A weekly summary of what I’ve found interesting at the intersection of economics, finance and technology.
Citizen Lab Offers a Rare Insight in the World of Hackers for Hire — The laboratory at the University of Toronto uncovered a vast undertaking to compromise accounts belonging to social and environmental activists, apparently hired by the companies targeted by said activists. The details of the investigation make for a fascinating read and provide a good frame of mind to avoid falling victim to this kind of attack. However, the key takeaway for me is that the methods used are not particularly sophisticated or innovative, the results came from the sheer volume and persistence, with some targets receiving hundreds of phishing emails over several years. It’s hard to always be on guard like this. And another useful reminder that, if you are potentially a target of such a campaign, review your security, use 2FA where possible etc. Read (Reuters)
What It’s like To Be Mistaken for a Criminal by a Twitter Mob — A video of a cyclist attacking a couple of Black Lives Matter activists triggered an online manhunt, and almost inevitably, they got the wrong guy, based on some blurry photos and a workout in Strava. This is terrible and, sadly, probably unavoidable these days. Nonetheless it’s worth checking your privacy settings everywhere, and consider the first story above. You never know when you might become a person of interest to hackers and what they might try to do… Read (New York Magazine)
IBM Has Announced It Is Exiting the Facial Recognition Business — While this is a good thing, it’s also not very surprising to see announcements like this against the backdrop of the debate on police violence in the US currently. It’s also not clear how big of a player IBM is in this space, nor how profitable they are. Read (Axios)
Zoom Announced It Will Soon Introduce End-To-End Encryption, but for Paying Customers Only — The reasoning behind this is puzzling, ostensibly it’s to enable law enforcement to catch illegal activity on the network. It’s not clear to me that criminals would limit themselves to Zoom’s free tier, and anyway there are other free alternatives with end-to-end encryption for them to use. That also applies to the rest of us, if it has to stay confidential and private, best not use Zoom… Read (Bloomberg $)
Goldman Sachs Deems Bitcoin Not a Worthy Asset for Its Clients — Crypto fanboys are not amused. Read (FT Alphaville)
Researchers are working on “privacy labels”, akin to nutrition labels on food, that highlight at a glance what a product or service does with your data. Interesting idea. Read (Wired)
China’s plans to implement a national security law in Hong Kong have triggered a rush towards VPN services, and highlight the existential threat to the internet as we know it. Read (FT $)
Angry column at Elon Musk’s plans to litter low-earth orbit with thousands of satellites, endangering manned space missions and other more important satellites. This should all be regulated. Read (The Next Web)
Apple was granted a patent for “remote group selfies”, where people in different places are stitched together in the same photo. Sounds extremely topical, and yet the patent application was filed a couple of years ago… Read (The Verge)
That’s it for this week’s edition. As always, thanks for reading and please forward this to anyone who you think might be interested, it would be much appreciated.