FOXTROT/ALFA: Sea of Thieves Very Successful for Microsoft, California Sues Sun Co-Founder over a Beach, Still 27% of Windows Users on Windows 7

Welcome to issue 59 of FOXTROT/ALFA for Thursday, 9 January 2020. Seems like the CES news are already winding down, which is probably for the best. Instead we have some news about a Sun co-founder and his beach, the impending Windows 7 armageddon and stuff about Ring, of course. There’s always bad things going on with Ring.

Chrome Security Updates

A recent security update for Google’s Chrome browser fixes three security vulnerabilities, one of them (CVE-2020-6377) is rated as a “high” risk.

The stable channel has been updated to 79.0.3945.117 for Windows, Mac, and Linux, which will roll out over the coming days/weeks.

More details in this blog post by Google.

The End is Nigh!

… well, the end of Windows 7 and Server 2008 at least. Support will end next Tuesday (14 January), but more than a quarter of Windows users are still using Windows 7 even though it’ll start to become horribly unsecure really fast. As The Register sums it up:

It is remarkable that Windows 7 is reaching end of support on January 14 2020 while maintaining something approaching 27 per cent market share among Windows users, according to Statcounter. This is down from 35 per cent in December 2018 but still substantial. Windows has a share among desktop users of around 77 per cent, so that is around 20 per cent of active desktop PCs.

“End of support” means no technical support, software updates or security fixes from Microsoft. Of these, the significant piece is the security fixes. Without regular patches, flaws that are discovered in the operating system will put users at greater risk from things like ransomware attacks, perhaps triggered by an email attachment or malicious web link.

Do you still have Windows 7 on a machine somewhere? If you do, switch to something sensible now. Windows 10, a Mac, Linux …literally anything! Now!

Ring: Sometimes it Just Ain’t Right to Watch Your Customers at Home

Ring, an Amazon subsidiary, has fired a number of employees for watching customers at home.

The admission came in a letter sent in response to questions raised by US Senators critical of Ring’s privacy practices. Ring recounted how, on four separate occasions, workers were let go for overstepping their access privileges and poring over customer video files and other data inappropriately.

“Over the last four years, Ring has received four complaints or inquiries regarding a team member’s access to Ring video data,” the gizmo flinger wrote. “Although each of the individuals involved in these incidents was authorized to view video data, the attempted access to that data exceeded what was necessary for their job functions. “In each instance, once Ring was made aware of the alleged conduct, Ring promptly investigated the incident, and after determining that the individual violated company policy, terminated the individual.”

With other words: We generally spy on our customers, but in these four cases it wasn’t OK. Probably because the employees were supposed to slave over meeting notes or an Excel spreadsheet at the time. Jeez.

These investigations come after people started to wake up to the secret surveillance network Ring is building stealthily all around the world.

Sea of Thieves Has More Than 10 Million Players

Microsoft has lauded Rare’s Sea of Thieves as “the most successful new IP from Xbox this generation.” With which they mean the current console generation, I guess. The game now has had more than 10 million players. Which comes as a bit of a surprise to those of us who have tried to buy the Microsoft Store exclusive game – I can tell you, that isn’t exactly an easy thing to do… Anyway, it seems more than 10 million people have managed (maybe it’s easier on the Xbox than on PC) and now they are celebrating.

Our community will be at the centre of our January update – “Legends of the Seas” – which will be available to all players for free from Wednesday January 15. Not only will this update celebrate our community and its stories, it will also feature two limited-edition gifts to mark our 10 million player milestone. Log-in to the game between January 15 and 22 and claim a free custom sail and a special new emote.

California to Sun Co-founder: We Want Our Beach Back!

The state of California is suing Sun Microsystems co-founder and billionaire Vinod Khosla. Over a beach:

At issue is Martin’s beach, south of San Francisco, where the only entryway exists on land that Khosla bought for $32m as part of a larger property deal in 2008. For more than a century, the path has been a public access route to the beach for those on foot or arriving by car – the shore itself being public property under California law. Khosla, however, decided he would use his land rights to close off access with a padlocked gate, infuriating locals and sparking a lengthy legal war.

What a classic douchebag move. But it gets better.

Despite the fact Khosla has lost every legal challenge regarding the shoreline over the past decade, he has used his fortune to drag the issue through the courts. Along the way, California passed a law specifically to undercut one of his legal arguments, so Khosla personally sued the members of California’s Coastal Commission. His lawyers also asked for a ridiculous $10m to sell the small piece of land leading down to the beach; property that is valued at $380,000. At one point, he fell back on a treaty from 1848, two years before California was even a state, to throw up legal roadblocks.

Now California has had it with the guy.

The state is now suing on behalf of its Coastal Commission and State Lands Commission, claiming Khosla has “improperly and illegally” restricted access to the beach. There have been beach signs on the highway for decades, and countless newspaper articles referring to the beach as open to public use, the lawsuit notes.

I hope they win and slap him down with massive fees. What a farce.

Guy Steals £1.7 Million from UK Ministry of Justice with Fake IT Consulting Contracts

Again and again, I see these stories of tech workers scamming huge organisations out of millions by billing them for stuff that doesn’t exist. Here’s another one. Is everyone in Big Tech asleep at the wheel? I thought this is what companies have controlling departments for? Oh, wait… This guy was the controlling department?

A civil servant who stole £1.7m from the UK’s Ministry of Justice through a fake “IT services contract” has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.

The manager in the London-based ministry’s commercial and financial control department, set up a £7m purchase order for an “IT services contract” with Sopra Business Consulting back in 2017. Sopra Business Consulting was a fake company set up by the manager himself, Southwark Crown Court was told on Monday. Monthly payments from the fraudulent £7m purchase order went to the fake firm’s account and then straight into his own pocket.

Prosecutor Gregor McKinley told Southwark Crown Court, as reported by the Evening Standard: “This was a sophisticated fraud … and would have resulted in further loss to the taxpayer if it had not been discovered.”

Well. Dunno about sophisticated. It was devious, alright, but he was caught in the end because one of the people working for him got suspicious and reported his boss. Good on him!

Using the stolen cash, the manager had bought himself an Audi SQ5, an Audi A3 and a five-bedroom Hampshire house set in 1.1 acres. Previously he and his family had lived in a three-bed semi in Essex.

Very sophisticated at hiding all that money indeed, our guy.

Also Noteworthy

Some other stories I came across that you might find interesting as well:

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.