FOXTROT/ALFA: Iran Brings the Cyber, Trump Says He’ll Declare War on Twitter, Print is Dead (on Google News)

Welcome to the 56th issue of FOXTROT/ALFA for Monday, 6 January 2020. Tomorrow, CES kicks off in Las Vegas, so prepare to be inundated with news about consumer products nobody needs and which, in many cases, will never see the market. Same procedure as every year. But anyway, here’s the last batch of pre-CES tech news from today.

Iran Kicks Off the Cyber War …Maybe?

According to CBS, hackers have defiled a US government website with pro-Iran propaganda, apparently in response to the US drone killing of Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. Is this a prelude to all-out war? Probably not, because nobody even knew what the U.S. Federal Depository Library Program was before it was attacked on Saturday. And an affiliation of the so-called “Iran Cyber Security Group Hackers” to the Iranian state could not be confirmed, either.

Trump Informs Congress via Twitter

Meanwhile, President Trump is informing Congress that war might break out via Twitter.

These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!

Of course, some smartasses immediately pointed out that legal notice is required as of Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the US Constitution (the “War Powers Clause”) and the War Powers Resolution of 1973. These people should maybe look up the blanket Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against terrorists that was passed by Congress in 2001 and has been used, among other things, by President Obama to attack Al-Qaeda targets without Congressional approval in 2015. Meaning Trump can simply write this airstrike off as a justified attack on a terrorist leader instead of a declaration of war.

Uni Gießen Up and Running Again

After making 38,000 queue up for new passwords in December, the Justus Liebig Universität in Gießen is mostly up and running again. According to Heise , “IT specialists have been working since Christmas without pause” to fix the mess created by a massive Emotet ransomware infection. Most systems have now been cleaned and re-installed and day-to-day teaching operations “should be back to normal in the coming days and weeks.”

Google News is Killing Off Digital Magazines

Print is dead. At least as far as Google is concerned. Reading print magazines on Android in Google News will soon be a thing of the past.

This notification is to inform you that we’re discontinuing print-replica magazines in Google News. This means you won’t be able to purchase new print-replica magazine issues or renew your subscription via Google News. However, you’ll continue to have access to all issues you previously subscribed to in the Google News app, in the Following or Favorites tab, depending on your app version. To continue to read the latest articles, we encourage you to search for that publication in Google News, or visit the publication’s website.

Meanwhile, c’t magazine is celebrating its 750th issue . It still has about 200,000 subscribers. Clocks have always run a bit slower in Germany than in the rest of the world, it seems.

Jackhammer: Rowhammer for FPGAs

Jackhammer is a Rowhammer-like attack for FPGA cards. FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) are multipurpose integrated circuit boards that can be used by consumers to implement their own, ad-hoc logic functions in hardware – and thus can provide a big speed boost compared with implementing the same logic in software.

Seeing that FPGA-CPU architectures are becoming more common, a team of researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the US, the University of Lübeck in Germany, and Intel, have looked into how Rowhammer attacks impact this new cloud setup.

They found that when the attack code is launched from within a user-configured FPGA, Rowhammer attacks are more efficient at causing bit flips and do it at a faster speed than if the attack was launched using malicious code executed inside the CPU – as is how all other Rowhammer attacks work. This is because FPGA cards connect directly to a processor’s bus, giving the FPGA direct and untethered access to the CPU cache and RAM memory. Further, FPGA’s don’t have to deal with firmware and OS software, allowing it to run code faster than a normal CPU.

In short: Because FPGAs may allow quicker access to memory than software, they can cause more bit flips and thus speed up Rowhammer attacks.

→ If you’re not up to speed on what Rowhammer is, Wikipedia has a decent primer on the technique.

Things are Getting Serious between Xerox and HP

Xerox has secured a $24 billion loan in its ongoing bid to stage a hostile takeover of the larger HP. It would need about $33 billion to complete the transaction.

The months-long saga began in early November when HP confirmed it has received an offer, which comprised of $17bn in cash and 0.137 Xerox shares for each unit of HP stock. When the talks first became public, HP had a market cap of $27.27bn compared to Xerox’s $8.05bn. At the time of writing, HP’s valuation has risen to $29.83bn but Xerox has slipped to $7.88bn.

HP’s board claimed this offer undervalued its business and presented Xerox with a string of questions before it agreed to enter into mutual due diligence. These included ones about Xerox’s future revenue trajectory and business prospects, given the steep decline in sales; and the potential impact of outsized debts on the merged company’s stock.

Also Noteworthy

Some other stories that might be of interest, especially if you’re into Linux:

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.