#AxisOfEasy 182: Hackers Modify Chemical Levels In Town’s Drinking Water Supply

Weekly Axis Of Easy #182

Last Week’s Quote was   “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket” was Eric Hoffer, nobody got it.

This Week’s Quote: “There’s no fever like gold fever, except maybe silver fever”… by???

THE RULES: No searching up the answer, must be posted to the blog – the place to post the answer is at the bottom of the post, in the comments section.

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

In this issue:

  • Hackers modify chemical levels in town’s drinking water supply
  • German Ex-con’s brain wallet stumps cops from seizing his bitcoin
  • DC Riot aftermath: tracked by smartphones, snitched on by banks while Youtube removes raw footage
  • “See something say something act” will push for more Big Tech censorship and private snitching
  • Myanmar military shuts down internet after coup d’état
  • India clamps down on internet as farmer’s rebellion gains momentum
  • Infighting among WallStreetBets moderators over movie deals
  • Clearview AI broke Canadian privacy laws
  • Spamcop domain expires, hilarity ensues
  • Singapore introduces new law on police access to contact tracing data
  • Ex-CRTC Commissioner lambasts government regulation of free speech
  • Nevada law would allow tech companies to form their own local governments


Hackers modify chemical levels in town’s drinking water supply

A hacker was able to penetrate the control systems for the water supply in Oldsmar, Florida. Whoever did so was able modify the levels of lye added to the water (which is added to reduce acidity and neutralize metal content), boosting it from the normally safe level of 100 parts per million, to the rather unsafe 11,100 ppm.

Fortunately the change was discovered almost immediately by treatment plant personnel and reverted before any contaminated water was leaked into the town’s drinking water.

A similar attack occurred in 2015-16 in an unknown town but nothing was changed in the system. Israel also reported attacks with successful modifications to local systems there in 2020.

Read: https://www.wfla.com/news/local-news/hacker-caught-altering-chemicals-in-oldsmar-water-supply-to-damaging-levels/

German Ex-con’s brain wallet stumps cops from seizing his bitcoin

Authorities in Germany are at a loss as to how to seize 1700 bitcoin (worth 50 million euros or $60 million USD) from a man who was convicted for fraud in that country. The man has already completed serving a two year prison sentence after he was caught for surreptitiously installing crypto-currency miners on other people’s computers.

Here’s the part of the story I don’t get: the guy won’t divulge his password for his crypto currency wallet, and the prosecutors want to seize his funds. However, according to the story “prosecutors have ensured he cannot access his funds.” How?

It doesn’t matter if they’ve seized his wallet, because crypto wallets don’t actually hold your bitcoin on the wallet – the “bitcoins” actually exist as hashed keys on the global blockchain, all wallets really do is protect the private keys you use to access the bitcoin you own on the blockchain.

So, provided that the guy has memorized his recovery seed phrase, how can prosecutors prevent the man from ever accessing the ill gotten gains? The only way I can think of is to lobotomize the guy.

DC Riot aftermath: tracked by smartphones, snitched on by banks while Youtube removes raw footage

From the New York Times we have details on how protestors who were present in Washington DC are susceptible to having their locations tracked and their identities revealed, via smartphone tracking data obtained from an anonymous source.

The anonymous source is the same one who provided the NY Times with a data file in 2019  from which the paper was able to identify people ranging from celebrities to pentagon officials.  We covered a similar dynamic back in AxisOfEasy 158  on how hundreds of smartphone apps sell their location data to private entities, including governments and law enforcement agencies.

“While there were no names or phone numbers in the data, we were once again able to connect dozens of devices to their owners, tying anonymous locations back to names, home addresses, social networks and phone numbers of people in attendance. In one instance, three members of a single family were tracked in the data.”

The NYTimes says their source has asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to leak the data and would face “severe penalties” for doing so.

Read: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/05/opinion/capitol-attack-cellphone-data.html

Meanwhile, Bank of America is being criticized by security and privacy types after they admitted handing over client data to the FBI to assist them in their probe into the Capitol Hill riots. According to Tucker Carlson:

“The bank handed over financial data 211 of its clients who happened to use credit and debit cards for lodging, food and other purchases in Washington in the days before and after the Jan. 6 siege,”

And Bernard Kerik, a former head of the NYPAD who is now a security consultant condemned it as “chilling overreach,”

“That’s just not a good reason to hand over private information. If that’s the way they do business now, then the people of this country really have something to worry about”

Read: https://nypost.com/2021/02/06/bank-of-america-under-fire-for-helping-feds-in-capitol-riot-probe/

Finally, YouTube has gone ahead an demonetized and shutdown several accounts who were posting raw footage of the Capital Hill Riots of Jan 6th. Two of the key segments include footage of a police officer being crushed in a doorway by rioters, and also raw footage of Trump’s speech and the crowd’s reaction before it turned on the capital itself. The latter was captured by indie journalist Ford Fischer and is thought to contain footage of a “key moment in the impeachment complaint against Trump.”

Youtube removed the videos, citing:

“content that advances false claims that widespread fraud, errors, or glitches changed the outcome of the U.S. 2020 presidential election is not allowed on YouTube.”

Read: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelsandler/2021/02/04/youtube-is-taking-down-raw-footage-from-the-capitol-riot-as-it-tries-to-crack-down-on-misinformation/

As soon as Big Tech tried to present themselves as being in a position to coherently moderate content was when they stepped in it, see below….     

“See Something Say Something Online Act” will force tech providers to snitch on their users 

Big Tech content moderation has been so ham fisted and inconsistent over the past few years that in the waning months of the Trump administration, it looked like their immunity under Section 230 of the CDA was in jeopardy. That’s the section that shielded them from liability for content traversing their networks or posted to their platforms.

With Trump gone, it doesn’t look like Big Tech will get any respite from pressure on this front. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W VA) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) are getting ready to table the See Something Say Something Online Act. It’s part of the incoming administration’s forthcoming clampdown on wrongthink domestic terrorism.

Under the new law, all technology providers in the US will have to monitor content on their systems for “suspicious content” and face losing their Section 230 immunity if they fail to file a “Suspicious Transmission Activity Report” (STAR) for such content.

“”Suspicious” content is defined as any post, private message, comment, tag, transaction, or “any other user-generated content or transmission” that government officials later determine “commits, facilitates, incites, promotes, or otherwise assists the commission of a major crime.” Major crimes are defined as anything involving violence, domestic, or international terrorism, or a “serious drug offense.”

STAR reports will consist of the users’ name and location as well as any other identifying information and metadata.

Myanmar military shuts down internet after coup d’état  

Last week there was a military coup in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).  I think this is about the third or fourth coup since the country declared independence from Great Britain in 1948.

In this case, the democratically elected State Counsellor Aung Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Price laureate, and over 20 cabinet ministers were removed from power by a military junta who has declared a one-year state of emergency.

Myanmar citizens have been out in large numbers protesting the coup, to which the military responded by shutting down the internet in the country.

As I was writing this Sunday night I saw some reports come in that Internet access to the country is being restored see: https://globalnews.ca/news/7625739/myanmar-internet-restored-protests/

Also, in 
 this viral video circulating across the internet of a woman doing her daily aerobics routine, those cars driving by in the background is actually a military convoy en route to seizing the parliament buildings behind her.     

India clamps down on internet as farmer’s rebellion gains momentum   

Myanmar isn’t the only government shutting down parts of the internet in order to thwart the rabble from mobilizing. In India there is a rather significant “farmer’s rebellion” underway and the India government instituted a series of Internet blackouts in multiple districts around New Dehli for several days in an effort to disrupt communications amongst protestors organizing.

Twitter also initially complied with requests from the Indian government to block up to 250 accounts and remove posts but later removed the restrictions, drawing ire from the Indian government.

Internet blackouts are a common tactic used by the government there to quell unrest. In 2019 India won the title for The Most Frequent use of Internet Blackouts by a Nation State.     

Read: https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/03/india-sends-warning-to-twitter-over-lifting-block-on-accounts-and-noncompliance-of-order/   

Infighting among WallStreetBets moderators over movie deals     

Speaking of palace coups, there seems to be one happening with the /r/wallstreetbets community that ignited the mother-of-all short squeezes against Gamestop which has descended into internecine fighting. According to an article in Mashable, the spotlight garnered by the recent unprecedented market mania has brought the prospects of a movie deal and, as the old Cyndi Lauper tune goes  “Money changes everything.”

Erstwhile inactive moderators sprang into action and began banning the current mods in order to gain control of the subreddit and Reddit staff has had to intercede.

In other news, the WallStreetBets movement was reportedly running a crowdfunding campaign to book a Super Bowl ad to “sh*t all over Robin Hood.” The Super Bowl was yesterday, as I write this (some guy named Tom Brady won, but everybody is mad at him because he didn’t wear a mask), but I haven’t heard if WSB got their ad in.           

Clearview AI broke Canadian privacy laws   

Clearview AI has been written up in these pages before in AoE 135 and 154. Jesse Hirsh also wrote them up in Metaviews when they promised the Canadian government they’d cease operations in Canada.

They’re the company that scraped social media (all those pics of yourself, your friends and your family) and assembled a database that they then sell to law enforcement agencies who run facial recognition scans against it.

Privacy watchdog from federal and multiple Canadian provinces say that Clearview has violated provincial and federal privacy laws and want the company to appear before the House of Commons to answer some questions.

The RCMP (Canada’s FBI) was a paying client of Clearview and say they are cooperating fully with the investigation.

Spamcop domain expires, hilarity ensues 

About a week ago I saw a thread pop up on the mailops mailing list asking if any other postmasters were seeing weird Spamcop behaviour. That was all I noticed and didn’t really delve into it since we don’t use Spamcop here (although we’re about to roll out a user definable menu of RBLs and that will be one of the options, or at least it was going to be, we’ll have to see now).

It turned out that Spamcop let their domain expire, and as it is pretty standard across registrars (who are contractually obligated under their ICANN RAA’s to do something along these lines, come to think), the domain got wild-carded in order to redirect all web traffic to a “dude, your domain has expired!” page.

That also caused every lookup that mail servers were conducting against the Spamcop block list on inbound email to return a positive result, thus denoting all such messages as spam. Depending on how individual servers were configured that resulted in behaviour ranging from vastly increased spam scores on messages to just outright bouncing everything.

Singapore introduces new law on police access to contact tracing data      

Just last month in AxisOfEasy #178 we covered how Singapore police were using COVID-19 contact tracing databases in the course of criminal investigations, something the government specifically said wasn’t going to happen.

A public outcry ensued, and so the Singaporean government has introduced new legislation under a “Certificate of Urgency,” which enables them to fast track new laws when they are deemed urgent.

It is estimated that up to 80% of the population is using contact tracing apps such as TraceTogether and SafeEntr       

Nevada law would allow tech companies to form their own local governments 

This one is interesting given how Charles Hugh Smith, Jesse Hirsh and I frequently posit the rise of what we call The Network State which will eventually supplant nation states as we currently understand them (we may end up doing a book on this).

The state of Nevada has introduced a bill which, if passed, would launch “Innovation Zones” designed to lift the state economy by attracting high tech start-ups to the area. Part of the plan would allow “alternative forms of local government,” although we’re not sure exactly what that means.

It sounds an awful lot like what Google wanted to do with Sidewalk here in Toronto, which was eventually scuttled on various concerns, some of which included that Google would end up being its own de facto municipal government within the Duchy of Sidewalk.

All very Snow Crashy if you ask me, but something that appears to be a rising tide.

Ex-CRTC Commissioner lambasts government regulation of free speech

While media  monopolists elites in the US lobby for the appointment “a reality czar” that would oversee social discourse with an eye toward ridding the nation of “disinformation,” here in Canada the federal government already has convened the distinctly Maoist sounding Commission on Democratic Expression, which is putting forth recommendations to curtail democratic expression under a similar guise: eliminating so-called “misinformation” and “hate speech.”

Ex-CRTC commissioner Tim Denton penned an op-ed in the Financial Post calling them out on it, noting that whatever the problems may be with online discourse, especially when it comes to “misinformation” (also known as “anything that disagrees with the official government and mainstream media canon”), it’s not going to be solved by creating a vast government bureaucracy to regulate online activities.

Heritage Canada cited a recent study that indicated Canadians want hate speech controlled online, even it meant less free speech online. Denton noted that the study (covered last week) was commissioned by Heritage Canada. In Denton’s words, “Where there’s smoke, there’s a smoke machine.”

He also points out that if regulating Big Tech is the goal, introducing new regulations and raising the compliance bar historically protects the incumbents being regulated and reduces competition, thus increasing Big Tech power. (Insiders call it “pulling the ladder up behind you”).

The big losers will be legitimate dissidents, giving the government of the day the framework to suppress any dissent from the official orthodoxy of the day:

“For the Commission on Democratic Expression, heresies and “hate speech” sprout where disinformation reigns and wicked ideas are propagated by ignorant people outside the boundaries established by the enlightened. After all, the duty of the enlightened is to regulate public discourse.”

Overall a great piece which I recommend everyone read and share widely.

On the AxisOfEasy last week     

We didn’t do a salon but #36 from the week before continues to get heavy play making it our most watched salon ever (I think), it’s the one about the entire Gamestop phenomenon and what it symbolizes for the entire financial casino.           

Watch: https://axisofeasy.com/podcast/salon-36-democratizing-stonk-market-manipulation/

Jesse wrote up a piece on franchising in the era of Big Tech.     

Charles wrote some interesting observations on how best laid plans tend to be thwarted, along with the continuing decimation of the middle class.         

For my part I talked about how when a government can operate without any constraints, it becomes indistinguishable from some unhinged conspiracy theory.

Read: https://bombthrower.com/articles/domestic-terror-is-a-government-without-constraints/

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