News Roundup: One man vs tech's gay agenda

A roundup of the week’s technology news including Kaspersky opening its source code, the Red phone, and Tay 2.0 fails.

Kaspersky offers to open up

Despite the fact the world is meant to opening up because of things like the internet and the Cloud, governments are becoming increasingly protectionist when it comes technology companies. While the likes of Cisco, IBM, and SAP are mulling whether to hand over source code to governments in countries such as Russia and China, the US government is looking to ban Kaspersky Labs from governmental departments or agencies. In retaliation, Russian Communications Minister Nikolay Nikiforov warned of repercussions if such a ban was put in place.

In a blog post this week, Eugene Kaspersky sounded weary:

“For some reason the assumption continues to resonate that since we’re Russian, we must also be tied to the Russian government. But really, as a global company, does anyone seriously think we could survive this long if we were a pawn of ANY government?”

“It seems that because I’m a self-made entrepreneur who, due to my age and nationality, inevitably was educated during the Soviet era in Russia, they mistakenly conclude my company and I must be bosom buddies with the Russian intelligence agencies.”

In the same post, Kaspersky openly offered to share the company’s source code with the US Government in order to allay any doubts.



Plenty of follow up headlines in the wake of WannaCry and NotPetya:

  • MeDoc, the company believed to have accidently helped spread NotPetya, has had its servers seized by police in Ukraine and could face criminal charges.
  • Although it only made $10,000, the Bitcoin wallet associated with NotPetya has been drained.
  • The hackers behind the attack have a way to decrypt NotPetya, but are demanding 100 Bitcoin (~$250,000).
  • Researchers believe hacker may have had access to the NSA’s EternalBlue and EternalRomance exploits before they were published online.
  • Maersk, now fully operational after being afflicted with NotPetya, says it is too early to predict the full financial impact of the attack. 
  • All these ransomware headlines have ‘failed to stimulate a surge in cyber insurance’, according to FWD Consulting.


Hacking IoT vending machines

US Intelligence has been at it again. The victim of the CIA’s latest hacking? A vending machine. A report recently found that CIA contractors were fired after finding a way to hack an internet connected snack machine in the CIA’s HQ. According to Buzzfeed, the hackers stole $3,314.40 worth of snacks.

The UK barrister in charge of reviewing terrorism laws has likened the Prime Minister’s plans to crack down on social media companies to Chinese censorship.

“I struggle to see how it would help if our parliament were to criminalise tech company bosses who ‘don’t do enough’. How do we measure ‘enough’? What is the appropriate sanction?” said Max Hill QC, during a speech at the Terrorism and Social Media conference in Swansea. “We do not live in China, where the internet simply goes dark for millions when government so decides. Our democratic society cannot be treated that way.”

Meanwhile, in China itself, a popular VPN service used to get around the Great Firewall has been shut down by the government. GreenVPN announced that it was shutting down after “receiving a notice from regulatory departments”.

Darktrace has seen AI-powered malware being used in India.



Baidu has acquired Kitt.ai, Tibco has snapped up nanoscale.io, Symantec now owns Israeli security firm FireGlass, ARM has reportedly bought Simulity, and DXC Technology has got its hands on Tribridge.


Samsung and Bixby coming to a speaker near you

It’s been a good week for Samsung. The Korean giant announced record profits for this quarter – more than Apple for the first time since the launch of the iPhone in fact - and overtaking Intel as the world’s largest chipmaker and overtaking Apple.

Bixby, Samsung’s AI voice assistant, reportedly delayed in English because of a lack of data, may be getting its own smart speaker. Working under the codename Vega, the speaker does not yet have a launch date.

In other news, Alibaba recently announced their own smart speakers and voice assistants for the Chinese market. The Tmall Genie will come with the AliGenie voice assistant and do everything you come to expect from an Alexa/Echo-like product.


Tay 2.0

Microsoft hasn’t been shy about trying out its AI projects in public. It’s teen-targeted Twitter chatbot Tay was easily the most high-profile and ended up being racist and promoting drugs. Tay was quickly retired and replaced with Zo, which had much the same premise but was invite-only on Kik. But it seems Zo has gone much the same way, and is now calling the Qur'an violent and is talking about Osama Bin Laden. Oh dear.


FB’s old tricks die hard

After nearly 20 attempts to clone Snapchat, Facebook seems to have gotten bored and moved onto the next thing to copy. According to the Verge, FB is now working on a new app that bears a lot of similarity to Houseparty; the video chat app from the company that made Meerkat. The project is reportedly going under the working name of Bonfire.


Right to repair

The ability to repair your own devices is a hot and ongoing topic within the US. In Europe, MEPs agreed on a resolution calling for more easily repairable mobile devices.  While not legally binding, it does set a legal path for new laws to possibly be introduced and include various suggestions about increasing the repairability of products. Given the resistance it’s put up in the US, expect Apple to fight that idea tooth and nail if it does come to the EU.


Seeing Red

Remember that time Kodak released a smartphone because no one buys cameras anymore? Seems it’s catching on. Red – known for developing high-end film cameras – this week announced Hydrogen; a $1,600 titanium ‘holographic display’ Android smartphone.

There are no details on how glasses-free holographic-ness will work, or even specifications beyond it having a 5.7” screen, USB Type-C connector, micro SD slot, and a headphone jack, will come unlocked, and has some algorithms for good sound.

Unlike most smartphones, this announcement came entirely out of the blue. David Shapton of Red news site RedShark said that he had dismissed any such rumours about a phone being in the works.


Open source

Oracle this week released three new Open Source Container tools. Smith aims to make container builds more consistent and secure, Crashcart is a debugging tool, and Railcar is Rust-based runtime.

Kaspersky this week released BitScout, a free tool to remotely collect forensic material without contaminating or losing information.

You can now also download FriendUP, a new OS that turns any computer into a thin client.

Google also released an Android Client for Samba, the open-source version of the SMB/CIFS networking protocol. However, it still open to the same exploits that WannaCry and NotPetya abused. Whoops.


Travelling in style can get you in trouble

There’s no shortage of companies testing driverless cars these days. But Baidu CEO Robin Li may be in trouble after posting a video of him riding a car in autopilot mode on public roads. However, the testing of driverless cars on public roads is banned in China pending new regulations, and now Chinese police are investigating the matter.

In other news, Torc Robotics is moving into the consumer driverless car space, and Swedish startup Logan is looking to go one step further than Otto and build entirely driverless lorries that don’t have a cab for drivers at all.


The $50,000 Bitcoin?

After its crazy surge in recent months, Bitcoin seems to have steadied itself somewhat in the last few weeks. The cryptocurrency has been hovering around $2,500 a coin, but some experts believe it will shoot up again before long.

Goldman Sachs predicts it could touch $4,000 a coin before long, but Standpoint Research’s Ronnie Moas claims Bitcoin will double to $5,000 next year and reach $25,000 to $50,000 in the next decade. “There are only 21,000,000 bitcoins in circulation and the world will fight over those 21 million coins as confidence in currency and other investments deteriorates,” he wrote in a note. “I have little doubt that 1% of the money in cash, bonds, stocks and gold will end up in cryptocurrencies.”


One man vs tech’s gay agenda

In a week where Ed Sheeran QUIT TWITTER (OMG) and Donald Trump discovered GIF makers, the internet found a new low.

A petition on Change.org is calling for a boycott of the Raspberry Pi Foundation because it is ‘promoting the gay agenda’. According to the hopefully joke petition, the poster was offended by an image of a child at a computer, but the computer HAS A RAINBOW STICKER ON IT!

“Since the Raspberry Pi was created as and marketed as an educational computing platform, The Raspberry Pi Foundation is using its product to promote Gay/Lesbian/Transgender agenda even to minors,” reads the petition, where the poster also claims to ‘have gay friends so is not a homophobe’. “I do not believe it is appropriate to use an educational product as a vehicle to promote Gay, Lesbian, and transgender causes to our children.”

“When I complained about this suggesting they should keep the rainbow flag at arms-length from their educational product on their forums I was labelled a "homophobic Bigot" in their forms and attacked verbally.  Not only is Raspberry Pi Foundation promoting Gay/Lesbian Transgender lifestyle to children they are opposing anything that supports a heterosexual lifestyle.”

God forbid how many petitions there’d be if this person discovered which companies actively promote their LGBT support, or even have a gay CEO. At the time of writing, the petition has 45 signatures. All of the comments are trolls claiming the Pi Foundation has turned them gay.



« The dark web & 70 hackers: Four security takeaways for business


African response: Seven ways the local datacentre space is booming »
Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

  • twt
  • twt
  • twt
  • Mail


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?