The IT Privacy and Security Weekly Update Gets Mooned for the week ending March 14th., 2023


This week’s update zooms from the moon to your innermost thoughts.

We get an update on a shrinking Meta and our shrinking IQs.

From Washington DC we learn about probably the most perfect imperfect way to ensure that data protection laws are passed in the coming years.

We discover a steganographic breakthrough and an electrifying enzymatic discovery that could revolutionize IT Privacy, Security and the World as we know it.

Finally, we meet a new technology that could present the ultimate invasion of your privacy.

So put on your moon boots and let’s get walking.

KR: Samsung caught faking zoom photos of the Moon

The test of Samsung’s phones conducted by Reddit user u/ibreakphotos was ingenious in its simplicity.

They created an intentionally blurry photo of the Moon, displayed it on a computer screen, and then photographed this image using a Samsung S23 Ultra.

The image on the screen showed no detail at all, but the resulting Samsung picture showed a crisp and clear “photograph” of the Moon.

The S23 Ultra added details that simply weren’t present before.

There was no upscaling of blurry pixels and no retrieval of seemingly lost data.

There was just a new Moon — a fake one.

So what’s the upshot for you? Without properly explaining the feature, Samsung has allowed many people to confuse its AI-improved images for a physics-defying optical zoom that cannot fit in a smartphone.

Global: Relativity Space’ Aborts Second Launch Attempt of Its 3D-Printed Rocket

“Based on initial data review, the vehicle is healthy,” Relativity Space tweeted Saturday. “More info to follow on the cause of the aborts. Thanks for playing.”

Remaining back on the launchpad is the largest 3D-printed object ever to exist. And they’re still hoping to launch it into space.

They’d planned a launch Saturday morning from Cape Canaveral, Florida of a 110-foot rocket (33.5 meters) on a mission they’re calling GLHF — “Good Luck, Have Fun”.

The rocket’s makers — California-based Relativity Space — call it “the world’s first 3D printed rocket.”

A full 85% of the rocket’s weight comes from 3D printed parts, explains Wired, and “only the computing system, electronics, and readily available parts like fasteners were not.” Named Terran 1, the 7.5-foot-wide rocket (2.2 meters) inaugurates the company’s ambitious plans for 3D printing in space.

Relativity Space wants to use Terran 1 to (comparatively) cheaply lift satellites for other companies and NASA into Earth orbit.

It also plans to construct Terran R, a larger, more powerful, fully reusable rocket that the company hopes will compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which has a smaller payload capacity and only reuses the rocket’s first stage.

In late 2024, Relativity plans to test using Terran R to launch payloads to Mars; another startup, Impulse Space, will provide the lander.

So what’s the upshot for you? Contrary to the fishing boat floating too close rumor apparently the fuel was not up to the correct temperature to initiate the liftoff sequence.

US: How to get Washington to understand ID theft. Steal their PHI

More than 56,000 customers were impacted by the DC Health Link data breach, the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority revealed Friday.

The PHI (Personal health information) data fields compromised were name, Social Security number, birth date, gender, health plan information, employer information, and enrollee information – address, email, phone number, race, ethnicity, and citizenship status.

Some 11,000 of the exchange’s more than 100,000 participants work in the House and Senate — in the nation’s capital and district offices across the nation — or are relatives.

The FBI had not yet determined the extent of the breach but that thousands of House members, employees and their families have enrolled in health insurance through DC Health Link since 2014.

“The size and scope of impacted House customers could be extraordinary.”

A user posted 200 records from the hack online and The Associated Press confirmed the sample’s authenticity with two of the victims listed.

So what’s the upshot for you? No better way to highlight a problem than to make it personal to those passing the laws.

UK/US: NatWest limits customers’ crypto transfers, citing scam concerns

Britain’s NatWest has imposed new limits on the daily and monthly amount customers can send to cryptocurrency exchanges, seeking to protect consumers from “crypto-criminals”, the bank said on Tuesday.

From Tuesday customer transfers to cryptocurrency exchanges will be limited to 5,000 pounds ($6,088) per 30-day period, with no more than 1,000 pounds per day, NatWest said.

So what’s the upshot for you? While we appreciate the care and concern, but isn’t a client’s money theirs to spend, invest, or lose as they see fit?

Global: Cerebral admits to sharing patient data with Meta, TikTok, and Google

Cerebral, a telehealth startup specializing in mental health, says it inadvertently shared the sensitive information of over 3.1 million patients with Google, Meta, TikTok, and other third-party advertisers.

In a notice posted on the company’s website, Cerebral admits to exposing patient data with the tracking tools it’s been using as far back as October 2019.

The information affected by the oversight includes everything from patient names, phone numbers, email addresses, birth dates, IP addresses, insurance information, appointment dates, treatment, and more.

It may have even exposed the answers clients filled out as part of the mental health self-assessment on the company’s website and app, which patients can use to schedule therapy appointments and receive prescription medication.

So what’s the upshot for you? The volume of personal information you entered into the Cerebral website is equal to that which would have been copied out to Google, Meta, and TikTok.

Good news if you never got around to completing your entries, but awful news if you had.

CA: Meta to end news access for Canadians if Online News Act becomes law

Facebook-parent Meta Platforms Inc said on Saturday that it would end the availability of news content for Canadians on its platforms if the country’s Online News Act passes in its current form.

The “Online News Act,” or House of Commons bill C-18, introduced in April last year laid out rules to force platforms like Meta and Alphabet Inc’s Google to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers for their content.

“A legislative framework that compels us to pay for links or content that we do not post, and which are not the reason the vast majority of people use our platforms, is neither sustainable nor workable,” a Meta spokesperson said as reason to suspend news access in the country.

Canada’s news media industry has asked the government for more regulation of tech companies to allow the industry to recoup financial losses it has suffered in the years as tech giants like Google and Meta steadily gain greater market share of advertising.

So what’s the upshot for you? Pay for news? If you are getting it from these sources, it’s only fair that you tip your hat to them too.

Global: Meta lets loose a second 13%

Meta’s CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that it will lay off about 13% of its workforce in the latest restructuring move he’s calling a “year of efficiency”.

This follows November’s 13% job reduction at the company that has been reeling from over-acquiring and hiring within the industry.

Meta also plans to close almost 5,000 job postings that have yet to be filled

So what’s the upshot for you? If you are still betting on Mark, you may be hoping that his metaverse becomes quite popular quite soon.

Global: New Steganography Breakthrough Enables “Perfectly Secure” Digital Communications

A group of researchers has developed a breakthrough algorithm in secure communications using steganography, which involves hiding sensitive information inside of innocuous content.

The algorithm can conceal sensitive information so effectively that it cannot be detected that something has been hidden, making it a useful tool in digital human communications such as social media and private messaging.

The researchers believe that the algorithm’s ability to send perfectly secure information could empower vulnerable groups such as dissidents, investigative journalists, and humanitarian aid workers.

To overcome this, the research team used recent breakthroughs in information theory, specifically minimum entropy coupling, which allows one to join two distributions of data together such that their mutual information is maximized, but the individual distributions are preserved.

Existing steganography approaches generally have imperfect security, meaning that individuals who use these methods risk being detected.

This is because previous steganography algorithms would subtly change the distribution of innocuous content.

With the new algorithm, there is no statistical difference between the distribution of innocuous content and the distribution of content that encodes sensitive information.

So what’s the upshot for you? The research team has filed a patent for the algorithm, but intends to issue it under a free license to third parties for non-commercial responsible use.

AU: Scientists Discover Enzyme That Turns Air Into Electricity

Australian scientists have discovered an enzyme that converts air into energy.

The finding, published in the journal Nature, reveals that this enzyme uses the low amounts of the hydrogen in the atmosphere to create an electrical current.

This finding opens the way to create devices that literally make energy from thin air.

The research team, led by Dr. Rhys Grinter, Ph.D. student Ashleigh Kropp, and Professor Chris Greening from the Monash University Biomedicine Discovery Institute in Melbourne, Australia, produced and analyzed a hydrogen-consuming enzyme from a common soil bacterium.

In this Nature paper, the researchers extracted the enzyme responsible for using atmospheric hydrogen from a bacterium called Mycobacterium smegmatis.

They showed that this enzyme, called Huc, turns hydrogen gas into an electrical current. Dr. Grinter notes, "Huc is extraordinarily efficient.

Unlike all other known enzymes and chemical catalysts, it even consumes hydrogen below atmospheric levels – as little as 0.00005% of the air we breathe."

The researchers used several cutting-edge methods to reveal the molecular blueprint of atmospheric hydrogen oxidation.

They used advanced microscopy (cryo-EM) to determine its atomic structure and electrical pathways, pushing boundaries to produce the most resolved enzyme structure reported by this method to date.

They also used a technique called electrochemistry to demonstrate the purified enzyme creates electricity at minute hydrogen concentrations.

Laboratory work performed by Kropp shows that it is possible to store purified Huc for long periods.

“It is astonishingly stable. It is possible to freeze the enzyme or heat it to 80 degrees celsius, and it retains its power to generate energy,” Kropp said.

"This reflects that this enzyme helps bacteria to survive in the most extreme environments. "

Huc is a “natural battery” that produces a sustained electrical current from air or added hydrogen.

While this research is at an early stage, the discovery of Huc has considerable potential to develop small air-powered devices, for example as an alternative to solar-powered devices.

“Once we produce Huc in sufficient quantities, the sky is quite literally the limit for using it to produce clean energy.”

So what’s the upshot for you? Another amazing example of the complex biodiversity, literally under our feet.

UA: Online Tests Suggest IQ Scores In US Dropped For the First Time In Nearly a Century

A group of psychologists, two from Northwestern University and the third from the University of Oregon, has found via online testing that IQ scores in the U.S. may be dropping for the first time in nearly a century.

In this new effort, the researchers studied the results of online IQ tests taken by adults participating in the Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment Project over a 12-year period.

They found that IQ scores have dropped for all age groups, regardless of gender.

They also found that the steepest declines were among young people.

They also noted that while a few skills, such as spatial reasoning, were better than previous generations, other skills, such as problem solving, numerical series assessments and verbal reasoning, had all grown worse.

The researchers did not conduct any research to try to explain the drop, but suggest it might be linked to changes in the education system.

They also did not address the controversial issue of the accuracy of IQ test scores in general as a means of measuring a person’s intelligence.

So what’s the upshot for you? No better way to get a population to start exercising their brains again than to tell them they are getting dumber.

JP: Researchers Claim Their AI Algorithm Can Recreate What People See Using Brain Scans

A recent study, scheduled to be presented at an upcoming computer vision conference, demonstrates that AI can read brain scans and re-create largely realistic versions of images a person has seen…

Many labs have used AI to read brain scans and re-create images a subject has recently seen, such as human faces and photos of landscapes.

The new study marks the first time an AI algorithm called Stable Diffusion, developed by a German group and publicly released in 2022, has been used to do this…

For the new study, a group in Japan added additional training to the standard Stable Diffusion system, linking additional text descriptions about thousands of photos to brain patterns elicited when those photos were observed by participants in brain scan studies.

Unlike previous efforts using AI algorithms to decipher brain scans, which had to be trained on large data sets, Stable Diffusion was able to get more out of less training for each participant by incorporating photo captions into the algorithm…

The AI algorithm makes use of information gathered from different regions of the brain involved in image perception, such as the occipital and temporal lobes, according to Yu Takagi, a systems neuroscientist at Osaka University who worked on the experiment.

The system interpreted information from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans, which detect changes in blood flow to active regions of the brain.

When people look at a photo, the temporal lobes predominantly register information about the contents of the image (people, objects, or scenery), whereas the occipital lobe predominantly registers information about layout and perspective, such as the scale and position of the contents.

All of this information is recorded by the fMRI as it captures peaks in brain activity, and these patterns can then be reconverted into an imitation image using AI.

In the new study, the researchers added additional training to the Stable Diffusion algorithm using an online data set provided by the University of Minnesota, which consisted of brain scans from four participants as they each viewed a set of 10,000 photos.

So what’s the upshot for you? Privacy? Just sit back and think of the potential of that…

Moon Boots Walking

Our Quote of the week: “Crises don’t just happen — they’re not like the Immaculate Conception.” - DENNIS KELLEHER, a co-founder of Better Markets, a prominent financial reform advocacy group, who said officials should be probing Silicon Valley Bank’s executives for potential wrongdoing.

That’s it for this week. Stay safe, stay secure, keep an eye on the moon, and see you in se7en.

to hear the podcast of this week’s episode, just click on the moon boots!