The Truth: Firefox with JavaScript Issues, Facebook Sues NSO Group, Revolt at Gizmodo, Kotaku and Deadspin

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Welcome to another hump day edition of The Truth. Today, I once again bring you interesting tidings from the worlds of IT security, hardware, software, Linux and journalism. Let’s dive right in, there’s a lot to cover.

Firefox 70 is having issues with JavaScript loading. According to Mozilla, “dynamic JavaScript (like YouTube or Facebook)” is effected. I’m not quite sure if there is static JavaScript, but there you go… The developers recommend a workaround if you’re having issues. They are also working on a fix, they say.

Remember that AWS downtime caused by a DDoS attack? Amazon still isn’t saying exactly what happened. But according to The Register, somebody was asleep at the wheel over there. “Amazon was slow in reacting to the attack, and that tardiness was likely the result of its looking in the wrong places.” This of course didn’t only have consequences for just Amazon alone: “The attack targeted Amazon’s S3 – Simple Storage Service – which provides object storage through a web interface. It did not directly target the larger Amazon Web Services (AWS) but for many companies the end result was the same: their websites fell over.”

In other Amazon news, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK has ordered Amazon to change its Prime subscription page after customers complained that they were signed up for the service against their wishes. Hold on to you hats, because this thing is about to get complicated. Here’s how the ASA describes the issue: “The option to sign up for the trial of Amazon Prime was a grey box with a gold box inside. Text in the gold box stated Order Now with Prime, and we considered that the average consumer was likely to understand that to be one discrete option. Directly beneath that, and still within the larger grey box, text stated, Continue with FREE One-Day Delivery Pay later. We considered that the presentation and wording of that text meant it was likely to be seen by the average consumer as a separate option. However, we understood that, in fact, both boxes were part of the same option. The option to continue without signing up for the trial was presented as text stating Continue and don’t gain Amazon Prime benefits, which was small and placed in a position which could easily be missed by consumers. It was also in a faint colour, and compared to the option presented in the grey and gold boxes it was significantly less prominent. We considered that the average consumer was likely to view the text within the grey and gold boxes as the only two options available, with the option in the grey box allowing them to continue without signing up to Prime, when that was not the case.” Holy shit. How annoying. Sounds like Amazon is really desperate to have people sign up for Prime.

Facebook is suing Israeli Spyware maker NSO Group over an attack on WhatsApp users that came to light in May and was subsequently patched by the app’s developers. The Register reports: “NSO Group makes a form of snoop-ware called Pegasus. The biz maintains that it sells the software – which silently infects and monitors targets' phones and devices – only to governments and intelligence agencies to fight terrorism. But human-rights groups have accused the firm of making its surveillance code available for use against lawyers, dissidents, activists, journalists, and other rights advocates. It is thus believed NSO Group, in this case, compromised people’s gadgets on behalf of a mystery customer.” NSO Group, as always, completely denies the allegations. “Our technology is not designed or licensed for use against human rights activists and journalists. It has helped to save thousands of lives over recent years.” Sure, by hacking into people’s WhatsApp, I’m guessing. They of course roll out child pornography again, which always tells you that someone is full of crap.

Have you ever asked yourself what it’s like to be Linus Torvalds? The head of Linux development has now explained exactly that at the Open Source Summit in Lyon: “I read email. I write email. I do no coding at all any more. Much of the code I write I actually write inside my mail reader.” Doesn’t sound like fun, if you ask me. More insights from Linus at The Register.

Facebook has now agreed to pay a £500,000 fine imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. “It had originally appealed the penalty, causing the data protection watchdog to pursue its own counter-appeal”, the BBC reports. The fine is the maximum amount of money the ICO can impose. It must be laughably small to a company with revenue exceeding $55 billion a year. They only reason they even tried to oppose it must have been to save face in the public perception of the company.

AMD is making a lot of money on its Ryzen stuff, but revenue ist still only up 9% (at $1.8 billion). This is due to the enterprise, embedded and semi-custom (games consoles) sections of its business being down 25% year-over-year. Apparently this is mostly because people aren’t buying PlayStations and Xboxes as they are waiting for the new console generation to be released.

G/O Media, the company owning Gizmodo, The Onion, Kotaku, Deadspin and Jezebel has an open revolt by its editorial staff on its hands after rolling out horrible autoplay video ads on all its properties and then telling Deadspin writers to stick to writing about sports stories on their sports news site. While the ads thing is horrible, one can kinda understand that the owners of these sites object to the editors at their sports publication writing stories like “Woman Furiously S—s on Floor of Tim Hortons, Throws it At Employees”, “What Did We Get Stuck in Our Rectums Last Year” and “The Hateful Life and Spiteful Death of the Man Who Was Vig the Carpatian”. One could even argue they are having the best interests of their readers at heart. But when senior editor Barry Petchesky was told these stories were not what the guys paying his salary wanted to see, but kept publishing them, he was fired – which is kind of understandable. Now all hell has broken lose and staff at all G/O Media publications seems to be in open revolt. This, of course, extends to gaming site Kotaku, which is notorious among gamers for pushing all kinds of political and social agendas instead of just writing things about video games that readers actually want to know. Here’s to hoping this whole thing ends in a crackdown by the owners that sees these sites covering the topics they were set up to cover instead of writing about things stuck in rectums and Luigi’s penis size.

This is an archived issue of my daily newsletter FOXTROT/ALFA. You can find more information about it, including how to subscribe via email, on this page.