My Weekly RoundUp #132
Also last week, the main topic was Covid-19: Let's try to recap.
Ah, I forgot: STAY. AT. HOME.
Google’s coronavirus information site is now live
Google has just launched a site with information and resources to understand the coronavirus outbreak. You can access it at google.com/covid19.
The site presently serves US-based visitors, but content for more countries and in more languages are slated to be added soon (Spanish is up next, reports The Verge.)
Google‘s site includes information about the disease, links to health advisory material from the World Health Organization and to public health departments for each US state, safety tips, data on the spread of coronavirus around the world, ideas for living well and working at home, and a donation drive to support the UN Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization.
Locked-Down Lawyers Warned Alexa Is Hearing Confidential Calls
As law firms urge attorneys to work from home during the global pandemic, their employees’ confidential phone calls with clients run the risk of being heard by Amazon.com Inc. and Google.
Mishcon de Reya LLP, the U.K. law firm that famously advised Princess Diana on her divorce and also does corporate law, issued advice to staff to mute or shut off listening devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s voice assistant when they talk about client matters at home, according to a partner at the firm. It suggested not to have any of the devices near their work space at all.
The U.S. wants smartphone location data to fight coronavirus. Privacy advocates are worried.
The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are asking Facebook, Google and other tech giants to give them greater access to Americans' smartphone location data in order to help them combat the spread of the coronavirus, according to four people at companies involved in the discussions who are not authorized to speak about them publicly.
Federal health officials say they could use anonymous, aggregated user data collected by the tech companies to map the spread of the virus — a practice known as "syndromic surveillance" — and prevent further infections. They could also use the data to see whether people were practicing "social distancing."
Remote Work and Personal Safety
This is a novel and troubling situation we’re in globally. As a remote, international organization developing tools for online safety, we’d like to share some of our tips about working from home and retaining your rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
Since incorporated in 2006, the Tor Project and its community have largely operated remotely. Whenever possible, we use free and open source tools that share our commitment to advancing the human rights to privacy and freedom of expression online. Here’s what we’re using now to stay connected:
German army’s sensitive data found on laptop bought from eBay
The computer, a product of Roda featured a 128 MB RAM and was running on Windows 2000 & an Intel Pentium III processor. When dug further, it turns out that the laptop contained sensitive information including military secrets.
Coronavirus scams, found and explained
Coronavirus has changed the face of the world, restricting countless individuals from dining at restaurants, working from cafes, and visiting their loved ones. But for cybercriminals, this global pandemic is expanding their horizons.
In the past week, Malwarebytes discovered multiple email scams that prey on the fear, uncertainty, and confusion regarding COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. With no vaccine yet developed, and with much of the world undergoing intense social distancing measures and near-total lockdown procedures, threat actors are flooding cyberspace with emailed promises of health tips, protective diets, and, most dangerously, cures. Attached to threat actors’ emails are a variety of fraudulent e-books, informational packets, and missed invoices that hide a series of keyloggers, ransomware, and data stealers.
The problem expands beyond pure phishing scams.
Supercomputer finds 77 drugs that could halt coronavirus spread
Scientists have enlisted the help of a supercomputer to fight back against the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. Researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory just published the results of a project in which they tasked the massive IBM supercomputer known as Summit with finding the most effective existing drugs that could combat COVID-19.
The paper, which was published in the journal ChemRxiv, focuses on the method the virus uses to bind to cells. Like other viruses, the novel coronavirus uses a spike protein to inject cells. Using Summit with an algorithm to investigate which drugs could bind to the protein and prevent the virus from doing its duty, the researchers now have a list of 77 drugs that show promise.
NASA to launch 247 petabytes of data into AWS – but forgot about eye-watering cloudy egress costs before lift-off
At least NASA seems to have bagged a good deal from AWS: The Register used Amazon’s cloudy cost calculator to tot up the cost of simply storing 247PB in the cloud giant’s S3 service. The promised pay-as-you-go price for us on the street was a staggering $5,439,526.92 per month, not taking into account the free tier discount of 12 cents, or hundreds of millions over five years.
The audit, meanwhile, suggests an increased cloud spend of around $30m a year by 2025, as a result of the egress charges, on top of NASA’s favorable $65m-per-year deal with AWS.
Netflix, YouTube cut video quality in Europe after pressure from EU official
Netflix and YouTube are both reducing video-streaming quality in Europe to reduce the stress on residential broadband networks caused by the coronavirus pandemic forcing people to stay home.
Netflix is reducing the bit rate on video streams, but not the resolution, for the next 30 days in the EU and UK, the BBC reported. The BBC said that "movies will still be high-definition or ultra-high definition 4K" despite the bit-rate decrease, but other news sources suggest that resolution could be cut, too. It's not clear what the exact changes in bit rates are—we asked Netflix to clarify these points but haven't gotten an answer yet.
Italian hospital saves Covid-19 patients lives by 3D printing valves for reanimation devices
Many have been asking what the implications of the current Covid-19 pandemic are going to be on additive manufacturing as an industry. The relationship between coronavirus and 3D printing is not entirely clear, mostly because we are very far from understanding what the long, medium and even short terms implications of the pandemic are going to be on global supply chains.
Additive manufacturing may be able to play a role in helping to support industrial supply chains that are affected by limitations on traditional production and imports. One thing is for sure though: 3D printing can have an immediate beneficial effect when the supply chain is completely broken.
An Expert Answers the 50 Most Googled Coronavirus Questions
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to whip around the world, killing thousands of people and overloading hospitals, you’ve probably turned to Google to answer your questions.
But you can’t trust everything you find on the internet, so we got Dr. Seema Yasmin, director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative, to answer the week’s 50 most Googled coronavirus questions. She walks us through where this novel coronavirus came from, and why it’s called “novel” and a “coronavirus.” Also, don't expect it to go away over the summer, like a seasonal flu might.
More bad news: It’s dangerous because it causes respiratory infections, particularly in the elderly, and particularly for those with previous similar conditions. “It’s also dangerous because this is the first time humans have been exposed to this virus, and it means we have no preexisting immunity to it,” Yasmin says.