Snowden fingers Russia for NSA hack

The U.S. government’s electronic spy agency lost some secret files and Google puts its own online. China is putting quantum physics up in space, and Uber wants to put drivers out of work. And this week’s dingbat of the week is a doozie.

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The National Security Agency lost some important security files this week. The U.S. government’s electronic spy agency apparently lost 300MB of hacking tools and information on undisclosed hardware and software flaws to a hacking crew known as the Shadow Brokers, which is trying to auction them online.

Now, computer analyst whistleblower Edward Snowden is saying that the Russians may have done it in a bid to warn the U.S. about attributing other hacks to it. High-stakes intelligence operations are really a lot like playground politics, aren’t they?

China in space

China has launched a satellite designed to test quantum communications technology. Trying to exchange encryption key data securely is a perennial problem for security pros, and this is designed to solve the problem by using entangled photons to create a completely secure communications link between satellite and ground stations. It’s just in the test phase, and the physics involved with a space attempt are mind-boggling. Let’s just call it one sub-atomically small step for man.

Uber envisions driverless future

Uber plans to trial autonomous cars in Pittsburgh in the next few weeks. It will use Ford Fusions with human drivers as backup, it said, but eventually hopes for a driverless future, and will be working with Volvo on the design for its autonomous vehicles in the long term. Ford, too, has a driverless taxi plan and hopes to have them on the road by 2021. Between them, the two companies could eliminate taxi drivers everywhere. What will passengers do for bland conversation then?

Audi is also introducing cars that will talk to traffic lights and warn drivers when they won’t make a green light before it turns red. Clearly, car companies want to automate back-seat drivers, too.

Google’s Fuschsia plans are fuzzy

Google is working on a secretive and completely transparent project for a new operating system. Called Fuschia, the project hosts its code on its own Git repository, meaning that anyone can see it, but Google isn’t saying what it’s for. The code can run on very small embedded devices, but can also handle PCs. Just what does Mountain View have up its sleeve now? Could it be a Google competitor to Windows?

Dingbat of the week

This week’s dingbat is a tech support scammer — and the story has its own hero. An older couple ran across a scam website claiming their PC was infected with malware. Bogus anti-virus scams are a common online trick. Their son, Ivan Kwiatkowski, phoned the number on the site and listened to the tech support scammer try to confuse him with technical jargon before asking for money to fix the problem. Kwiatkowski sent the scammer what he claimed was a photograph of his credit card, but which actually contained the Locky Ransomware.

“I tried opening your photo,” said the scammer. “Nothing happens.”

That’s what you think, buddy.

Illustration courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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