Android Flaws, Internet Archive Lawsuit, Starship, COVID-19 Maps, Ubuntu on Lenovo, Space Force

  • From Category5 Technology TV S13E29
  • June 10, 2020
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday June 10, 2020

Google has fixed some Android flaws that allow code execution with high system rights.

Google has pushed out security patches for dozens of vulnerabilities in its Android mobile operating system, two of which could allow hackers to remotely execute malicious code with extremely high system rights.

In some cases, the malware could run with highly elevated privileges, a possibility that raises the severity of the bugs. That’s because the bugs, located in the Android System component, could enable a specially crafted transmission to execute arbitrary code within the context of a privileged process. In all, Google released patches for at least 34 security flaws, although some of the vulnerabilities were present only in devices available from manufacturer Qualcomm.

Two vulnerabilities ranked as critical in Google’s June security bulletin are among four System flaws located in the Android system. The other two are ranked with a severity of high. The critical vulnerabilities reside in Android versions 8 through the most recent release of 11.

An advisory from the Multi-State-Information Sharing and Analysis Center said, "These vulnerabilities could be exploited through multiple methods such as email, web browsing, and MMS when processing media files. Depending on the privileges associated with the application, an attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights."

Vulnerabilities with a severity rating of high affected the Android media framework, the Android framework, and the Android kernel. Other vulnerabilities were contained in components shipped in devices from Qualcomm. The two Qualcomm-specific critical flaws reside in closed source components. The severity of other Qualcomm flaws were rated as high.

Anyone with an Android-powered device should check in Settings to see if fixes or updates are available.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Publishers are suing and trying to shut down the Internet Archive.

Several of the world’s largest publishers have sued the Internet Archive for its “emergency library” of 1.3 million books, claiming the organization is engaging in “willful digital piracy on an industrial scale.”

Last week, the Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons and Penguin Random House sued the non-profit, better known for its Wayback Machine archive of web pages, for copyright infringement: infringement they argued is “intentional and systematic.” We understand that the publishers hope to shut down the dot-org.

The Internet Archive invited the ire of publishers and authors back in March when it decided to lift restrictions on the digital copies of library books it has acquired and scanned. Anyone that registers with the site can take out any of 1.3 million books, the complaint states - although the Internet Archive claims the real figure is 1.4 million.

The Internet Archive is registered as a library but has asserted an untested theory called “Controlled Digital Lending” that argues libraries are not infringing copyright when they make digital copies of books they possess. Publishers and authors have been unhappy about this approach, but held fire while the Internet Archive restricted the number of e-books it would make available at any given time to the number of physical books it possessed.

That restriction went out the window in March, however, when the Internet Archive decided that due to the coronavirus it would make all its e-books available without a waiting list.

The Authors Guild said the organization “has no rights whatsoever to these books, much less to give them away indiscriminately without consent of the publisher or author,” and the Association of American Publishers called the move “the height of hypocrisy,” and “a cynical play to undermine copyright.”

The lawsuit, filed in New York, calls the electronic copies of books the Internet Archive has made “digital bootlegs.”

It goes on: “Internet Archive not only acts entirely outside any legal framework, it does so flagrantly and fraudulently. And it proceeds despite actual notice that its actions constitute infringement.”

In response, the Internet Archive’s founder, Brewster Kahle, has posted a brief blog post in which he notes that the organization is “disappointed” by the lawsuit and claims to be supporting publishers, authors and readers.

He says, "Publishers suing libraries for lending books, in this case protected digitized versions, and while schools and libraries are closed, is not in anyone’s interest."


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Elon Musk makes getting humans to Mars his top priority. We'll tell you how he wants to do it.

Having completed its first human launch, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk says the company is now focusing on developing its next-generation spacecraft, Starship.

A couple weeks back, NASA and SpaceX successfully launched astronauts from US soil for the first time in almost a decade.

According to an internal email sent to staff, Musk said that development on Starship is now the primary focus for the company, alongside the safe return of the Crew Dragon from the International Space Station.

Starship was unveiled last September and is designed to carry a crew and cargo "to the moon, Mars or anywhere else in the solar system", according to the billionaire.

Musk's intention is to make the spaceflight vehicles as reusable as planes.

Four years ago the billionaire outlined his vision of building a colony on Mars "in our lifetimes" - with the first rocket propelling humans to the Red Planet by 2025.

For many years the company used an image of the Martian surface being terraformed (turned Earth-like) in its promotional material.

However, a NASA-sponsored study published in 2018 dismissed these plans as impossible with today's technology.

Last year, Musk tweeted he believed it was "possible to make a self-sustaining city on Mars by 2050, if we start in five years".

According to SpaceX's most recent detailed plans - published in 2016 - there are two phases for the first human missions as part of a programme to colonise Mars.

The first will take place in 2022 when at least two Starship rockets will land on Mars.

These will be unmanned spacecraft but containing drones and robots which will confirm whether there are sufficient resources of water on the planet, and check for any geographic risks.

The second phase will start in 2024, when another pair of Starship spacecraft will land on Mars with the first astronauts.

These spacecraft will bring equipment and supplies, as well as a number of production plants for ongoing life on the planet - as well as develop a base of operations.

Separately, the successful mission for NASA has given the company a boost ahead of the US space agency's new moon landing programme, which will return humans to the moon by 2024, and lay the groundwork for a manned mission to Mars.

NASA's new Artemis programme is named after the mythological sister of Apollo, the first moon mission's namesake, and is intended to fly the first woman to the moon.

The Artemis programme will be used as a way to develop something called the Lunar Gateway - essentially a version of the ISS but orbiting the moon - allowing it to be used as a stepping stone for missions destined for Mars.

NASA has given SpaceX and Blue Origin the nod to develop its new lunar landers which will take the first woman and the next man to the surface of the moon.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson

Google Maps has launched new features to help travelers specifically during the coronavirus pandemic.

Traveling during the pandemic can be tough. That's why the latest version of Google Maps for Android and iOS has several features that might help travelers get around safely.

Now, when you look up public transit directions, Maps will show COVID-19-related alerts. Google points out that data will only be available where it can get info from the local transit agencies, and only on trips that are likely to be affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

These alerts are rolling out in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the U.S., and Google says they're coming to more countries "soon."

Maps will also display alerts when you navigate to medical facilities or COVID-19 testing centers, warning you to "verify eligibility and facility guidelines to avoid being turned away or causing additional strain on the local healthcare system." Alerts for medical facilities are rolling this week in Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, and the U.S. Alerts for testing centers will only be available in the U.S. Again, Google says it will only show these alerts when it can get "authoritative data from local, state and federal governments or from their websites."

Google says the app will also tell you how crowded buses, subways, and transit stations will be. Plus, you'll be able to see when a transit station has historically been less busy so you can plan ahead. Google says these features are powered by aggregated and anonymized data from users who opt in to Google Location History. They'll be rolling out in the "next several weeks."

Finally, the app will show you driving alerts, notifying you about COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions along your route — for example, when crossing national borders. This feature will initially only be available in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson

Lenovo plans to sell Ubuntu on more ThinkPads and ThinkStations this summer.

Lenovo has announced that they're including Ubuntu as a preloaded OS option on a number of their systems starting this summer.

Lenovo is already well represented within the Linux hardware community having ‘certified’ a swathe of its devices for various different distros over the years.

And the company recently revealed plans to sell laptops preloaded with Fedora and make more firmware updates available through the vendor-neutral Linux Vendor Firmware Service.

But now it’s going even further with the Linux love.

Lenovo say ALL of its ThinkStation and ThinkPad P Series laptops will be available to buy with Ubuntu LTS pre-loaded and not just a few specific configurations stashed away on a hard-to-find store page somewhere.

While the same devices can be bought with Windows 10 or Red Hat Enterprise Linux pre-installed, it’s still a major win for Ubuntu and the wider Linux community.

The company also says it will “…upstream device drivers directly to the Linux kernel, to help maintain stability and compatibility throughout the life of the workstation.”.

Of course, it’s easy enough to buy a ThinkPad running Windows and install Ubuntu manually. But the official support means buyers can be certain that all hardware works with Ubuntu out-of-the-box — no drivers to hunt down or config files to edit. Presumably it also means some costs savings as well, since a Windows license need not be included.

Lenovo says, “Ubuntu LTS benefits from an extended five-year support cycle, providing increased user confidence and system stability across their deployment. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, performs certification and regression testing on these systems on an ongoing basis to ensure that it remains as stable as possible for end-users.”


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

The US Military could lose the Space Force Trademark to the Netflix series of the same name.

The United States Space Force was only announced two years ago and has yet to engage in any military operations, but the latest branch of the U.S. armed forces already stands to lose its first battle -- to Netflix's Space Force.

The streaming service premiered its new comedy series Space Force on May 29. The show's name has no relation to the newest organization of the U.S. military, which unveiled its official flag only two weeks earlier. Because of the common moniker, though, the United States Space Force's first battle might be a trademark war -- fought in court, rather than in space.

Attorneys for the U.S. military have done little to secure the Space Force name as a registered trademark. Netflix, however, has been far more aggressive, and has already locked down the rights to the name in several countries.

Despite sharing a name, both entities have plenty of room to maneuver without evoking much confusion. The streaming comedy is unlikely to make its viewers think they're watching a series about an actual branch of the U.S. military. The U.S. Space Force, meanwhile, has yet to get off the ground -- both literally and figuratively.

While Netflix's effort was the first to come to fruition, the U.S. Space Force was first announced by President Donald Trump in March 2018. The military branch was officially established as a formal organization last December. Netflix, meanwhile, greenlit the 10-episode series in January 2019.

Created by Greg Daniel and Steve Carell, Space Force stars Carell, John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Diana Silvers and Tawny Newsome. Season 1 is currently available on Netflix.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


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