Freezenet’s Official Podcast: May 2020: Ceiling Hacker is Watching You Authenticate

In the 19th episode of the Freezenet official podcast, “Ceiling Hacker is Watching You Authenticate”, we take a look at the news and reviews we covered for May.

Welcome to the public version of the 19th episode of the Freezenet official podcast for May, 2020. This month’s episode is entitled “Ceiling Hacker is Watching You Authenticate” due to all the hacking that took place that month. This includes the hacking of a law firm that represents US president, Donald Trump.

This month, we also cover the German court ruling that said that the spying of foreign nationals is unconstitutional as well as the push for the Canadian link tax law. This month also covers all the usual music and video game reviews as well as why you shouldn’t get too comfortable going over the speed limit. All this and more on this month’s episode of the Freezenet official podcast!

You can check out our official podcast on Soundcloud or Anchor. Alternatively, you can take a listen below:

What follows is a transcript of this month’s episode:

Intro

Ceiling Hacker is Watching You Authenticate

Hi, I’m your host, Drew Wilson. Welcome to the 19th episode of the Freezenet official podcast for May, 2020. Here are your top 3 headlines:

The Top 3

Germany’s Mass Surveillance of Foreign Nationals Declared Unconstitutional

The Push for a Canadian Link Tax Law Continues

… and The Law Firm Representing Donald Trump and Other Celebrities Gets Hacked

Top Stories

We begin this month’s podcast with a court ruling that could have global implications on the surveillance of ordinary citizens. The German Constitutional Court has ruled that the suspicionless surveillance of foreign nationals is unconstitutional. The implications of this could be quite significant. This is because as countries rule that mass surveillance of their own citizens is rendered unconstitutional, many countries rely on the surveillance of other countries to fill that gap. As a result, there is an international cooperation of spy agencies that ensure that everyone is surveilled accordingly thanks to so-called “information sharing”.

What this court ruling does is put a major crack in that surveillance system. Some actively wonder if this will be the start of a trend towards better privacy. This given how other European countries have similar surveillance programs. Many digital rights observers are hailing this as a major victory for European human rights.

This month, we also have a follow-up to a story we covered last month. Previously, we reported on reporters from the Toronto Star pressing government officials to implement a Canadian link tax law. The law was pushed in Europe and is being fought out in France. Big Canadian publishers are now increasing their lobbying pressure to institute a similar rule in Canada. In short, search engines and aggregators would be required to pay news sources for the privilege of driving valuable traffic towards those news sites. At the moment, search engines like Google make no money from such a service and Google News is free for everyone.

A similar move happened in Spain a number of years ago with disastrous results. Since news services depend on Google more than Google depends on news services, Google simply pulled out of the country altogether. This decision was made to ultimately refuse to pay huge sums of money in exchange for the privilege offering a free service that benefits all. The results were staggering. Traffic to news services, as a whole, plunged. News publishers experienced a massive loss in revenue. In turn, Spanish news publishers begged for Google News to return to the country. The lesson learned is that Google News offers a net benefit to online news sources.

Now, it seems that Canadian news publishers are attempting to rewrite history and paint Google as this evil corporation. In an open letter plastered all over print media, many newspapers, owned by the Big Canadian publishers, are pushing the conspiracy theory that Google is illegally stealing news content and reusing it without permission. While the truth is that Google is simply offering snippets and thumbnails to better entice users to go to the news sites, the big publishers are demanding that Google and Facebook be forced to pay for the privilege. Arguably, such activity is Fair Dealing.

About a week after we posted our analysis of why a Canadian link tax law is a bad idea, Michael Geist posted his own analysis on the matter. In his analysis, he largely agreed that snippets are arguably fair dealing. Additionally, publishers depend on Google News more than Google News depends on publishers. Also, such a move could compel Google News to leave the country, thus repeating history of what happened in Spain. Geist, however, did add an interesting point to the debate. The Canadian government has launched initiatives aimed at propping up journalism in the country. More recently, Ottawa launched a “Local Journalism Initiative” which is supposed to pump $5 million into the sector. The money is no small ticket item either. For every employee publishers hire, the publishers stand to get up to $55,000 each. That is no chump change for a sector that claims to be struggling due to COVID-19. With that thought out there, it leaves the impression that big publishers might actually be acting out of pure greed rather than necessity with respect to pushing this link tax law. Luckily for many, lawmakers have expressed reluctance to go this route in the first place. This will probably mean that the Big Publishers will be hiring their armies of lobbyists to change lawmakers minds. Still, the momentum is not in the Big Publishers side which is no doubt good news for almost everyone else.

Unless you are a celebrity reporter or heavily into celebrity legal news, the name Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks may not mean too much to you. However, if you do happen to recognize the name, you already know the kind of money and power we are already talking about. This is a law firm that represents celebrities like Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen. Another name that the law firm represents? Non other than US president Donald Trump.

So, it isn’t that big of a surprise that when the law firm got hacked, it became big news. In all, unknown hackers made off with 756GB worth of data. While most stories typically end with the whole data dump being posted on the dark web, that’s not where this story led. Instead, it is continuing with the hackers holding the data up for ransom. Initially, the hackers demanded $21 million in exchange with the data not being published. After the law firm refused to pay, a 2.4GB folder was posted exposing client details of Lady Gaga.

In a press release, the hackers said, in part, “It seems that GRUBMANS doesn’t care about their clients or it was a mistake to hire a recovery company to help in the negotiations. As we promised, we [published] the first part of the data because the time is up.”

Following the data dump, the hackers upped the ransom to $42 million in exchange for no further information being disclosed. The hackers further commented with the following: “There’s an election race going on, and we found a ton of dirty laundry. Mr. Trump, if you want to stay president, poke a sharp stick at the guys, otherwise you may forget this ambition forever, and to you voters, we can let you know that after such a publication, you certainly don’t want to see him as president. Well, let’s leave out the details. The deadline is one week.”

The law firm, for its part, contacted authorities and opened an investigation into the incident.

There are plenty of other stories happening here on Freezenet. So, here are some of the other stories making news this month.

Other Stories Making News

The Motion Picture Association of America is calling for no safe harbour provisions in the US/Kenya free trade agreement. After making massive demands allegedly to combat piracy, the MPAA then, in turn, said that the agreement shouldn’t include safe harbour protections that are part of US law. As many know, safe harbour protections have permitted the existence of the now hugely successful tech sector in the US. That kind of innovation appears to be something the MPAA doesn’t want repeated in Kenya.

Speaking of the US, the US Supreme Court has come out with a landmark copyright decision. Last year, we profiled Carl Malamud who is being sued by the state of Georgia for posting the state’s law online for free. Georgia is suing for copyright infringement. If you can believe it, the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. In a narrow 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the state cannot copyright the law. In the ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “The Copyright Act grants potent, decades-long monopoly protection for ‘original works of authorship.’ … The question in this case is whether that protection extends to the annotations contained in Georgia’s official annotated code. We hold that it does not”. Digital rights organizations hailed this as a major win.

Canadian digital rights and education advocates are celebrating their own legal win. The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that the Access Copyright tariff is not mandatory. The Tariff, which has been constantly increasing in prices for years, adds a cost to printed and copied learning materials for students. Some observers are hoping that this will mean the cost of learning materials will finally go down after this.

In response to the court ruling, copyright lobbyists, including those that represent Access Copyright, have vowed more lobbying to reverse the court ruling.

In another follow up, we are learning that lawmakers are asking the US Copyright and Patent Office to look into state and government infringement. This follows a US Supreme Court ruling that surprised observers. That ruling said that the government in the US is immune to copyright infringement lawsuits. The ruling is the result of the Frederick Allen North Carolina case. Observers suggest that this may be the first step into reversing what happened in court.

There’s been a development in the sale of the .org top level domain. ICANN, the organization that has the final say on this matter, has decided to block the sale. After the decision was made, many digital rights organizations and non-profits cheered over the decision. The deal would’ve seen the .org top level domain get sold to private equity firm, Ethos Capital for $1.135 billion.

Ubisoft is suing Google and Apple. At issue is a game called Area F2. Where things start to get tricky is the fact that Area F2 is a mobile game developed by Ejoy – a company that is owned by Alibaba. Ubisoft says that the game is a “carbon copy” of their game “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege” – a console and PC game. Ubisoft said that they have issued DMCA notices against the game in the Google and Apple app stores, but neither complied. As a result, they are taking the two tech companies to court for copyright infringement. Given our ever growing knowledge of video game history on Freezenet, we looked at a comparison video of the two games. After our analysis, we couldn’t really find anything that made either one of these games particularly unique.

Finally, classical musicians are finding themselves losing the battle against copyright fraud. COVID-19 has had a major impact on classical musicians who play sheets of compositions clearly in the public domain. So, a number of these musicians are taking their talent online and reaching fans via platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Unfortunately, copyright bots are constantly taking down their original material. This has resulted in many of them spending hours fighting with notorious copyright dispute mechanisms on these platforms. Meanwhile, copyright bots keep flagging their material. Some have likely given up altogether and stopped producing these online performances.

Normally, we find ourselves reporting on a small handful of security incidences also making news at this point. This month, however, has been nothing short of total carnage. Freezenet has been completely inundated with security incident stories over top of the Donald Trump hack. So, strap yourself in, this month is a bumpy one.

This month, began with the Nintendo data breach. In all, 160,000 accounts were compromised.

After that, Equifax has finally reached a settlement in the Indiana class action lawsuit. In all, they are expected to pay $19.5 million over the massive 2017 data breach that exposed over 150 million American’s.

American lawmakers are demanding answers following the data leak at the Small Business Administration. The organization is offering financial relief for businesses suffering from COVID-19. Senators Ben Cardin and Marco Rubio along with Representative Nydia Velazquez are among the signatories of the letter demanding answers.

Major usenet providers UseNeXT and Usenet.nl have both suffered from a data breach. The breach has resulted in downtime for both services. The providers are blaming a third party for the breach.

From there, we saw the Webkinz data breach. In all, 23 million accounts were compromised.

After that, we saw the GoDaddy data breach. SSH access on web hosting was reportedly compromised.

That was followed up by the Tokopedia data breach. In all, 91 million accounts were compromised.

In response to the breach, the Indonesian Consumer Community filed a lawsuit against Tokopedia and the Indonesia Communications Ministry.

After that, we saw the Unacademy data breach. In all, 22 million accounts were compromised.

Live streaming adult website Cam4 suffered from a data leak. In all, 10 billion records were exposed. An estimation of how many users were affected could not be calculated to a reliable degree.

Hacking marketplace WeLeakData.com has ironically suffered from a data breach. The information that was stolen has been sold on the dark web. The website has since been shut down.

Dating mobile service MobiFriends suffered from a data breach. In all, 4 million accounts were compromised.

Photoprinting web service ChatBooks also became the victim of a data breach. Personal information from the website has been reportedly sold on the dark web.

Address web service, Covve suffered from a data leak. In all, 22 million accounts were left exposed. The leak of the database was originally labelled as “db8151dd”. The name came from a piece of data that was found in the database. Since then, security researchers were able to identify the owner of the database and notify them of the leak.

Finally, UK airline easyJet suffered from a data breach. In all, 9 million accounts were compromised.

So, quite the flurry of security incidences to report on this month.

Video Game Reviews

Now, let’s turn to entertainment to lighten to the mood.

Before we get into the video game reviews, I wanted to point out that we have posted another first impression video. This month, we gave the game Portal 2 a test run. You can check out this first impression in the link in our transcript or check out our website or YouTube channel.

Now, let’s run through the video games we’ve reviewed this month.

First up is Combat for the Atari 2600. An interesting variety to be found in the game, but there is a general lack of single player support. So, this game ends up with a 66%.

After that is Adventure for the Atari 2600. Decent learning curve, though the difficulty spike is quite severe. So, we gave this game a 66%.

Next up is Super Mario Land for the Game Boy. A game that does try to innovate, but ultimately disappoints. So, this game ends up with a 64%.

After that, we tried Alleyway for the Game Boy. Repetitive play and lack of innovation really hurts this title. So, this game ends up with a barely passable 52%.

Finally, we tried Boxxle for the Game Boy. An interesting take on the Sokoban style puzzle game, but one that doesn’t really do much to impress other players. This game only barely passes with a 50%.

Music Reviews

As for music we’ve listened to this month, we’ve got…

Paula Abdul – The Promise of a New Day

Mariah Carey – Emotions

Karyn White – Romantic

Michael Jackson – Black or White

Milk Incorporated – Sky Trance

Cathy Dennis – Touch Me (All Night Long) (7″ Mix)

Bingoboys – How to Dance

Black Box – Strike It Up (Original Mix)

… and LaTour – People Are Still Having Sex

Picks of the Month

So, that leads us to our pick of the month. This month, our pick of the month belongs to Milk Incorporated – Sky Trance.

Oddities

And in other news…

Self-isolation due to COVID-19 has led to many people getting rather bored. So, some people are getting, well, creative with their time. Two men from Idaho managed to make the news because of what they came up with to pass the time. They broke the world record for most ping pong balls caught in shaving cream. One man got to wear a hat made entirely out of shaving cream while the other threw as many ping pong balls as possible to break the record. As far as I’m concerned, we have officially reached peak boredom after reading that one.

Not everyone out there drives the speed limit. Some people go a little over because they feel comfortable driving at that speed. For one 18 year old in Etobicoke, Ontario, that whole “comfortable driving faster than the speed limit” caught the attention of police. This is because he was travelling 308KPH in a 100KPH zone. Police were able to arrest him when he got to a controlled stop on his own. When police spoke to him, police say that the driver suggested that this is something that was everyday for him. The Mercedes C 63 AMG, owned by his father, was impounded and his drivers license was suspended for 7 days. So, I guess police didn’t take too kindly to that kind of speeding.

When you are a doomsday prepper, planning for every possible outcome can become essential. For one New Jersey prepper, he thought he had everything planned out after prepping for the doomsday for 42 years. He had 4,000 rolls of toilet paper, enough supplies to last a year for 120 people, and even an electrified fence around the property. Unfortunately, there was one thing he didn’t quite account for: remembering to pay the mortgage. Oops. Authorities seized the property along with the doomsday compound, leaving him out with much of what he planned for. I guess details are everything for this sort of thing.

Outro

Before we close out this months show, we got some announcements to make.

First is the April Wiki content patch. This patch features the completion of Degenerate Radio as well as four different pages of discography information. The podcast in question feature 183 episodes spanning roughly 200 hours worth of content. We are really happy to have completed this and hope this further improves your experience exploring music on our Wiki.

Part way through May, we completed another big project for the Wiki. This time, we completed the currently active radio show, Fables. At the time of completion, we archived 144 episodes spanning roughly 150 hours worth of new music. This, of course, represents the completion of our third podcast, thus further expanding what our Wiki has to offer. We hope you enjoy this latest addition to the Wiki as well. This addition also offers three additional pages of discography information.

Finally, we got a third announcement to make this month. We’ve completed a general facelift to our official SoundCloud page. Now, the page sports a brand new look complete with original art. We hope you find our SoundCloud page more appealing now.

Also, huge shoutout to Nolan for providing mixing services!

If you’d like to get your hands on some behind the scenes stuff, exclusive content, and early access material, you can check out our Patreon page at Patreon.com/freezenet. Through this, you can help make Freezenet just that much better all the while getting some pretty cool stuff in the process. That’s Patreon.com/freezenet!

…and that’s this months episode for May, 2020, I’m Drew Wilson for Freezenet. Be sure to check out our website at freezenet.ca for all the latest in news and reviews. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @freezenetca. Thank you for listening and see you next month.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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