Tech Talk Show Notes

January 10-16, 2021

WhatsApp gives users an ultimatum: Share data with Facebook or stop using the app

WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messenger that claims to have privacy coded into its DNA, is giving its 2 billion-plus users an ultimatum: agree to share their personal data with the social network or delete their accounts.

The requirement is being delivered through an in-app alert directing users to agree to sweeping changes in the WhatsApp terms of service. Those who don’t accept the revamped privacy policy by February 8 will no longer be able to use the app.

Insurrectionists’ social media presence gives feds an easy way to ID them

Law enforcement agencies trying to track down insurrectionists who participated in yesterday’s events at the US Capitol have a wide array of tools at their disposal thanks to the ubiquity of cameras and social media.

Both local police and the FBI are seeking information about individuals who were “actively instigating violence” in Washington, DC, on January 6. While media organizations took thousands of photos police can use, they also have more advanced technologies at their disposal to identify participants, following what several other agencies have done in recent months. 

Elon Musk is the world’s richest person

Elon Musk has become the world’s richest man, surpassing previous record-holder Jeff Bezos, according to CNBC. Musk is now worth more than $180 billion.

Musk’s rising wealth reflects the meteoric rise of Tesla’s stock. The company’s share price closed at $816 on Thursday, up almost 8 percent for the day. That share price values Tesla at almost $800 billion—several times more than any other car company.

What to expect from the first-ever virtual CES

Last year’s CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, marked the last time for a long time many of us would be chatting face-to-face, exchanging invisible respiratory droplets, handling the same germy gadgets, and enjoying food and drinks in windowless restaurants.

This year, due to the ongoing pandemic, the annual CES takes place entirely on our computer screens. The first-ever completely remote staging of the consumer tech industry’s tentpole event starts on Monday, January 11.

Google, Apple, and Amazon bans Parler

Google has banned the right-wing social media app Parler from its Play Store for Android.

In a statement to Ars, Google said it was enforcing long-standing policies requiring that social media apps remove “egregious content like posts that incite violence.”

“We’re aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the US,” a Google spokesman told Ars. “In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.”

Mastodon is the Only Open Social Network Remaining

Over the past few years, Mastodon has become the model for a friendlier kind of social network, promising to keep out the hateful or ugly content that proliferates on larger and more centralized networks. Journalists hailed it as “Twitter without Nazis” and for years, it’s generally lived up to that promise. But last week, the social network Gab migrated to Mastodon — and Mastodon’s admins have been forced to deal with the internet’s Nazi problem head-on.

The response has been messy. Many prominent Mastodon servers already moderate against racism, so Gab has faced a wave of individual blocks from individual servers. But going further has proven controversial, exposing profound questions within the community. Before the migration, one user requested that Mastodon add a hard-coded ban of Gab’s servers, so all instances would automatically cut it off. It was an extreme measure, but one they argued was warranted. “Gab has inspired mass shooters and murders,” they wrote. “You do not understand the type of threat they represent.”

Malware Developers Refresh Their Attack Tools

Cisco analyzes the latest version of the LokiBot malware for stealing credentials, finding that its developers have added more misdirection and anti-analysis features.

The developers of attack tools continue to make headway in hobbling defenders from detecting and analyzing their malware, creating more complex infection chains to stymy defenses, an analysis by the Cisco Talos research team stated this week.

How the Shady Zero-Day Sales Game Is Evolving

One of the software success stories of the COVID-19 pandemic era has been videoconferencing service Zoom. Despite already existing in a crowded field of both startups and mature competitors, Zoom became a household name for anyone stuck at home to avoid the coronavirus. But as Zoom boomed, so did Dark Web sales of zero-day vulnerabilities in its software.

A Zoom vulnerability that allowed remote-code execution on Windows computers was allegedly for sale on the Dark Web for $500,000, reported Vicein April. Another zero-day vulnerability for Zoom on Macs confirmed by multiple sources commanded a lower but allegedly still substantial Dark Web price.