Personal Tech

Samsung: We will remotely brick smart TVs looted from our warehouse

Terminally dumb tellies now ... if they switch on the Wi-Fi

Samsung is remotely bricking smart TVs it said were looted from one of its South African warehouses amid violent unrest in the nation.

On July 8, rioting kicked off in KwaZulu-Natal, the home province of former President Jacob Zuma, as he started a 15-month stretch behind bars for contempt of court. Shopping malls and other businesses were ransacked by mobs grabbing food, electronics, and other supplies.

A few days later, on July 11, Samsung's Cato Ridge warehouse in the province was caught up in the looting, the mega-corporation said, with smart televisions stolen from the distribution center. The violence wound down by July 18. Whoever ends up with the kit is likely in for disappointment as this month chaebol is disabling the devices as soon as they connect to the internet.

The Samsung televisions ship with a TV Block app, which connects to Samsung servers the minute an internet connection is available. The device reports its serial number and if it matches a list of missing hardware, all television functions are killed off remotely.

Normal service can be restored if you can provide a valid proof of purchase and a TV license, Samsung's South African operation said. The manufacturing giant stressed it is only using TV Block on the kit stolen from its warehouse, and not for the other victims of South Africa's most popular crime.

“In keeping with our values to leverage the power of technology to resolve societal challenges, we will continuously develop and expand strategic products in our consumer electronics division with defence-grade security, purpose-built, with innovative and intuitive business tools designed for a new world," said Mike Van Lier, director of consumer electronics at Samsung South Africa.

"This technology can have a positive impact at this time, and will also be of use to both the industry and customers in the future."

Opinion on that last sentiment will be split; this system of mass remote bricking is rife with potential for abuse. Some may be nervous that Samsung can kill any TV set it likes over the internet. Others may want stolen goods rendered essentially useless with a valid police report as it may deter thieves. It's a veritable minefield.

Samsung was unavailable for further comment. ®

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There are 875 million good reasons why the paperless office won't happen soon

UK Cabinet Office organises latest print hardware and supplies mega framework

The UK government has awarded a contract worth up to £875m for a range of printer hardware and multi-function devices in a move which again raises questions about whether the paperless office was a dream that has faded in the recesses of our collective memory.

In a contract award notice, the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), which spearheads cross-government procurement under the umbrella of the Cabinet Office, said a gang of hardware vendors had won work that might be sufficient to buy Newcastle United Football Club twice over and have change to spare.

CCS worked with education buying agencies YPO and ESPO to put the deal together, which began with a prior information notice covered in these pages. The "pan-government collaborative agreement", which can be accessed by central government departments and other public-sector bodies, is split into four lots:

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Ubuntu 21.10: Plan to do yourself an Indri? Here's what's inside... including a bit of GNOME schooling

Plus: Rounded corners make GNOME 40 look like Windows 11

Review Canonical has released Ubuntu 21.10, or "Impish Indri" as this one is known. This is the last major version before next year's long-term support release of Ubuntu 22.04, and serves as a good preview of some of the changes coming for those who stick with LTS releases.

If you prefer to run the latest and greatest, 21.10 is a solid release with a new kernel, a major GNOME update, and some theming changes. As a short-term support release, Ubuntu 21.10 will be supported for nine months, which covers you until July 2022, by which point 22.04 will already be out.

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Heart FM's borkfast show – a fine way to start your day

Jamie and Amanda have a new co-presenter to contend with

There can be few things worse than Microsoft Windows elbowing itself into a presenting partnership, as seen in this digital signage for the Heart breakfast show.

For those unfamiliar with the station, Heart is a UK national broadcaster with Global as its parent. It currently consists of a dozen or so regional stations with a number of shows broadcast nationally. Including a perky breakfast show featuring former Live and Kicking presenter Jamie Theakston and Britain's Got Talent judge, Amanda Holden.

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Think your phone is snooping on you? Hold my beer, says basic physics

Information wants to be free, and it's making its escape

Opinion Forget the Singularity. That modern myth where AI learns to improve itself in an exponential feedback loop towards evil godhood ain't gonna happen. Spacetime itself sets hard limits on how fast information can be gathered and processed, no matter how clever you are.

What we should expect in its place is the robot panopticon, a relatively dumb system with near-divine powers of perception. That's something the same laws of physics that prevent the Godbot practically guarantee. The latest foreshadowing of mankind's fate? The Ethernet cable.

By itself, last week's story of a researcher picking up and decoding the unintended wireless emissions of an Ethernet cable is mildly interesting. It was the most labby of lab-based demos, with every possible tweak applied to maximise the chances of it working. It's not even as if it's a new discovery. The effect and its security implications have been known since the Second World War, when Bell Labs demonstrated to the US Army that a wired teleprinter encoder called SIGTOT was vulnerable. It could be monitored at a distance and the unencrypted messages extracted by the radio pulses it gave off in operation.

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What do you mean you gave the boss THAT version of the report? Oh, ****ing ****balls

Say what you mean

NSFW Who, Me? Ever written that angry email and accidentally hit send instead of delete? Take a trip back to the 1990s equivalent with a slightly NSFW Who, Me?

Our story, from "Matt", flings us back the best part of 30 years to an era when mobile telephones were the preserve of the young, upwardly mobile professionals and fixed lines ruled the roost for more than just your senior relatives.

Back then, Matt was working for a UK-based fixed-line telephone operator. He was dealing with a telephone exchange which served a relatively large town. "I ran a reasonably ordinary, read-only command to interrogate a specific setting," he told us.

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Chinese tech minister says he's 'dealt with' 73,000 sites that breached the law

Ongoing crackdown saw apps 1.83 million apps tested, 4,200 told to clean up their act, pop-up ads popped

China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology, Xiao Yaqing, has given a rare interview in which he signalled the nation's crackdown on the internet and predatory companies will continue.

The interview, reported in state-controlled organ Xinhua, reveals that China's recent crackdowns on inappropriate content and companies with monopolistic tendencies have both bitten – hard.

The nation investigated 1.83 million apps to ensure they don't infringe users' rights. Some 4,200 illegal apps found to require "rectification".

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Whatever sort of disaster we’re talking about, if your backups are fried, you’re not going to recover

Here’s how zero trust and immutability can save you

Sponsored When you’re putting your enterprise security and data management strategy in place, should you worry more about ransomware or natural disasters?

Yes, of course, it’s a trick question. But while you can’t accurately predict when your facilities are likely to be hit by an earthquake, flood, or plague of locusts you can probably be assured that your systems are going to be constantly bombarded by cyberthreats, which increasingly means malware.

That’s why a zero trust approach to security is a given, as is a focus on how quickly you can recover your data if an attack does hit home, and that means immutable backups and rock solid data management.

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Chinese developers rebel against long working hours with crowdsourced tell-all on employers

Despite modern labour laws, 72-hour work weeks are still common

Chinese software developers have crowdsourced a spreadsheet that dishes the dirt on working conditions at hundreds of employers.

Dubbed WorkingTime, the protest aims to offer transparency regarding how many work hours are expected. Many organisations expect 72-hour working weeks - an arrangement dubbed "996" after the 9am to 9pm, six days a week culture in place at many Chinese companies.

The practice has sometimes been promoted by the rich and famous: Alibaba's Jack Ma publicly stated that employees should actually want to work long hours and a job you love enough to spend that much time doing is a "blessing".

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US gov claims ransomware 'earned' $590m in the first half of 2021 alone – mostly in Bitcoin

Names and bars crypto exchange SUEX, warns paying ransoms could spell trouble

Ransomware extracted at least $590 million for the miscreants who create and distribute it in the first half of 2021 alone – more than the $416 million tracked in all of 2020, according to the US government’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Total ransomware-related financial activity may have reached $5.2 billion.

The $590 million figure is contained in a Financial Trend Analysis report [PDF] by the agency, and reflects transactions identified in financial institutions' Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs). FinCEN's analysis of visible blockchain activity yielded the $5.2 billion figure.

FinCEN analysed 635 SARs, of which 458 described transactions reported between 1 January 2021 and 30 June 2021 and the remainder reported older transactions later found to be suspicious. In full-year 2020, the agency saw 487 SARs filed.

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Oops, they did it again – rogue Soyuz spurt gave ISS an attitude problem

Crew successfully de-orbited on Sunday carrying vital payload: footage for a movie shot in space

The International Space Station has again had to compensate for unexpected thrusting by a Russian spacecraft.

Readers may remember that Russia's Nauka module unexpectedly fired its thrusters upon arrival at the ISS in July 2021.

The space station tilted 45 degrees and required restorative action to resume its intended attitude.

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NFTs not annoying enough? Now they come with wallet-emptying malware

Plus rifle-toting robot dogs, but makers insist they're really dumb

In brief Whether or not non-fungible tokens are a flash in the pan or forever, malware operators have been keen to weaponise the technology.

An investigation was triggered after a number of cryptowallets belonging to customers of the largest NFT exchange OpenSea got mysteriously emptied. Researchers at security shop Check Point found a nasty form of NFT was in circulation, one that came with its own malware package.

People were receiving free NFTs from an unknown benefactor, but when they accepted the gift the attackers got access to their wallet information in OpenSea's storage systems. The code generated a pop-up, that if clicked, allowed wallets to be emptied.

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