FOXTROT/ALFA: Bezos Hacked by the Saudis, Boeing 737 MAX Grounded Until Summer, WindiLeaks

Good day to you! This is FOXTROT/ALFA #68 for Wednesday, 22 January 2020 and here are the relevant tech news of the day:

Jeff Bezos Says He was Hacked by the Saudis

Head of Amazon and richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, reckons he was hacked by the Saudis for the Washington Post’s coverage of the Jamal Kashoggi murder. Bezos owns the Post.

CNN reports, somewhat anti-climactically:

A forensics team hired by Jeff Bezos has concluded with medium to high probability that a hack of the Amazon CEO’s mobile phone originated from an account controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a source.

“Medium to high probability”? What the fuck does that mean? Do you know it was the Saudis or don’t you? I’m guessing they’re also just guessing.

The forensic digital analysis concluded that the phone was compromised after Bezos received a malicious video file from a phone number used by bin Salman, according to the source who spoke to CNN.

Well, that certainly doesn’t prove anything now does it?

Boeing 737 MAX Grounded Until Summer

Suuuuuuurpise!!! Guess what? Yep. The 737 MAX is staying grounded longer than Boeing expected, probably well into the summer.

Boeing’s troubled 737 Max airplane will now remain grounded from passenger service until at least June or July, which is months later than the company had previously suggested. And that means airlines will likely cancel Max flights through the busy summer travel season.

Some sources say Boeing is trying to push back on this new FAA decision. To me it feels like they should really shut up and take it at this point.

Boeing CEO Calhoun is in Seattle this week, meeting with Boeing employees and for the first time, he plans to take questions from reporters in a conference call Wednesday.

I’m looking forward to the stories that’ll come out of that one!

WindiLeaks: Microsoft Publicly Exposes Support Database

Microsoft has exposed the details of 250 million of its customers publicly on the internet by a configuration blunder.

Five identical Elasticsearch databases containing 250 million records of Microsoft customer support incidents were exposed on the internet for all to see for at least two days right at the end of 2019.

On 28 December 2019, these databases were found by BinaryEdge, which crawls the internet looking for exposed data. This was then picked up by security researcher Bob Diachenko, who reported the problem to Microsoft. Microsoft secured the databases over 30-31 December, winning praise from Diachenko for “quick turnaround on this despite [it being] New Year’s Eve”.

What data was published? These are logs of customer service and support interactions between 2005 and now. The good-ish news is that “most of the personally identifiable information – email aliases, contract numbers, and payment information – was redacted.” However, a subset contained plain-text data including email addresses, IP addresses, case descriptions, emails from Microsoft support, case numbers and “internal notes marked as confidential”.

It is not yet clear how many of the records include identifiable information, nor how they break down in terms of business versus consumer interactions.

Tencent Will Buy Funcom

The next chapter in the China Buys Everything saga: The huge holding company Tencent wants to buy tiny Norwegian games developer Funcom. The Norwegians are mostly known for the MMO Age of Conan and the adventure game series The Longest Journey.

Tencent has today announced a voluntary cash offer to acquire all shares in Norwegian game developer Funcom. Tencent, a leading Internet company with a strong online games operation, is a shareholder in many leading gaming developers, such as Riot Games, Epic, Supercell, Ubisoft, Paradox and Frontier. The company already owns close to 29% of the shares in Funcom and news of the intended takeover is greeted with enthusiasm from Funcom CEO Rui Casais. “We have had a great relationship with Tencent as our largest shareholder so far and we are excited about this opportunity,” says Funcom CEO Rui Casais. “We will continue to develop great games that people all over the world will play, and we believe that the support of Tencent will take Funcom to the next level.

German Authorities Failed to Migrate from Windows 7, Now It’s Payday Time

German taxpayers – hey, that’s me! – should be pretty pissed off with their government. Because of the general incompetence of decision makers, we’ll now have to pay around €800,000 because these idiots didn’t manage to move relevant IT systems on from Windows 7 – despite literally years of warnings from pretty much everyone.

German authorities are waking up to a Windows 7 headache, with approximately €800,000 required in order to keep the elderly software supported a little longer. First reported by German publication Handelsblatt, at least 33,000 PCs were still running the venerable operating system, which has come to the end of free security updates.

The position in which the German government now finds itself might raise a wry smile somewhere in Seattle. Back in 2017, the Consumer Center in Baden-Württemberg filed a cease-and-desist complaint against Redmond regarding the way the company was attempting to slip Windows 10 upgrades into unsuspecting user PCs.

Just last year, the German state of Hessen warned schools to steer clear of Office 365 in schools amid worries over cloud storage and the slurping of telemetry data. Heck, as recently as November 2019 the German Federal Ministry of the Interior was stating its intent to reduce the reliance on the likes of Microsoft in order to strengthen its “Digital Sovereignty”.

The gang suggested using a more diverse range of software, work with Microsoft over issues like telemetry or just go open source and be done with it. Alas, the latter approach infamously took a tumble after the German city of Munich reversed plans to migrate from Windows and Office to Linux and LibreOffice back in 2017.

Those looking at the costs of keeping Windows 7 support may come to rue that particular volte-face. More than 20,000 of the 85,000 computers used by the Berlin state administrators were still rocking the elderly OS even as support dried up and despite a migration effort under way within the bowels of government.

Also Noteworthy

In case you still want more things to read:

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