Offbeat

Bootnotes

ZX Spectrum reboot scandal man sits on Steve Bannon design tech shindig committee

RCL chief David Levy is member of ACE2018 committee


David Levy, one of the players in the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega+ scandal in the UK, has reappeared in the news – in connection with a gaming and design tech conference that invited notorious alt-right firebrand Steve Bannon to be its keynote speaker.

The Advances in Computer Entertainment 2018 conference, an obscure academic knees-up (example paper title: “Technical and User Evaluation of Babbage Cabbage: An Empathetic Biological Media”) has shot to prominence after its organisers asked Bannon to discuss economic nationalism.

For those lucky few who have managed to avoid hearing about the boiling cesspit that is American politics right now, Bannon was briefly a top adviser to US President Donald Trump, as well as having been exec chairman of the far-right American website Breitbart "News." He is something of a hate figure to those not on the hard-right wing of politics. Many on the right also keep their distance from this chap, who once said he was fascinated by Mussolini.

Wired magazine published a querulous article asking why Bannon had been invited to speak at the conference, noting that organiser Adrian Cheok had merged ACE2018 with another conference he runs: the International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots.

Curiously, that is also the title of a book written by Levy, who sits on ACE’s organising committee. That fact has not gone unnoticed by the crowd who funded Levy’s last commercial venture, the ZX Spectrum Vega+ handheld gaming console. They flooded ACE’s Facebook page with outrage at his appointment to the ACE committee in August.

ZX Spectrum saga not over yet

As regular readers know all too well, Levy’s company, Retro Computers Ltd, took £513,000 in crowdfunded cash from 4,500 members of the public a few years ago to build modern, handheld versions of the old Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Levy is RCL's chairman.

A small number of devices in what appeared to be prototype format were eventually delivered, with the company ignoring the majority of those demanding their money back. One sued RCL; and won; others are waiting patiently for their £105 per device to be refunded to them.

Indiegogo, the crowdfunding platform which enabled all this, has seemingly turned its back on the whole scandal after some vague words about retaining debt collectors. It has issued no updates about progress on recovering the monies, and its last involvement with the project was to contradict (on 5 July 2018) claims by RCL that Indiegogo itself had been hacked.

We have asked Levy to comment on both his involvement with ACE and Steve Bannon, as well as the status of RCL and the Vega+. He has, however, been uncommunicative since the summer. ®

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Facebook fined £50m in UK for 'conscious' refusal to report info and 'deliberate failure to comply' during Giphy acquisition probe

That rebrand can't come soon enough

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has smacked Facebook with a £50m ($68.7m) fine for "deliberately" not giving it the full picture about its ongoing $400m acquisition of gif-slinger Giphy.

The move  – fingered by the CMA as a "major breach" – comes just weeks after the antisocial network dismissed the UK's regulator's initial findings as being based on "fundamental errors" and just hours after the US Dept of Justice and its Department of Labor announced separate agreements with the firm in which it will fork over $14.25m to settle allegations of discriminatory hiring practices.

Facebook first announced its intention to buy the image platform, which hosts a searchable database of short looping soundless animated GIFs – many of which are sourced from reality TV and films – in May last year. Giphy also hosts MP4 looped video clips (so users can "enjoy" audio), which it also unaccountably calls gifs. Pinterest, Reddit and Salesforce's comms firm Slack have all integrated Giphy into their platforms so you can "react" to friends and colleagues. Facebook's acquisition values the company at $400m.

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Not just deprecated, but deleted: Google finally strips File Transfer Protocol code from Chrome browser

A death by a thousand cuts

The Chromium team has finally done it – File Transfer Protocol (FTP) support is not just deprecated, but stripped from the codebase in the latest stable build of the Chrome browser, version 95.

It has been a while coming. A lack of support for encrypted connections in Chrome's FTP implementation, coupled with a general disinterest from the majority of the browser's users, and more capable third-party alternatives being available has meant that the code has moved from deprecated to gone entirely.

Support for fetching document resources over FTP was stripped from Chrome 72, proxy support for FTP was removed in Chrome 76, and Chrome 86 introduced a flag to turn it off completely.

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Brave's homegrown search claims to protect your privacy but there's a long way to go if it's to challenge the big G

Ad-free now but not forever

The Brave browser will now default to the company's own search engine, claimed to preserve privacy, while a new Web Discovery Project aims to collect search data again with privacy protection.

The Brave web browser is based on the Google-sponsored Chromium engine but with features designed to prevent tracking, as well as an unusual reward system using its own cryptocurrency, the Basic Attention Token (BAT). Brave search will now be the default on new installs for desktop, Android, and iOS. Existing Brave users will keep their current default unless they choose to change it.

Brave Search was released in beta in June and uses technology called Tailcat, acquired from the failed German Cliqz project, which also sought to provide a Google-free index.

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NHS Digital exposes hundreds of email addresses after BCC blunder copies in entire invite list to 'Let's talk cyber' event

It's like rai-iiiiiin on your wedding day

NHS Digital has scored a classic Mail All own-goal by dispatching not one, not two, not three, but four emails concerning an infosec breakfast briefing, each time copying the entirety of the invite list in on the messages.

The first email sent yesterday morning thanked participants for "registering for NHS Digital's Full Digital Breakfast: Let's talk cyber, scheduled for Thursday 21 October 2021, 8:00-9:00am."

Apparently Neil Bennett, CISO at NHS Digital, and Phil Huggins, National CISO at NHS X, "along with guest speakers, will have a conversation about the ongoing protection and how an increasingly digitised world means we must be super vigilant and cyber secure, where cyber hygiene is essential in protecting patients."

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Hitting underground pipes and cables costs the UK £2.4bn a year. We need a data platform for that, says government

Atkins wins £23m deal to build National Underground Asset Register

The UK government has awarded management consultancy Atkins a £23m contract to help it get to grips with accidental damage to underground pipes and cables, which is costing £2.4bn a year.

The Geospatial Commission, an independent expert committee within the Cabinet Office, has awarded the work to help it build "a secure data exchange platform providing a comprehensive, trusted and secure digital map of where buried assets are located."

Documents attached to a competitive tender notice point out that when digging up roads or attempting any other subterranean engineering, workers suffer the considerable difficulty of finding out what other human-made structures might be down there.

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Lunar rocks brought to Earth by China's Chang'e 5 show Moon's volcanoes were recently* active

* Just a couple of billion years

The Moon remained volcanically active much later than previously thought, judging from fragments of rocks dating back two billion years that were collected by China's Chang’e 5 spacecraft.

The Middle Kingdom's space agency obtained about 1.72 kilograms (3.8 pounds) of lunar material from its probe that returned to Earth from the Moon in December. These samples gave scientists their first chance to get their hands on fresh Moon material in the 40 years since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 mission brought 170 grams (six ounces) of regolith to our home world in 1976.

The 47 shards of basalt rocks retrieved by Chang'e 5 were estimated to be around two billion years old using radiometric dating techniques. The relatively young age means that the Moon was still volcanically active up to 900 million years later than previous estimates, according to a team of researchers led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

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Centre for Computing History apologises to customers for 'embarrassing' breach

Website patched following phishing scam, no financial data exposed

Updated The Centre for Computing History (CCH) in Cambridge, England, has apologised for an "embarrassing" breach in its online customer datafile, though thankfully no payment card information was exposed.

The museum for computers and video games said it was notified that a unique email address used to book tickets via its website "has subsequently received a phishing email that looked like it came from HSBC."

"Our investigation has revealed that our online customer datafile has been compromised and the email addresses contained within are now in the hands of spammers," says the letter to visitors from Jason Fitzpatrick, CEO and trustee at CCH dated 19 October.

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Ancient with a dash of modern: We joined the Royal Navy to find there's little new in naval navigation

Following the Fleet Navigating Officers' course

Boatnotes II The art of not driving your warship into the coast or the seabed is a curious blend of the ancient and the very modern, as The Reg discovered while observing the Royal Navy's Fleet Navigating Officers' (FNO) course.

Held aboard HMS Severn, "sea week" of the FNO course involves taking students fresh from classroom training and putting them on the bridge of a real live ship – and then watching them navigate through progressively harder real-life challenges.

"It's about finding where the students' capacity limit is," FNO instructor Lieutenant Commander Mark Raeburn told The Register. Safety comes first: the Navy isn't interested in having navigators who can't keep up with the pressures and volume of information during pilotage close to shore – or near enemy minefields.

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Darmstadt, we have a problem – ESA reveals its INTEGRAL space telescope was three hours from likely death

Gamma ray-spotting 'scope was spinning uncontrollably and unable to make 'leccy until dramatic rescue

The European Space Agency (ESA) revealed on Monday that its 19-year-old International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) had a near-death experience last month when failure of a small yet significant part caused it to spin uncontrollably and prevented its solar panels from generating power.

According to ESA's blog, one of the scope's three active 'reaction wheels' – flywheels that help to stabilise attitude – turned off without warning. Absent the reaction wheel's energy, INTEGRAL rotated dangerously.

The ESA activated Emergency Safe Attitude Mode, but that was ineffective because a July 2020 failure had left the geriatric satellite's thrusters inoperable.

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When it comes to ransomware, every second hurts

Fortinet seeks to make EDR easy for non-specialists

Sponsored For the longest time it seemed that modern endpoint detection and response (EDR) was getting on top of the worst malware, only for that certainty to evaporate in a single day in June 2017 thanks to a strange malware event remembered as the NotPetya attack.

A lot of virtual ink has flowed on the origins of NotPetya but the most important aspect of its behaviour for anyone involved in endpoint defence EDR was the stunning speed with which it turned entire networks of computers into boxes uselessly pushing warm air. The word ‘fast’ gets bandied around a lot in malware incidents but for once this was no hyperbole, reportedly downing an entire Ukrainian bank in 45 seconds and a network running part of the country’s transit system in a third of that time.

That means the infection unfolded in roughly 15 seconds to less than a minute. As with the equally swift WannaCry infection which had encrypted at least 200,000 computers in 150 countries only weeks earlier, this was far faster than EDR systems of the time - and the teams fielding the alerts generated by them - could possibly react. Security Operations Centre (SoC) teams couldn’t even ask employees to turn their computers off.

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Facebook may soon reveal new name – we're sure Reg readers will be more creative than Zuck's marketroids

We've kicked things off with the most splendidly evil fictional corporations, feel free to share your ideas

POLL Consumer tech outlet The Verge today reports that Facebook may soon reveal a new name.

Apparently Zuck wants to create an umbrella brand – a bit like Google did when it created Alphabet as its parent company. The Social Network™ is also keen to reflect its shift to "the metaverse", as signalled by its plan to hire 10,000 new workers to build some version of shared virtual reality.

Facebook has clammed up about its plans.

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