[Axis of Easy] World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer Tasked With Finding COVID-19 Vaccine

Weekly Axis Of Easy #137

Last Week’s Quote was “We are all Keynesians now” was a trick question! Richard Nixon is frequently attributed with saying this when he took the USD off of Bretton Woods, but what he actually said was “I am now a Keynesian in economics”.  The quote itself was Milton Friedman

This Week’s Quote: “There are decades when nothing happens, and then are weeks when decades happen” …by ????

THE RULES:   No searching up the answer, must be posted to the blog

The Prize:   First person to post the correct answer gets their next domain or hosting renewal on us.


Listen to the podcast here:

AoE_137 from Mark Jeftovic on Vimeo.


In this issue:
  • Spying on scammers by hacking them where they live
  • Virgin Media exposes 900,000 user details via unprotected database
  • TikTok moderators told to suppress posts from ugly people, the disabled, and poor
  • Wuhan students game App Store to dodge their homework
  • Tech giants advising all hands to work remote
  • How to balance privacy rights of patients during a pandemic?
  • This American blogger spotted Coronavirus before the mainstream media
  • Amazon terminating seller accounts of “price gougers”
  • World’s most powerful supercomputer tasked with finding COVID-19 vaccine

Spying on scammers by hacking them where they live

We’ve all received those bogus telemarketing calls from scammers purporting to be a tech support or security team that has discovered an anomaly or infection on your computer.  The trick is to panic the victim into one of many traps:  such as handing over their credit card details, installing malware on their own computer, or both.

This amazing researcher turns the tables on these outfits, reversing the dynamic and hacking them at which point he penetrates their entire operation and exposes it for the world to see.

In this video he not only is able to install reverse shell on the fraudsters network, he was able to access the CCTV feed of the building they were operating out of in India.

A fascinating look at how these boiler rooms operate:

Watch:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le71yVPh4uk&feature=youtu.be

Virgin Media exposes 900,000 user details via unprotected database

As I sit down to write this item, I haven’t even read the article yet.  When I saw it I just put it into my clippings and I am surmising that this is yet another unprotected data trove discovered by Bob Dianchenko which was sitting on a wide open Mongo DB with no password and no protections.  Ok let’s see….

Oh wow, wrong on all counts.  It was discovered by Turgonsec and it wasn’t an unprotected data trove (usually the ones Dianchenko finds are open MDB servers or misconfigured Elasticsearch instances), this was a misconfigured database within Virgin’s network, that was able to be accessed without a password.   Account details of 900,000 users were exposed, including email address, contact address and cell phone numbers.  That’s about 15% of Virgin’s customer base.

Read: https://turgensec.com/virgin-media-disclosure-statement/

TikTok moderators told to suppress posts from ugly people, the disabled, and poor

According to documents obtained by The Intercept, the TikTok video sharing app instructed moderators “to suppress posts created by users deemed too ugly, poor, or disabled for the platform”.

The documents also outline how the platform suppresses content depicting political dissent or criticism of the Chinese government:

“livestreamed military movements and natural disasters, video that “defamed civil servants,” and other material that might threaten “national security” has been suppressed alongside videos showing rural poverty, slums, beer bellies, and crooked smiles.   One document goes so far as to instruct moderators to scan uploads for cracked walls and “disreputable decorations” in users’ own homes — then to effectively punish these poorer TikTok users by artificially narrowing their audiences.”

I guess it’s not just Twitter and Facebook that penalizes its users for colouring outside the lines, but this gives us a glimpse of where it’s going….

Wuhan students game App Store to dodge their homework

This sounds like something my kids’ schoolmates would have pulled…. In China’s Wuhan province, where schools were shutdown already, the students were assigned homework to be completed from home using an app called DingTalk.  Instead of doing that, they spammed the App Stores with 1-star ratings in an effort to get it kicked off the platform.

Kids flooded the ratings with 15,000 1-star reviews in a single day, and were able to get its rating tanked from 4.9 to 1.4.    DingTalk (a subsidiary of AliBaba) took to social media to plead with the kids to stop, posting “I’m only 5-years old myself, please don’t kill me”.

Tech giants advising all hands to work remote

Over the last week we’ve seen numerous tech giants directing their employees to work remote.  Google, Twitter and Apple included, the last of which has also closed all retail stores worldwide, outside of China.

I think portends one of multiple tectonic shifts that will continue beyond the abatement of this crisis.  Many businesses will think twice about going back to physical offices once they make the mental and cultural shift to doing everything remote.

One of the things I’m doing during this coming month of isolation is writing up a guide for companies that want to (or have to, now) go fully remote, watch this space.

As most of you probably know, easyDNS went fully remote last June, having finally dawned on us that nobody was actually using the office.  We are fortunate in that respect in that we can continue to operate as always with minimal disruption.

How to balance privacy rights of patients during a pandemic?

This article looks at the issue of protecting patient privacy during a fast moving, largely unprecedented situation like this Coronavirus pandemic.  It focuses specifically on information privacy, not on wider human rights.

In China citizens have found their names, addresses and occupations in online lists after they self-reported to authorities about their travel history and possible contacts.

Other measures in China included mass facial recognition scanning, pulling cough and flu medicines off of store shelves in order to force people who want them to have to report to a doctor first, using drones to “remind people to wear face masks”, the list goes on and so do the privacy implications.

This American blogger spotted Coronavirus before the mainstream media

If there’s an underlying theme to all this coronavirus chaos it’s that most governments are playing catch up to all this and the best information is coming from outside the mainstream media.

The very first reporting on what we now know as COVID-19 seems to have been via Sharon Sanders of Winter Haven, Florida, who runs the Flutrackers website.  She stayed up until near dawn on Dec 31st, compiling reports coming out of China’s Hubei Province, where Wuhan is situated.  Her first post appeared at 1:11am on December 31st:

“There were 7 cases of viral pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan.  Most of them came from the merchants in Wuhan South China Seafood City.  When this station asked Song Shuli, the director of the Publicity Department of the National Health and Health Commission, she said she was still learning about the situation.

Only a few mainstream news outlets in Asia picked up on the story.  Western media didn’t pick up on it until Jan 6th when the New York Times ran a story about how a “pneumonia like illness had sickened 59” in Wuhan.

The rest of course, is now unfolding history.  I’ve mentioned Chris Martenson’s channel on Youtube as being on top of this from his first video, a short 6 minute “Coronavirus Update” on Jan 24th, and then near daily updates since.  I also noticed that Bert Hubert, the creator of PowerDNS, who also happens to be a science researcher has been weighing in with some thoughtful articles about coronavirus here.

Read: https://flutrackers.com/forum/

Read: https://berthub.eu/articles/

Read: https://www.youtube.com/user/ChrisMartensondotcom/videos

Amazon terminating seller accounts of “price gougers”

The issue around so-called “price gouging” is interesting.   Bob Murphy, whom I respect a lot wrote “3 good things about price gouging” back in 2017 and I trot that out from time to time when the subject comes up.  But in all cases before this, we consider the effects of allowing or not allowing prices to find their own level in some localized disaster area.  Allowed to float, higher prices incentivize actors from outside the disaster to bring additional supply to an area where they’re needed.  When pricing power is capped, supply goes to zero in areas where they’re most needed.

But do these arguments stand up when the disaster is a global pandemic and thus, all areas are hit with a demand shock at the same time?  The logic seems tenuous and it induces cognitive dissonance.

So when profiteers go on multi-state road trips, hitting every CostCo and literally sweeping all the Lysol and hand sanitizers into their pickup trucks, with the intent to resell them at exorbitant mark-ups on Amazon, are they providing that much needed increased supply us free marketeers cling to with religious fervour?  I would have to fess up and say “no”, they are on the contrary, sucking out supply, trying to corner the market, if you will.

I didn’t really experience any pangs of sympathy to learn that Amazon had been cancelling the merchant seller accounts of these profiteers.

World’s most powerful supercomputer tasked with finding COVID-19 vaccine

A supercomputer called Summit at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Lab, is being marshalled into the global hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine. Summit is described as “the world’s most powerful and smartest supercomputer” and will be used to analyze 77 small-molecule drug compounds which may be promising in development of a cure.

On a related note, the COVID-19 virus itself has already been isolated by a Canadian team comprising of Sunnybrook Research Institute, University of Toronto and McMaster University. Unlike bacteria, which can be cultured on their own in a Petri dish, viruses such as this one require some animal tissue to host them and thus need to be isolated so work on vaccines can be tested.

Read: https://globalnews.ca/news/6670445/canada-research-coronavirus-isolated/

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