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This Week in Tech

AMD fail, Facebook wail and video games don't create mass killers

Welcome back to another weekly news round up.

AMD fail...

A short while ago we got news of the Spectre and Meltdown hacks on Intel CPUs. AMD claimed that the chip design flaw that made these hacks possible did not apply to their CPUs and so they were soooo much better than Intel. Buy AMD instead! Well.... The shoe is now on the other foot. Researchers have found that anyone with 'Root' (administrator) level access to a computer or a network can get malware to run on the protected secure enclave of the CPU, making that malware impossible to detect or eliminate.

A disturbing part of the discovery is that it appears that the Israeli firm that published the report breaking news of these flaws seemed to be trying to use its findings to affect the stock price of AMD and other companies (i.e. trying to make money from the flaws by messing with the markets).

The fact remains that the flaws are real though - and are yet to be patched.

Read about it at Ars Technica and The Hacker News.

Facebook wail....

Facebook just kicked Cambridge Analytica off the system - for pulling private information from more than 50 000 000 users. To help Trump win his election (Ouch!! That's adding insult to injury!). They claim the event is not a hack or breach because no passwords were stolen - only personal and private information...

The New York Times has a detailed piece on this.

Here's Facebook's official explanation of what happened.

Here's Joy of Tech cartoon's take on it - Mark Zuckerberg Vs Wonder Woman!

BUT WAIT.... Here's more...

The Next Web has a piece showing what data Facebook has on you - and how you can check it out for yourself...

Every time you open Facebook, the time, location, IP address, browser & device have been recorded. If you’re part of the 1.4B people that use Facebook on a daily basis, they have enough data points to determine your everyday life patterns with great accuracy: home and work address, daily commute, wake up & bedtime, travel duration & destination, etc.

Video games don't create mass killers

One of President Trump's reactions to the recent school shooting in Florida (besides suggesting that teachers be armed) was to say that video games are responsible for creating a mindset that makes mass killings possible.

Luckily for us, science proves otherwise - and Gizmodo has the details.

Passwords Out, Biometrics In

CNN Money has a segment on how quickly the US is moving away from passwords and resorting to biometrics for security. I'd take the statistics with a grain of salt, but interesting nonetheless.

Tourism & The Selfie

The Citizen has a great in-depth article on how selfie culture is affecting tourism. Great for broadening your view and gaining insight.

Android - with malware pre-installed

The Hacker News has an article detailing how 5 million Android devices have been found with some particularly nasty malware pre-installed.

Climb into a taxi - and find there's no driver...

Waymo is trialling driverless cars in its service in the US. Digital Trends has an article on how people are reacting. Video below.

Digital Trends explains:

What is RAM

What is an SSD

Criminal using drone to scout target in JHB

The Citizen has the details.

That's it for this week. Happy teaching!

Comments

Cryptojacking Malverts plague Google

What a mouthful! The premonition that 2018 would be the year of the rise of cryptojacking seems to be morphing into reality faster than expected. Both Google's mainstream ads and YouTube ads made the news this week as being targeted by Malvertising syndicates. The basic idea is to place adverts using Google's DoubleClick ad service. The ads though, contain code that sets the computer they are displayed on to mining cryptocurrency - and can use up to 80% of the computer's processing power to do so.

Trend Micro (an anti-virus / anti-malware company) published the breach on their blog on 26 January. On the same day Ars Technica published that YouTube was affected by the same problem. Confiant (a digital advertising company) has released a report detailing how last year 28 fake ad agencies were created by criminals in order to generate over 1 billion views of 'malvertising'. A technical but very interesting read.

So, What is 'Malvertising'?

Malware (anything from ransomware to botnet controllers to cryptocurrency mining software) hidden in advertising that can be displayed on any web page you visit. Some malvertising delivers its payload as soon as the ad is displayed, some need you to click on the advert before they become active. The bad guys create the ads and submit them to ad agencies. The ad agencies display ads on web sites based on algorithms which match you to the content on the web site. The bad guys have to pay for the ad to be shown, but they potentially gain so much more when you are infected. Digital Guardian has a great, in-depth explanation of malvertising here.

So why is cryptojacking bad?

As malware goes, cryptojacking doesn't seem so bad - after all, it doesn't destroy your data... What does it do? It sets your computer to doing the complex mathematical calculations needed to 'mine' a cryptocurrency. For you, your computer slows down and goes into overdrive with 80% of your CPU's time being spent on the mining operation. This also means that your computer runs hotter and uses more power. For the hacker; they don't have to buy expensive mining computer hardware - or pay the expensive electricity bills that go with mining cryptocurrency. They just collect the cryptocurrency that gets mined.

Password problems....

In the meanwhile it has emerged that the fake missile alert in Hawaii mentioned in last week's blog could have had a much quicker resolution. It turns out the Governor of Hawaii wanted to tweet a message saying the alert was fake mere minutes after the alert went out. Why didn't he do so? He forgot / didn't know his password....

XKCD's take....

Hawaii

Car makers are tracking you - whether you know it or not.

The Washington Post exposes how car makers are gathering data from their products. A fascinating read.

Net Neutrality explained - with burgers!

In case you have missed it, Net Neutrality legislation in the US has been repealed, opening up the possibility for various abuses of the internet by the telecommunications companies that own the infrastructure. Many people don't really understand what this means. Burger King created an ad to illustrate the problem using burger sales in their stores.

Primates Cloned in China.

Not a direct tech story - but rather a biotech story that is made possible by IT. Chinese scientists have successfully cloned two long tailed macaque monkeys.

The quote below explains its significance:

"The technical barrier of cloning primate species, including humans, is now broken,"
- Qiang Sun, Lead Researcher

Little Ripper - Hero Drone

A drone saved two boys from drowning on its first day of use.

That's the news for this week. Happy teaching!

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