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Around the World in 80 Hacks

This week Maury Shenk guest hosts the podcast and takes us on a world tour of computer insecurity.

Even with a “phase one” trade deal with China apparently agreed, there’s of course plenty still at stake between China and the US in the tech space. Nate Jones reports on the Chinese government order for government offices to purge foreign software and equipment within three years and the plans of Arm China to develop chips  using “state-approved” cryptography. Nick Weaver and Maury agree that, while there are some technical challenges on this road, there’s a clear Chinese agenda to lose dependency on US suppliers. 

In the Department of Hacking, the aptly-named Plundervolt allows hackers to steal data using the power supply of Intel chips. The immediate hole has been closed, but Nick thinks the hack suggests bigger problems for Intel down the road. We also discuss Apple’s flirtation with the using DMCA to get Twitter to de-tweet an encryption key compromising a less-than-critical aspect of iPhone 11 security, and Maury reporte on an 11th Circuit decision on insurance coverage for losses from spear-phishing.

Maury points out that it’s not just the EU that is going after Big Tech. Amazon’s new-ish Ring subsidiary seems to have scored a couple of own-goals with privacy and security practices for its smart doorbells – Nick explains in detail. And Maury relates the Wall Street Journal report that the FTC is considering seeking an injunction of Facebook app integration, and the big 7.5% tax that Turkey will levy on digital services beginning in March.

Finishing up in the Gulf, we look at a “very big” cyberattack on Iranian banks that the Iranian government claims is state-sponsored. Nate doubts intimations that the US is involved, and we agree that political and commercial motives are difficult to disentangle in this type of attack. Across the Strait of Hormuz, we explore the involvement of former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke in helping the United Arab Emirates build its DREAD (who thought that was a good name?) counterterrorism unit and the policy implications and slippery slope of allowing US expertise to be used for such efforts.

Download the 293rd Episode (mp3).

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About The Author

Stewart Baker

Founded in 1968, Reason is the magazine of free minds and free markets. We produce hard-hitting independent journalism on civil liberties, politics, technology, culture, policy, and commerce. Reason exists outside of the left/right echo chamber. Our goal is to deliver fresh, unbiased information and insights to our readers, viewers, and listeners every day. Visit

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