No More Toshiba PCs, An Oceanic Asteroid, cPanel Warning, Debit Card Flaw, Android Earthquake System

  • From Category5 Technology TV S13E35
  • August 12, 2020
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday August 12, 2020

Toshiba shuts the lid on laptops after 35 years.

It's official: Japanese giant Toshiba has sold its final stake in the personal computer maker Dynabook, which means the firm no longer has a connection with making PCs or laptops.

Sharp bought 80% of Toshiba's personal computing arm in 2018 for $36m (£27m), and has now bought the remaining shares, Toshiba said in a statement.

Toshiba's first laptop, the T1100, launched in 1985. It weighed 4kg and worked with 3½-inch floppy disks.

According to the Toshiba Science Museum website, it was launched only in Europe at first, and had an annual sales target of just 10,000 units.

In the year 2011 Toshiba sold more than 17m PCs, but my, how times changed: By 2017 this had fallen to just 1.9m.

In 2016, it had ceased making consumer laptops for the European market, focusing only on hardware for businesses.

Recent years have been difficult for the conglomerate: in 2015, the firm posted a full-year loss of $318m.

That same year its president and vice-president resigned after an independent panel found the company had overstated its profits for the previous six years.

Last year they wound up their nuclear business NuGen in the UK after failing to find a buyer for it.

Consumer demand for laptops has soared in the last few months because of the Coronavirus pandemic and global lockdowns, but overall, the market for personal computers has been tough for quite a while.

Analyst Marina Koytcheva from the firm CCS Insight says, "Only those who have managed to sustain scale and price (like Lenovo), or have a premium brand (like Apple) have succeeded in the unforgiving PC market, where volumes have been falling for years."


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

The discovery of salt bound to water molecules on Ceres, the largest asteroid in the solar system, suggests that there may be an ocean lurking beneath its Occator crater.

The results of a major exploration mission showed Monday that the dwarf planet Ceres—long believed to be a barren space rock—is an ocean world with reservoirs of sea water beneath its surface.

Maria Cristina De Sanctis from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy says of the discovery, "I’m extremely excited to find some evidence of liquid water, together with the fact that this body has a lot of minerals very interesting for the formation of life. It’s a good combination of chemical compounds that help in forming biological molecules."

De Sanctis and her colleagues analysed high-resolution images of Ceres taken by the Dawn spacecraft, which orbited the dwarf planet between 2015 and 2018, before it ran out of fuel. In its final phase, the spacecraft orbited just 35 kilometres above the surface of Ceres, focusing on the Occator crater.

She and her team were able to identify salt by comparing data, including images and spectral analysis, from the Dawn spacecraft with equivalent analysis of chemicals here on Earth.

Earlier observations of bright deposits on the crater had hinted at the presence of salty water underneath. But the discovery of hydrated sodium chloride provides much stronger evidence of an underground ocean.

Impact fractures on the surface of the Occator crater, analysed in a separate study, suggest the ocean is some 40 kilometres below the surface, although the exact size is unknown. “It’s pretty large,” says De Sanctis, adding that the presence such a large body will certainly have influenced the geology of Ceres, with water coming up from below the surface and bringing minerals with it.

Ralf Jaumann at the Free University of Berlin in Germany says, "The mineralogy is unique and so far not observed on other solar system bodies." Jaumann says these findings demonstrate that even small bodies like Ceres could have water in their interior.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson

A convincing phishing scam is targeting cPanel users with a fake security advisory.

A clever phishing scam is targeting cPanel users with a fake security advisory alerting them of critical vulnerabilities in their web hosting management panel.

cPanel is administrative software commonly installed on shared web hosting services that allow website owners to easily administer their site through a graphical user interface.

Starting last week, cPanel and WebHost Manager (WHM) users began reporting a targeted phishing email campaign with an email subject of "cPanel Urgent Update Request" that was pretending to be a security advisory from the company.

This fake advisory stated that updates had been released to fix "security concerns" in cPanel and WHM software, and recommends all users install the updates.

In addition to a well-worded email with little or no grammar and spelling issues, the threat actors used language commonly found in security advisories.

The attackers registered the domain '' to make the scam appear as an authentic advisory from cPanel and are using Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) to send out the emails.

If a recipient of this phishing email falls for the scam and clicks on the 'Update your cPanel & WHM installations', they were brought to a website that prompted a user to log in with their cPanel credentials.

As this is a well-done and convincing scam, it would not be surprising if some users fell for the scam.

If you received a similar email recently and entered your login credentials at the site, it is strongly suggested that you immediately log in to your web hosting provider and change the password on your account.

You should then perform a complete audit of your site while paying extra attention to the addition of strange PHP files that can be used as backdoors. Also, be sure to examine the website's .htaccess file for changes that automatically inject malicious code into every web page or redirect visitors.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson

A Teenager has spent nearly $20,000 in Twitch donations with their mother's Debit card.

A teenage Twitch viewer sent $19,870 USD to several streamers using his mother’s debit card over the course of two weeks.

The teen’s mother found the charges toward the card between June 14 to June 30, claiming “years of savings” were taken from her account over a two-week period. She says these donations went to popular streamers on the platform.

The mother, who has decided to remain anonymous to protect her family, says that nearly all the money she lost has been credited back to her account. After struggling to contact anyone at Twitch to discuss the issue, the woman successfully received a refund from the streaming site’s paying service Xsolla.

Using the company’s online chat feature, she got adjustment credits on nearly all transactions, but in exchange was told the account is "permanently blocked to prevent future unauthorized charges."

Before contacting Xsolla, however, she attempted to communicate with Amazon and even resorted to sending a registered letter to Twitch CEO Emmett Shear. When all else failed, she tried contacting her bank, but they could only provide further assistance if she was willing to press charges against her son. She found out about Xsolla by discovering other parents online who found success in similar situations.

Although she was able to receive most of her money, she said “hitting a brick wall with Twitch was the most frustrating thing of all. The fact that no one would respond, and there was no way to speak with anyone was horrible,” she said. “That was probably the worst.”

The son is “remorseful,” according to the mother, and is going to counseling. He’s also been limited to one hour of monitored daily playtime “with the stipulation that he must do positive activities throughout the day, get exercise, and interact with the family in a positive manner.”


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson

Google is creating a worldwide, Android phone-powered earthquake alert system.

Google is creating a worldwide, Android phone-powered earthquake alert system.

The first part of that system rolled out Tuesday. If you opt in, the accelerometer in your Android phone will become one data point for an algorithm designed to detect earthquakes. Eventually, that system will automatically send warnings to people who could be impacted.

It’s a feature made possible through Google’s strengths: the staggering numbers of Android phones around the world and clever use of algorithms on big data. As with its collaboration with Apple on exposure tracing and other Android features like car crash detection and emergency location services, it shows that there are untapped ways that smartphones could be used for something important to the community at large.

Google is rolling out the system in small stages. First, Google is partnering with the United States Geological Survey and the California Office of Emergency Services to send the agencies’ earthquake alerts to Android users in that state. Those alerts are generated by the already-existing ShakeAlert system, which uses data generated by traditional seismometers.

Marc Stogaitis, principle Android software engineer at Google says, "It’d be great if there were just seismometer-based systems everywhere that could detect earthquakes. That’s not really practical and it’s unlikely to have global coverage because seismometers are extremely expensive. They have to be constantly maintained, you need a lot of them in an area to really have a good earthquake early warning system."

So the second and third stages of Google’s plan will be powered instead by Android phones. The company is proceeding fairly cautiously, though. In the second stage, Google will show localized results in Google searches for earthquakes based on the data it’s detecting from Android phones. The idea there is that when you feel an earthquake, you’ll go to Google to see if that’s what you felt or not.

An Android phone can become a “mini seismometer” because it has an accelerometer — the thing that detects if you’ve rotated it or not. Android’s system uses the data from that sensor to see if the phone is shaking. It only is on when an Android phone is plugged in and not in use, to preserve battery life.

Once it has more confidence in the accuracy of the system, Google will begin actively sending out earthquake warnings to people who live in areas where there are not seismometer-based warning systems.

Over the long term, Google hopes to create an API based on its earthquake detection system. It doesn’t plan on using this system on iPhones, but if the API comes out then Apple would be free to use it. More interesting, though, is what other systems would benefit from an earthquake detection API.

For example, somebody could build something that automatically stops an elevator at the next floor and opens the door so that people can get out before the wave comes. And you can turn off gas valves automatically, you can have something that stops medical procedures, or open the door to fire stations ahead of time. That’s a common problem in earthquakes where fires are a big deal and firefighters often just can’t get out. So, you can build something that does that. Airplanes can stop landing as they’re doing this, abort their landing. Trains can be slowed down. There’s an entire ecosystem that could be enabled by using this Android-based detection and having it publish server-side so that others can plug into it.

Google’s plan is to minimize false positives and tune the system right away, and users near earthquake fault zones will soon see info in Google searches, and the inevitable roll-out of local notifications.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


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