👍 Mercury Propellant
A new kind of social engineering that hackers won’t shut up about | Space Lawyers! | Meta pay the GOP to make TikTok look bad
Hello future space cadets. Random fact: Thursday was World Backup Day so I really hope you broke the mould and deleted all your files from all devices. You are not a sheep; don’t behave like one.
This week was good! Finally 👍. Please bare in mind that the ‘good’ is only found in one item, but you know, it’s still worth the thumbs up.
Space lawyers are real and they are out there protecting you from toxic space fuel
Facebook are running a campaign to somehow make TikTok look worse than them
The group behind the Okta hack have found a way to impersonate law enforcement and steal data that way, lol
💅 Hacking is 90% social engineering and 8% computers
The other 2% is left over for general flexing. But anyway lets talk a bit about that juicy 90%: new kids on the block LAPSUS$ recently did a big old hack on Okta (an identity management company with many customers), and the main strategy for getting in was to literally convince Okta employees so hand over credentials.
Okay but THIS week it looks like LAPSUS$ are now using their magic skills of persuasion on Big Tech companies by pretending to be law enforcement, and submitting fake emergency data requests. These are like normal data requests (you know, how law enforcement normally get a nice clean backdoor into your social media), except there’s no need to get a subpoena signed by a judge. Rather, you can just scream ‘EMERGENCY’ into a Facebook data centre, and it will open its doors.
Here are some potential takes that you can spew at a party later — I have marked what I think the correct one is:
❌ Hackers should not be masquerading as law enforcement so that they can get their hands on people’s data — that is very naughty of them.
❌ Big Tech companies should be better at spotting fake EDRs.
✅ Even if used ‘legitimately’ EDRs sound problematic as fuck because it feels like you could just use it as a mechanism to get whatever you want without being subject to scrutiny — and this is exactly what the hackers are exploiting right now.
✅ Bonus correct take: perhaps centralising huge heaps of data into siloes ready to be milked by whoever can worm their way in is not a good idea? Maybe we need to spread it out a bit/think of something else??
🚀Ah, space... the next wild west
This week, a very random tweet thread caught my eye. A ‘space lawyer’ celebrated a recent win — and I’m going to tell you about it.
As you may already know, there are big fat space companies out there, like SpaceX, who want to line the Earth with a sheath of satellites that provide better internet connectivity (and probably do other stuff but who cares). Some have been referring to these as ‘mega-constellations’, but I just call them ‘orbit clog’ — it’s easier and more accurate.
Anyway, to get the clog into orbit, you need to propel it somehow. Perhaps with propellant? Yes, the scientists thought of that already. What the scientists didn’t think of is how efficient mercury is as propellant. This left a healthy gap in the market for Apollo Fusion (a silicon valley startup 🙄) to sell mercury thruster tech to SpaceX et al.
✨ ICYMI: mercury is toxic and is an absolutely insane substance to shoot up into our stratosphere on purpose. For this reason, it’s extremely cheap (people generally don’t like toxins), and so both Apollo Fusion and SpaceX were very excited by the prospect of using mercury as jet fuel 💸
Enter the regulators: so, you’d think that putting large amounts of mercury into orbit only to wait for it to fall back down and work its way into our atmosphere would be illegal — but it’s not. Space is #NotACountry so you can’t really govern it. As such, the FCC are only obligated to know what’s going up there so that they can A) check it’s not a weapon and B) do some kind of environmental impact assessment?
Surprise: they don’t actually have to do the environmental assessment...
In this case, the FCC also said they didn’t feel like reviewing the designs of these mercury thrusters — which means they literally had no idea that they contained mercury anyway. The FCC were just going to approve this, and they had no idea what it was. It could have been 10,000 perfect replicas of Jack Nicholson’s butt for all they knew.
This might all sound like we’re doomed to choke on mercury in a few years but remember: at the beginning of this segment I did say that the space lawyer was celebrating a win. After four years of fighting, they managed to get the UN to ban the use of mercury as propellant. So now instead of things getting worse it’s all just staying the same. Good enough!
⚔️ Facebook are ‘downvoting’ TikTok with the hopes that they will become ‘cancelled’ (internet speak)
Today we’re going to end on something quite typical for Horrific/Terrific: a story that illustrates how Facebook’s business is only about persisting and crushing competition.
Meta have a hired a right-wing consulting firm to chuck TikTok in the shitter and flush them into oblivion. All social media is basically trash, so I’m going to side with whichever one has sylvanian family dramas on it (that’s TikTok, babyyyyy).
🍦 Here are some stubborn, unrelenting facts:
Facebook are using this campaign to make it look like horrific Facebook trends actually started with TikTok (e.g. the ‘devious licks’ challenge which you should just google because I will not be explaining it today)
The campaign is touting TikTok as some kind of foreign threat to American children and American values in general. Okay, fine — Facebook is the non-foreign version of that then.
One of the leaked emails from the consulting firm went like this: “Dream would be to get stories with headlines like ‘From dances to danger: how TikTok has become the most harmful social media space for kids,’” (good luck with that).
Ultimately, this is a pathetic and desperate way for Meta to spend money — but not at all a surprising way.
That’s all from me this week. Sorry for being a day late. I am very disorganised and also producing this newsletter technically falls into the category of cheap labour, so...