is used by more than 900 colleges and universities to collect and manage information on applicants. Dark Reading
Following up on last week’s Citrix breach, the company has announced it was Iranian hackers that stole 6TB of data from its internal network. Security Week
Last week’s estimate of over 700 million leaked email addresses from Verifications.io may have been low. The number of leaked emails may be closer to 2 billion. Sophos Naked Security
Equifax’s 2017 breach, which is still impacting the internet users, could have been avoided due to security weaknesses the company knew about for years, according to a new Senate report. Security Week
Moving on to Privacy Headlines.
Facebook has announced it will use AI to identify and put a stop to the practice of posting nude images and videos of people, known as revenge porn. 9 to 5 Mac
Proving that it exercises too much control over what you see on its platform, Facebook has removed paid ads from Senator Elizabeth Warren criticizing the tech giant. TechCrunch
Kaspersky Labs has reported a new phishing scam targeting Instagram users. Scammers are sending emails with very realistic looking copyright violations which then ask for credentials. Kaspersky Labs
A second Tesla employee has filed a whistleblower tip with the SEC, alleging the company has been illegally spying on its employees. The Verge
9 to 5 Google has discovered two privacy flaws in Android. The first is in Android’s on-body detection smart lock. This feature is supposed to lock your phone automatically when it’s no longer in your hand or your pocket. Connecting a device to charge defeats the auto lock. The second flaw suggests that Android’s facial unlock is easily tricked and not as sophisticated as Apple’s facial recognition. 9 to 5 Google | 9 to 5 Google
AV-Comparatives, a European company, has released research that says most Android Antivirus apps are garbage. Wired
Mozilla, the makers of Firefox, have publicly launched their new free, secure, encrypted file sharing service. Besides being secure and encrypted, it also wipes files if uploaders set an expiration date. The service can be accessed from all browsers at send dot Firefox dot com. ZDNet
Natwest, a British bank, is testing a new type of debit card that has a built-in fingerprint reader and tap to pay, or NFC contactless, features. The Verge
Florida, mimicking Illinois’ progressive biometric data legislation, has proposed a bill that will protect people from the collection and use of biometric information like fingerprints and DNA. Health IT Security
The NYPD disclosed that it is using a pattern recognition software called Patternizr to help solve crimes. The Verge
Senators Ed Markey and Josh Hawley are planning to introduce a bipartisan bill that would give parents a set of privacy controls to prevent companies like Google and Facebook from collecting data about and targeting children with ads. The Verge
The European Union is about to vote again on its disastrous copyright bill, known as ACTA2. In response, more than 75 protests are organized across much of the EU next Saturday. I’ve linked to a Google map detailing all the protest locations. Google Maps
Russia has signaled that they intend to continue spying on their population by blocking encrypted email provider ProtonMail. TechCrunch
Victor Gevers, the security researcher who exposed China’s Muslim tracking database, has found and reported a database of 1.8 million Chinese woman the country has identified as being quote, “breed ready,” end quote. The Verge
Let’s move on to security headlines.
Adobe has patched flaws in Sandbox, Photoshop CC, and its Digital Editions eBook reader. Security Week
This month’s patch Tuesday from Microsoft saw patches for 64 vulnerabilities, 2 of which are currently being exploited in the wild. The Hacker News
Microsoft has designed a new feature that will detect startup failures and uninstall buggy updates automatically. Now there’s even less reason to avoid updating your machines. The Hacker News
Don’t forget, support updates for Windows 7 will end with the end of 2019. If you’re still running a PC with Windows 7, it’s time to look at upgrading the operating system. ZDNet
A few weeks ago, I mentioned a 19-year-old bug in a Windows program called WinRAR. The bug is still being exploited, because the software doesn’t auto update. Please make sure you update to the latest version. The Hacker News
Google will be updating its Chrome browser to stop automatic downloads that can be hidden in ads on websites, reducing the chances of accidental infection. ZDNet
A first of its kind test is ending next week. Switzerland’s new e-voting system has been undergoing intense attacks by hackers and security researchers and they’ve discovered flaws which could have led to votes being changed. ZDNet
Parents be advised, rather than getting caught passing notes, students have turned Google Docs into the hot chat app by writing their messages in a Google Doc and sharing it. Reddit
Cisco has released a patch to a network monitoring tool used by many businesses that allowed attackers to access and view networks remotely because of a default password on a user account. Threatpost
But you don’t have to worry about hackers getting access to your stuff with insecure passwords, because you’re using a password manager, right? If you’re not, I recommend LastPass. LastPass allows you to sync passwords securely across your computer, phone, and tablets. More than just keeping a list of your logins, it generates secure random passwords for you and on many websites allows you to change your password with just a couple of clicks.
Don’t get caught recycling passwords, use LastPass. You can learn more about LastPass by visiting my affiliate link at Raytec dot co slash LastPass, that’s r-a-y-t-e-c dot c-o slash l-a-s-t-p-a-s-s.
Let’s move on to other headlines.
This week Spotify sued Apple over what it’s calling unfair business practices. Apple charges developers a 30% fee for subscriptions processed through apps on its devices. Apple fired back pointing out that after the first year, that 30% drops to 15% and that Spotify wouldn’t be the platform that it is without Apple. The Verge
Google has publicly confirmed it paid two executives accused of sexual harassment 135 million dollars. The Verge
April will signal the official end of several Google apps including Inbox, Allo, goo.gl, and Google+. 9 to 5 Google
Tesla made two announcements this week. First, its Model Y compact SUV will be available in 2020, starting at 39,000 dollars. No word on if that price point will be available from the start. It’s second announcement was that only half of its showrooms will be closed, instead it will hike prices by 3%. The Verge | TechCrunch
Telegram, a London-based instant messaging and voice app, saw a spike in user enrollment on Wednesday when a server configuration error at Facebook left much of the world unable to access Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Sophos Naked Security
Amazon has quietly ended a controversial pricing agreement with third-party sellers where it required some of them to sell at a lower price on Amazon than anywhere else. The Verge
Netflix has agreed to remove footage from its horror movie, Birdbox, that contained actual video from a 2013 Canadian train wreck. The Verge
NBC is jumping on the free news-streaming bandwagon starting in May when it will roll out the all-digital NBC News Now. TechCrunch
PayPal has announced that it will soon be allowing instant transfer to bank accounts. TechCrunch
Hulu basic is now included in the cost of Spotify’s premium paid service. 9 to 5 Mac
Sydney, Australia has run into a new issue surrounding its smart city status. All its fancy, wirelessly connected gadgets are causing interference with Bluetooth audio devices. ZDNet
The videos and posts surrounding the white supremacist terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand are actively being scrubbed from the internet by social media to stop the spread of hatred and conspiracy theories related. This has been made more difficult by the attackers’ knowledge of search and social media recommendation algorithms to spread the story quickly. I’ve linked to a couple of articles that detailed how this was done, that don’t spread the message of these terrorists. The Verge | Independent
That’s it for other news. Now for this week’s feature story.
Now that the dust has settled after MWC, or Mobile World Congress, 2019 I want to talk about the realities around 5G. 5G or Fifth Generation is the up and coming standard for cellular phone technology, replacing our current 4G LTE, or Fourth Generation Long Term Equipment, devices.
I got bored just saying that, but it is, actually, pretty exciting. Just don’t believe the hype.
It will make speeds faster, but only over a short distance.
Here’s why: Cell phones operate off the same basic concept as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and radio. Yes, I mean, good old-fashioned turn the dial radio.
The difference between all these different types of wireless communication is wavelength. The easiest way to understand wavelength is by picturing a large lake. If you drop a big boulder into the center of that lake, tall, widely-spaced waves will ripple outwards touching the shores. These would be your AM waves.
When you get to things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular wavelengths, these would be more like dropping pebbles into the center of that lake. The waves would be closer, shorter in height, and wouldn’t reach as far. That’s why businesses have multiple Wi-Fi access points, to repeat signals like dropping multiple rocks at various points in the lake to increase the coverage of the waves you’re creating.
5G will use a very high frequency known as millimeter wavelengths. The height and distance between the waves are much shorter. We also call it high frequency because there’s less time between the start and end of a wave. Meaning more waves per second. This is where Hertz comes in. 1 Hertz is one wave per second. 5G standards call for more than 6Ghz, or 6 billion waves per second.
Besides only being able to cover shorter distance, 5G will be more easily blocked by obstructions like trees and buildings. If we go back to our lake example, imagine a line of boulders blocking where you’re standing on shore. If we dropped a large, AM sized rock into the center of the lake the large wave that results would easily go over the line of boulders in front of us, and the wave would reach us. If we drop a tiny pebble in the lake, the wave would be dissipated by the boulders in front of us. That’s 5G.
Why not use the AM frequency range for 5G, right? Well, each of those radio waves can only carry a small amount of information and they move very slowly. If you want to increase the amount of information transmitted, you have to move more waves more quickly, which is why newer technology moves towards smaller, faster radio waves.
All of this means 5G will require more towers spaced more closely together. That’s both good and bad.
It’s bad because now it will be possible for cellphone companies, and the people they release location data to, to track you. It’s also a bit disconcerting because Huawei is the world’s leader in manufacturing 5G tech right now and there’s been a lot of speculation over whether there’s technology built into their equipment that allows it to spy on people. 9 to 5 Mac
More towers, closely spaced, are good, because in emergencies 911 dispatchers will be able to get your position more quickly through cell tower triangulation. The Verge
More towers also mean more speed and more capacity. It’s entirely possible that with 5G the person standing 20 feet away from you may be connected to a different tower than you. Now each tower has fewer people to deal with, which means each tower can devote more time to sending each person data and voice.
When will it be here? It depends on where here is. Verizon claimed in February that it would have 5G in 30 cities by the end of this year but didn’t specify what cities. T-Mobile also expects to start offering 5G service by the end of 2019. Of course, this brings up the chicken and the egg riddle; Telcos need users with 5G handsets to be on their 5G networks; much of this depends on early adopters. CNET | CNET
Expect to see rollouts of 5G hit major metropolitan areas first. These areas will also see the fastest speeds, because, as I mentioned before, more towers mean more speed. Unfortunately, more towers mean more cost. Even if prices for the physical hardware of towers goes down telecommunications companies will have to install many more 5G towers to cover the same area as a 4G LTE tower. Expect the coverage of 5G to take about ten years to reach what 4G has in the last nine years. PC Mag
Okay, so, we’ve got faster and more capacity but what else? Well, there’s a lot that can be done with so much speed and capacity. For instance, telephone companies are hoping to offer cloud computing edge services to content producers.
Here’s what that means. Amazon is one of the world’s largest content delivery networks. They’ve got data centers that store, for instance, videos you watch on Netflix scattered around the world to reduce buffering time. Having those data centers closer to the person who’s consuming the content rather than in some centralized location far away is known as edge computing; pushing the content to the outer edge of the network. But even Amazon’s nearest data center probably goes through half a dozen or more points to get to your television.
Your average home internet connection these days, in the US, is about 30 Mbps delivering the latest episode of the Great British Bake Off. 5G may hit speeds of 20Gbps. That’s six hundred times faster than the current average. So, if telephone companies build data centers, they can bypass the dozens of points Amazon has to go through and deliver content almost directly to your mobile devices six hundred times faster than Amazon. Whoa. ZDNet
AT&T stated explicitly that it believes 5G will replace home broadband connections in 3 to 5 years. Rather than having a cable or DSL modem in your house connected to your Wi-Fi router, you’ll have an AT&T cellular modem broadcasting these signals throughout your home. Cord Cutters News
So, what’s the takeaway? 5G is coming, it’s no longer just a pipe dream, but the average internet user won’t see the benefits for at least 2-3 years.
I feel like I’ve provided a pretty good overview of 5G, its claims, and caveats but there’re more links in the show notes detailing what its challenges are and what benefits it will provide. Make sure to stop there and check them out.
Alright, Let’s wrap up this episode with the good news.
What is 5G? All You Need to Know About the Next Generation of Wireless Technology
MWC 2019: Intel 5G Chip Will Be Ready by End of 2019
Europe is Prepared to Rule Over 5G Cybersecurity
Windows 10 PCs to Get 5G for First Time as Qualcomm Unveils New Modem
What is 5G and How Will it Make My Life Better?
China Will Likely Corner the 5G Market – and the US Has No Plan
Deploying 5G: Bringing the Next Generation of Wireless to Life – But it’s No Panacea
Push to open buttons on commercial doors are a great accessibility feature for wheelchair users but can be troublesome for those with upper body limitations. Portal Entryways, a new startup, has solved that problem with a smartphone app that will connect with modified push to open buttons. TechCrunch
I know I often talk about how Facebook masquerades as a social media company when they’re just an advertising platform, but today I have a positive story of a community coming together on the world’s largest social media service. The Institute of Many, or T-I-M, is a grass-roots movement for HIV-positive people. It’s a closed Facebook group that gives its users a forum to talk about their condition, come to terms with the realities of it, and learn how to live with a positive diagnosis. According to the UN, there are close to 37 million people living with HIV and being diagnosed can be terrifying and isolating; T-I-M has been changing that. CNET
The Trash Challenge, the latest viral social media challenge has had astounding results. A man from Arizona named Byron Roman, took a picture of himself sitting amongst a litter strewn landscape, then took a picture of himself standing behind 9 full trash bags with the photo tagged “all you bored teens out there.” His post has now been shared more than 300,000 times. Thank you to Mister Roman for suggesting teens do something more productive than dancing next to cars and eating soap. CBC Radio
Back on December 23rd, I reported on Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager who began protesting the pollution causing policies of Sweden, the EU, and many other world governments. Her small but powerful voice at the United Nations Climate Change conference in Katowice, Poland have earned her a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and sparked a movement across the world. Students in 112 countries and over seventeen-hundred locales walked out of school for a peaceful strike on Friday, March 15th. Now, joined by hundreds of thousands of her peers, perhaps the world’s leaders may listen. The Verge
That’s it for this week in tech news that matters to you. If you’ve enjoyed the podcast, please share what you found interesting in a post on your social media by linking to Raytec dot co slash listen. That’s r-a-y-t-e-c dot c-o slash listen. That will link directly to the current episode’s show notes along with a podcast player. I really appreciate anyone who’s willing to share my podcast.
As always, there are bonus links in the show notes. Articles in this week’s extracurricular reading include: a how to guide on getting your iPhone to stop tracking your every move, Beto O’Rourke’s announcement that he was in an infamous hacking group in his youth, a robotic claw inspired by a ferocious shrimp that shoots plasma, and much more. The show notes have links to each of the podcast apps I’m listed on and links to my social media. If you have any information, updates, or constructive criticism, feel free to reach out via social media.
Thanks for listening and have a great week!