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The Dirt Report: Who pickled Australia’s IT infrastructure?

Every week “Techman” Pat Lazarz takes a look at the latest going on in the Australian tech stratosphere…

The Australian government is and has been under a cyber attack by a certain “state” that Prime Minister Morrison won’t say who just yet but all articles and all signs point at the Republic of Madagascar, oh hang on, wrong article, its China!

Of course its China, who else? North Korea? Their servers are still running windows millennium edition, well not really…

Here is what Morrison had to say:

“This activity is targeting Australian organisations across a range of sectors, including all levels of government, industry, political organisations, education, health, essential service providers and operators of other critical infrastructure”

He also added: “We know it is a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting and the tradecraft used.”

Morrison has not yet named the state, and many outlets are pointing fingers at China, due to the size and technical ability, but we should not discount Russia, though I think they are more preoccupied with re-electing Trump.

Here is the thing, these attacks have been going on for awhile this isn’t major news, however what’s alarming, and I certainly do feel alarmed is the sudden increase, and with all the trade wars going on now its just adding pickles to a burger order that said no pickles – just wait till they take a bite.

Morrison isn’t going to reveal who put pickles in his burger, but instead said, “Australia doesn’t engage lightly in public attributions and when and if we choose to do so, it is always done in the context of what we believe to be in our strategic national interests.”

And honestly that’s fair, giving away too much to the media would mean they lose their upper hand.

So far there have been no actual data breaches.

Optus and Telstra still happy to play with China

Now on the other side of the post we have Telstra and Optus who are keen to keep their midnight romps with China friendly and on-going.

In fact Telstra’s Andy Penn had a few things to say after Morrison’s statements.

“Our own monitoring confirms what the Prime Minister has said today. We have seen a significant increase in cyber-attack activity in recent weeks and we are on heightened alert for ourselves and for our customers and we are actively managing the risk,” Mr Penn said.

“Cyber security is a large and growing area of risk for the security of the nation, and COVID-19 has increased that risk with so many of people working and studying from home, away from traditional security measures”

What does he mean traditional security measures?

“The Australian government deserves real credit for the leadership it is showing on cyber security – it is critical for our national security and economic growth,” Penn continued.

“We continue to work closely with the relevant security agencies and our global partners to monitor and understand these threats to better protect our own data and networks, and those of our customers.

“I am also working with the government as the chair of the Industry Advisory Panel on its 2020 Cyber Security Strategy, and we will be releasing our report in the coming weeks.”

Telstra has been in China since 1989.

In fact they serve up to 30 percent of Asia’s internet traffic and they were the first foreign company licensed to provide connectivity and network services on the mainland through their PBS joint venture, so there is money to be made and Telstra ain’t going anywhere.

ACCC concerned about Google’s Fitbit play

Google is looking to snag up Fitbit for a cool $2.1 billion and the ACCC is concerned.

Under the deal, Fitbit will be joining Google itself – similar to like when they acquired Nest – it will exist on its own, but it will be part of the Alphabet group of companies.

This way Google will be able to integrate new Fitbit devices deeper into their android ecosystem and create competition for Apple’s watch line up.

According to a separate press release issued by Fitbit, the company will still take privacy for health and fitness data seriously, noting that “Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads”.

Now I’m sure but the fact that they mentioned it they thought it would be of concern to people and that’s what the ACCC is focusing on.

The argument the ACCC is using is the fact that Fitbit has been tracking health data for years, not just how many steps you do but also your sleep and location information.

For now the ACCC is going to review the acquisition and will target the digital and online advertising services and data-dependent health markets.

Then we will see if Fitbit data has any potential value to Google, but at the end of the day Google would have access to all this without any road blocks.

Here is what our fearless leader Rod Sims said:

“The ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry found that Google’s substantial market power is built on its concentration of search and location data, and data collected via third-party websites and apps.”

“Past acquisitions by Google, of both start-ups and mature companies like Fitbit, have further entrenched Google’s position.

“The access to user data available to Google has made it so valuable to advertisers that it faces only limited competition.”

To note however Fitbit is also connected to certain employers and insurers, giving them valuable data.

In a post last year on the topic of Fitbits acquisition, Rick Osterloh Senior Vice President, Devices & Services said that “Google aspires to create tools that help people enhance their knowledge, success, health and happiness. This goal is closely aligned with Fitbit’s long-time focus on wellness and helping people live healthier, more active lives. But to get this right, privacy and security are paramount. When you use our products, you’re trusting Google with your information”.

NBNCo bandaids another easy fix

The NBN is taking notes from other services and this time around it is an online booking system.

You could end up booking an NBN service install just like an uber!

The new automated process will be able to reschedule appointments via an online tool.

The system will give you two days to respond and the trial will run in July, testing the scheduling app via sms and online.

NBN co said that this system is a result of COVID-19 and the lack of staff on hand to rebook appointments, but in my opinion I think it’s a way to fix a process that was broken even before then.

So far three RSPs have signed up to the test, so don’t expect this to go live nationwide anytime soon, once the feedback is back I expect this to be an opt-in system for the RSPs.

Zoom finally caves

Zoom has finally caved in and will be providing end to end encryption to both paid and free users.

In a blog post Zoom CEO ERIC YUAN said:

“Since releasing the draft design of Zoom’s end-to-end encryption (E2EE) on May 22, we have engaged with civil liberties organizations, our CISO council, child safety advocates, encryption experts, government representatives, our own users, and others to gather their feedback on this feature. We have also explored new technologies to enable us to offer E2EE to all tiers of users.”

Twitter gives you your own voice (again)…

Twitter is adding a new way to tweet, this time with a short audio message,

Twitter product designer Maya Patterson said:

“Sometimes 280 characters aren’t enough and some conversational nuances are lost in translation.”

“So starting today, we’re testing a new feature that will add a more human touch to the way we use Twitter — your very own voice.”

All I can imagine is teenagers and adults spamming profanities, and that sounds pretty fun to me.

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away…

Next up its some big games Star Wars Squadron is the latest video game announced from EA to demonstrate how you can take a beloved franchise and milk it for all you can.

This time around you get to battle in space and you know what after looking at the game play it looks pretty good.

Squadrons puts players in the cockpit of a number of the iconic series’ spaceships including the X-Wing, A-Wing, Y-Wing, U-Wing, TIE Fighter, TIE Interceptor, TIE Bomber, and TIE Reaper fighters in either head-to-head or multiplayer battles.

It’s coming to PC, PS4 and Xbox in October.

About the author

Patryk Lazarz

Patryk Lazarz

Patryk Lazarz, commonly known as "Techman Pat" is a WA tech guru who runs his own YouTube channel . Every Sunday, Patryk writes a weekly column alongside his 'Dirt Report', bringing you the latest in tech news in Western Australia.

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