The Download: Chinese hackers target telecoms, and aviation emissions

The Download: Chinese hackers target telecoms, and aviation emissions thumbnail

The news: Hackers employed by the Chinese government have broken into many major telecommunications companies around the world in a cyberespionage campaign that has been ongoing for at least two years according to a recent advisory from American security agencies.

How it happened: The hackers allegedly broke into their targets by exploiting well-known and critical vulnerabilities in popular networking hardware. Officials in the US said that hackers gained full access to the network traffic of many private companies and government agencies once they gained control of their targets. They didn’t name the people who were affected or explain the impact of the campaign.

What it means: This campaign is a warning about the importance of basic cybersecurity for some the most important networks around the world and a dramatic illustration how software flaws can still pose a threat years later than they were discovered. Read the complete story .

–Patrick Howell O’Neill

The aviation industry can meet its emissions goals, but it needs new fuels to fly first

Reducing carbon emissions from planes will be difficult, but not impossible, according a new report released by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

The report details possible routes for aviation to reduce its carbon emissions enough to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, which is the Paris agreement’s target. It says that about 60% of emissions reductions are projected to come from low-carbon fuels, with the rest coming from efficiencies, and lower demand. Read the complete story .

–Casey Crownhart

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Twitter has agreed to give Elon Musk access to millions of tweets
Which could make it much harder for him to back out of buying the company. (NYT $)
One of Musk’s financiers is linked to a Russian tycoon. (Bloomberg $)
Texas’ decision to probe into Twitter’s fake accounts is a purely political one. (NYT $)

2 How Big Tech’s data hoarding harms us all
And why sharing it wouldn’t hurt them, either. (Time $)
Collective data rights can stop big tech from obliterating privacy. (MIT Technology Review)

3 A start-up has been accused of dispensing ADHD drugs too liberally
Particularly during the pandemic, when regulations around remote prescriptions were relaxed. (WSJ $)

4 Bumpy batteries work better in freezing temperatures
Flat lithium-ion batteries struggle in the cold–changing the shape of its components could be a solution. (New Scientist $)
This startup wants to pack more energy into electric vehicle batteries. (MIT Technology Review)

5 South Korea is investigating the company behind the stablecoin crash
Over claims a worker embezzled its crypto holdings. (FT $)
Workers thinking of pivoting to web3 are having second thoughts. (Vox)

6 Smart windows are an obvious way to save energy
The problem, as ever, is making them affordable enough to go mainstream. (Knowable Magazine)

7 The Caribbean’s hurricane activity is at a historic low
And has been for a surprisingly long time. (Hakai Magazine)
We might have to start naming heat waves the way we do hurricanes. (Axios)
How to keep the power on during hurricanes and heat waves. (MIT Technology Review)
Tracking vibrations could help experts to get ahead of flash floods. (Economist $)

8 Not all NFT art is terrible
It just happens that most of the really famous pieces are. (The Verge)
Bored Apes has been dethroned as the most popular NFT project. (Motherboard)

9 A saxophonist smuggled secrets into the USSR using encrypted musical code
Rendering the information indecipherable to everyone but practiced musicians. (Wired $)

10 It’s time to get over The Current Thing
Our collective ability to forget what we’re outraged by should help. (FT $)

Quote of the day

“There is literally not a computer in that clinic unless I bring my laptop from home in.”

–Mia Raven, director of policy at an abortion clinic in Alabama, tells NBC News she’s stepping up security measures as part of measures to better protect clients, as the risk of Roe being repealed looms.

The big story

Ghost ships, crop circles, and soft gold: A GPS mystery in Shanghai

November 2019

On a sultry summer night in July 2019, the MV Manukai was arriving at the port of Shanghai, near the mouth of the Huangpu River. This would be the American container ship’s last stop in China before it made its long homeward journey to Long Beach.

As the crew carefully maneuvered the 700-foot ship through the world’s busiest port, its captain watched his navigation screens closely. According to the Manukai’s screens another ship was speeding up the same channel at seven knots (eight mph). The AIS display suddenly disappeared and the other ship was gone. The screen showed the other ship at the dock a few minutes later. It was then in the channel again and moving again. Then it was back at the dock, then it was gone again.

Eventually, mystified, the captain picked up his binoculars and scanned the dockside. The other ship was still at the dock all the time. New research and previously undiscovered data have shown that the Manukai and thousands of other vessels are being affected by a mysterious new weapon that can spoof GPS systems in a way that has never been seen before. Read the full story.

Mark Harris

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. Have any other ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me. )

This oompah band cover of Highway to Hell will get your Thursday off to the perfect start (Thanks Allegra! )
Who knew bamboo salt was so interesting?
Riley is an LGBTQ icon after our own hearts.
What it looks like to grow a mango tree from a seed over the course of a year (just don’t expect it to bear fruit any time soon. )
It’s asparagus season–here’s how to cook it to perfection.

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