Friday roundup: A week in tech

Satellite

Loads of stuff has happened this week – sadly, much of it’s terrible, but let’s plough on…

There’s a mystery Russian satellite on the loose, cruising through the sky and causing the Americans no end of consternation.

Alarmed US State Department assistant secretary Yleem Poblete told listeners at a Swiss conference that the enigmatic orbital object is displaying ‘very abnormal behaviour’, adding that it could be some kind of weapon.

True to form, the Russians have denounced the secretary’s observations as ‘unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions,’ which is more or less their standard response to the numerous international outrages they are accused of on a daily basis.

Ms Poblete groaned: ‘Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development.’

Indeed, the weaponisation of space would be a deeply troubling and unethical development – certainly, America would never dream of doing such a thing. Oh hang on – President Donald Trump recently announced plans to launch a new branch of the US armed forces into space, called ‘Space Force’. Looks like we’d better get used to ‘very abnormal behaviour’ in the sky, then.

Meanwhile, back in sleepy ol’ England, an MOD spokesman refused to commit to anything, lazily intoning: ‘The UK is working closely with international allies, including the US, to re-enforce responsible and safe behaviours in space and to build knowledge, understanding and resilience.’

***

Professional insanity-conjuror Alex Jones has finally been banned from Twitter – for a week.

The highly-strung conspiracy theorist has seen his works deleted from the likes of Facebook and Apple in recent weeks, with Twitter remaining the last major outlet for his divisive, completely fabricated smut.

But no more (for a week)! The cheerful would-be saviour of the white race crossed the social media network’s often blurry lines with a tweet that called on his followers to ready ‘battle rifles’ for a confrontation with America’s media.

Naturally, the abysmal state of affairs is connected in some way with President Donald Trump, who has also been heavily hinting that America’s currently free press should be…what…annihilated?

What a time to be alive.

***

Friendly old fax machines: they recall a simpler, happier, less online hatred-filled time, much like Ceefax – however, it turns out they could be the latest easy entry point for cyber villains! Is nothing sacred?

Security researchers have found that criminally-engineered image data sent via fax lines could be used to breach networks, as a consequence of many fax machines being part of printer/scanner combos.

Stunningly, fax has ‘no security measures built in – absolutely nothing,’ according to Yaniv Balmas, a security person from somewhere called Check Point software.

Though you don’t exactly come across it every day, it turns out that lots of firms still communicate through the ancient art of fax – meaning there’s a whole plum world for crooks to potentially exploit.

And one of those organisations still very much beholden to the fax is the NHS, which suffered devastating consequences from 2017’s WannaCry virus attack.

Apparently, the NHS has 9,000 active fax machines, so plenty to think about there.

Hey, do you remember back in the day when most companies printed a telephone and a fax number in their literature, and sometimes you’d accidentally ring the fax line and have to listen to all those strange noises? Good times.

***

Now on to the cheery subject of international censorship at the behest of a repressive regime. Writing tech news is so uplifting.

Google’s own staff are rebelling over the tech giant’s plans to build a special search engine for the Chinese government.

Hundreds of freedom-conscious employees have written to their own firm, claiming that the fishy project Dragonfly raises ‘urgent moral and ethical questions’.

It has been claimed that the service Google is working on will block websites and search terms that displease the Chinese authorities.

The letter mentions the famous ‘don’t be evil’ clause in Google’s code of conduct – but I always thought they meant that as a joke anyway; I mean, come on!

And the ethical rebellion may lead to results: earlier this year, angered staff protested against Google’s drone-building work with the Pentagon, which led to the firm ending its contract with the blowing-everything-up specialists.

Connivance with state repression! Maybe the next story will be happier?

***

Dear God, no.

Facebook has been hosting genocide-stoking hate material designed to encourage the slaughter of Myanmar’s Rohingya population.

An investigation by Reuters found some posts on the network calling for violence against the country’s Muslim minority that had been up for an incredible six years – despite Facebook’s own rules prohibiting ‘violent or dehumanising’ material against ethnic groups.

Posts included calls for Rohingya people to be shot, burned and fed to pigs, while one poster suggested that ‘We must fight them the way Hitler did the Jews’.

According to the BBC, Facebook has now removed all the posts ‘discovered’ by Reuters. However, Facebook reckons it’s hard to keep up with the avalanche of hatred because its software struggles to interpret Burmese – which is an absolutely unspeakably pathetic and vile excuse. Aren’t they one of the richest firms in the world?

Meanwhile, over in India, WhatsApp (proprietor: Facebook) seems to be playing a big part in a series of ongoing mob-led hysterical executionsof innocent people.

Isn’t the internet great: How do you turn it off?

Friday roundup: A week in tech

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