Weekly Axis Of Easy #108
Last Week’s Quote was “Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.” …by Pravin Lal, nobody got it. H/t to Piers Steel for the quote.
This Week’s Quote: “he man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” …by ????
THE RULES: No searching up the answer, must be posted below.
The Prize: First person to post the correct answer gets their next domain or hosting renewal is on us.
Sorry I missed last week. We were gearing up for travel and I am now penning this from Barbados, where I have applied for refugee status on mental health grounds. I will try to catch us up on everything….
In this issue:
Ransomware attack cripples power company’s entire network
Facebook funding research into device that reads your mind
Hong Kong protestors foil facial recognition with laser pointers
Apple employees no longer listening to your sex acts, drug deals, etc
Wal-Mart’s plans for its own Libra (GCC article and Lyra, Martin Armstrong)
Never mind CRISPR babies, here come the human-monkey chimeras
Cloudflare terminates 8chan, Voxility follows suit
Amazon coaches cops on how to obtain warrant free access to surveillance footage
Trusted Instagram partner busted harvesting data, building user profiles
ATT employees took bribes to plant malware
San Francisco streetlights double as surveillance cameras
This one was supposed to be in #AxisOfEasy 107, which was now two weeks ago, but it got skipped. A power utility in Johannesburg, South Africa suffered a ransomware attack which encrypted all of its systems, including databases and applications. We don’t know what ransomware variant they were afflicted by, but we do know this: they obviously didn’t have any backups or it would have been more of a nuisance than a catastrophe.
A couple years ago Facebook announced its intention to create a headband that would enable users to type 100 words per minute simply by thinking. It has been funding research ever since to develop devices that can read your thoughts by detecting your brain activity. “Eventually, Facebook wants to create a wearable headset that lets users control music or interact in virtual reality using their thoughts.”
This is of concern to some neuro-ethicists who are concerned about how brain data will be collected, stored and used.
As I type this we are into our 10th weekend of massive unrest in Hong Kong where protesters have taken to the streets to register their disapproval over a proposed new extradition law that would see dissidents delivered to mainland China authorities. China’s public surveillance systems are second-to-none, with their Orwellian Sesame Credit platform for social control nightmarish.
But the citizenry are adaptable, if not ingenious in their counter-measures and use a variety of novel ways to counter-act the state surveillance apparatus. In this tweet I came across a week or so ago they are using laser pointers to foil facial recognition systems.
Also check out this fascinating look at the other grass roots tactics protestors are using, varying from post-it notes to hand signals:
Last edition we reported on a Guardian expose detailing how Apple contractors listen to snippets of SIRI audio captures in an effort to fine tune the vocal recognition. The side-effects were that said contractors hear snippets of conversations including arguments, drug deals, and couples having sex.
Apple has suspended that program and will require users to opt-into it in a future update,
Facebook isn’t the only megacorp looking to print its own money via launching a digital currency. Patent filings show that Wal-Mart is gearing up to do something similar.
In their filing “System and Method for Digital Currency via Blockchain”, they outline a plan for creating an e-currency unit that is tied to “regular” currency. In other words, it’s a stablecoin.
None of this should be surprising, although governments probably hate this, and for good reason. Consider that during the Great Depression, as per this Martin Armstrong interview on Chris Martenson’s “Peak Prosperity”, 200 cities throughout the USA printed their own currencies, as did many companies.
This is all part of a larger pattern, the type that plays out in generational increments and changes the nature of sovereignty itself, which is a topic I further explore in my latest article on Guerrilla-Capitalism.
(There is also a more decentralized challenger to the Libra project called Lyra, launched by The Ascension Foundation, more here)
We reported back in #AxisOfEasy 76 how a scientist in China had created the world’s first gene edited baby. He was later censured and forced to cease activities.
We’ll see what happens if this Spanish born researcher, working in California and his collaborators, in China, are successful in their research, which is creating human/monkey embryos. The plan is to create monkeys that have organs composed of purely human cells, which then can be harvested in organ transplants. (I had to double check I was reading MIT Tech Review and not the abstract for the next Planet of the Apes movie on IMDB).
A little over a week ago Cloudflare made the decision to terminate services to 8chan, the anything-goes message board home to all manner of unhinged. 8Chan moved to CloudFlare competitor BitMitigate, who in turn had their plug pulled by their upstream, Voxility. (Disclosure: easyDNS uses both CloudFlare and Voxility for DDoS mitigation).
I had a lengthy post written up about this “We need to have a frank talk about 8chan” but decided not to post it. I don’t have the energy to deal with the fallout right now.
When I first discovered Ring, it was a net connected video doorbell that could double as an ad hoc surveillance cam. Since it was acquired by Amazon, its entire raison d’être is as a home surveillance tool, but it can also surveil the street. When you have a lot of homeowners using Ring, you get a lot of coverage. That’s why local police departments are doing deals with Amazon, so that they can gain access to the: ‘“Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal,” an interactive map that allows officers to request footage directly from camera owners. Police don’t need a warrant to request this footage, but they do need permission from camera owners.’
Amazon helps in this effort by coaching cops in how to obtain footage from Ring owners. But don’t worry, if some intransigent privacy loving nutcase or due process stickler won’t give permission for the police to access his footage, the police can circumvent them by requesting it directly from Amazon.
As per Business Insider “A buzzy San Francisco startup has been secretly saving what appears to be millions of Instagram users’ stories and tracking their locations”. That buzzy startup is called “Hyp3r” (what else, I mean really), and they’ve been scraping huge amounts of data from user profiles and building up profiles of their interests and movements.
Instagram is owned by Facebook.
Techdirt reports how a US DoJ has brought a case against two men (one of which is presumed dead) who paid AT&T employees over $1 million in bribes to illegally unlock phones and install malware. The latter included key loggers which gave the perpetrators access to AT&T’s network that gave them “broad access” to the company’s internal processes and data.
The ACLU has raised concerns over surveillance after San Diego police were found using street lamp surveillance cameras more than 20 times per month related to 140 cases. I’m just surprised that I didn’t realize streetlamps would double as camera monitoring stations, but it makes perfect sense – tying them all together in one big surveillance mesh. Groups like the ACLU and others want local police departments to enact some kind of framework around the use of such cams to protect citizens privacy.