[AxisOfEasy] Are You Running WhatsApp? Update It Now

Weekly Axis Of Easy #98

Last Week’s Quote was  “If I am not asked I know what time is; but if I am asked, I do not.” …many said Einstein, no, sorry. At least the answer I was looking for was St. Augustine of Hippo. Winner was Christopher.

This Week’s Quote:  “He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” ….by ???

THE RULES: No searching up the answer, must be posted in the comments below:

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

In This Issue:

  • Are you running WhatsApp? Update it now
  • New Zombieload attack affects Intel CPUs
  • White House launches, then pulls, system to report Silicon Valley bias 
  • EFF launches “TOSs-ed Out” project to track de platform bias
  • Quantifying Google’s left-leaning bias
  • Facebook removes populist 5-star pages ahead of Italian elections
  • UK Man fined for avoiding facial recognition camera
  • Message board for hacking accounts has been hacked, accounts dumped
  • DoJ seizes DeepDarkWeb directory, arrests owners

Are you running WhatsApp? Update it now

Last week WhatsApp admitted that it discovered a major security breach in their software which allowed an attacker to place a spyware app on your device by placing a voice call to you, even if you didn’t answer the call.

The attack is said to have all the earmarks of the secretive Israeli security firm NSO Group, which has a history of using hacking techniques to target dissidents on behalf of various governments.

Update your WhatsApp now.

Read: https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2019/05/14/whatsapp-hack-target-i-fear-more-victims-are-out-there/#38390be76113

New Zombieload attack affects Intel CPUs

They’re called Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS) or “side channel attacks”, and they allow the ability to read data being processed by a computers CPU. These are the same attacks you’ve heard of in the past with names like “Meltdown”, “Spectre” and “Foreshadow” (which I will admit having missed that last one entirely). The latest variant discovered by researchers is called “Zombieload”.

“Zombieload is exploited by taking advantage of the speculative execution process, which is an optimization technique that Intel added to its CPUs to improve data processing speeds and performance.”

I’ll be frank, I don’t know what any of that means. The way we handle these around here is I forward them to Ranko Rodic, our CTO, and ask him if this affects us. Then I can stop worrying about it.

White House launches, then pulls, system to report Silicon Valley bias

It has been increasingly difficult to cover and report on tech platform and media bias here in #AxisOfEasy for a few reasons:

  1. Simply observing that bias exists incurs the risk of significant backlash.
  2. A biased mainstream media will under-report its own bias.
  3. Most people will not notice it until they’re on the receiving end of it.

I usually preface commentary on this phenomenon by pointing out that in the first decade of the 21st century, the cultural narrative was solidly controlled by the Neocon right, and that was bad enough. Bias was bad then, and it’s bad now. It doesn’t matter which side the pendulum is on. If you think it’s ok because the prevailing platform bias is in harmony with your own ideological beliefs – just wait 10 years, and see how you like it when you’re the one on the proverbial “wrong side of history”.

All that said:

The Whitehouse launched a site last week to survey tech platform bias, stating:

“SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear ‘violations’ of user policies.”

Time magazine is correct, that looks like it’s taken straight out of a Trump tweet. But the system seems to have been short-lived: either it was a dud or the system has buckled under load, or they just pulled the plug on it. When I went to grab the URL for this piece I simply get a “Page is unavailable” message.

The system was here: https://wh.gov/techbias

EFF launches “TOSs-ed Out” project to track de platform bias

While the Whitehouse tech bias survey may have been somewhat ham-fisted and short-lived, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched an initiative of their own to track the same sort of issues. “TOSsed Out”:

“TOSsed Out will track and publicize the ways in which TOS and other speech moderation rules are unevenly enforced, with little to no transparency, against a range people for whom the Internet is an irreplaceable forum to express ideas, connect with others, and find support.”

Quantifying Google’s left-leaning bias

But we do have a couple of additional data points this week: Columbia Journalism Review published a piece by the authors of an academic paper that measured Google’s selection algorithm for the highly sought-after “Top Stories” slots that appear at the top of organic search results for news. They found that over 62.4% of the “Top Stories” were from sources rated via a previous research study as “left leaning”.  26% from sources with no ratings, and 11.3% sourced from those deemed as “right leaning”.

Even if the unknowns are all right-of-center, it’s still over 2-to-1.

Facebook removes populist 5-star pages ahead of Italian elections

Around the same time as the above paper came out, news broke that Facebook had taken down 23 Facebook pages belonging to various groups supporting Italy’s populist 5-star Party just ahead of the Italian elections. The pages had a combined following of 2.5 million users. The action was taken after the citizen watchdog group Avaaz compiled data about fake news (there certainly was some of that, see ZH link) and submitted a report to Facebook:

Read: https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-05-14/facebook-gags-italian-populists-two-weeks-eu-elections

(Is populism by definition a bad thing? I am surprisingly impressed by former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s look at that exact question in Right Here, Right Now. Despite vowing I’d never vote Conservative after Harper’s government passed the cyber surveillance bill C-13, I have to admit that this is a cogent, dispassionate look at why populism is experiencing a resurgence and what that means. An excellent read, regardless of your affiliation. I’m still not a Conservative and I disagree with some of his key tenets but it’s still one of the best books I’ve read year-to-date)

UK Man fined for avoiding facial recognition camera

The MET police in London England ordered a man to uncover his face when passed a facial recognition camera van parked on an East London street. He refused and was charged with disorderly conduct and fined £93 ($115 USD).

Message board for hacking accounts has been hacked, accounts dumped

Via Krebs on Security: “Ogusers[.]com — a forum popular among people involved in hijacking online accounts and conducting SIM Swapping attacks to seize control over victims’ phone numbers — has itself been hacked, exposing the email addresses, hashed passwords, IP addresses and private messages for nearly 113,000 forum users.”

I guess what surprised me about this article is that sites like these exist out in the plain web in plain site. We discovered a similar one using easyDNS over the weekend and nuked it immediately. Why aren’t these all over on the Dark Web where they belong?

Read: https://krebsonsecurity.com/2019/05/account-hijacking-forum-ogusers-hacked/

DoJ seizes DeepDarkWeb directory, arrests owners

Speaking of the Dark Web, the website DeepDotWeb, which I think I may have cited as source on the odd story here in #AxisOfEasy, has been seized by the US Department of Justice. I followed it for its coverage of Dark Web news, but where they ran afoul of the law was by including a directory of Dark Web marketplaces, from which they allegedly recieved over $15 million in referral fees from said marketplaces (these are places on the Dark Web where one can buy narcotics, weapons, and all sorts of mean and nasty things).

Two owners of the site were also arrested, one in France and the other in Israel.

6 thoughts on “[AxisOfEasy] Are You Running WhatsApp? Update It Now

    1. I’m in trouble, everybody is saying Plato, so many I feel they must be right… but that’s not who I had in mind when I posted this quote.

      Let me check into it, maybe my source got it from Plato….

  1. The article about Google’s bias doesn’t say what proportion of the news sources are rated as left-leaning in the first place. Could be that 62.4% of them are rated left-leaning, which would mean that Google’s newsfeed is neutral. It also could be that more left-leaning people forward news articles, and that’s the source of the bias. I don’t have access to the Science article that might give more detail on the proportion of news outlets rated as left and right leaning. Seems a little simplistic to call this a 2-to-1 bias without knowing more.

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