Jun 9, 2021 • 11M

🗞️ SCOTUS prevents us from being considered hackers

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Episode details

This week: It’s all about the hackers, baby. SCOTUS makes a huge ruling on America’s biggest hacking law, and Ransomware continues to rise. Plus: Facebook changes its tune on speech from politicians.

🧑‍⚖️ SCOTUS decides anti-hacking case that will apply to almost everyone 

The Supreme Court decided 6-3 that a police officer who misused a work database should be off the hook because he had access to the system. It’s good news for just about anyone who has ever messed around on their work computer.

  • The officer was paid $5,000 by a woman to look up a license plate: The request was part of a sting operation, and he was charged like a hacker, despite having authorized access to the license plate database.

  • The Supreme Court took up the case after a lower court convicted the officer: Judge Amy Coney Barrett authored the ruling that deemed the conviction invalid and narrowed the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the primary hacking law in the U.S. 

  • This was not your typical partisan ruling: The three Trump appointees and the court’s three liberal Justices formed the majority. 

They may have saved us

Ahead of the ruling, Neil Gorsuch said a broad interpretation of the law could have made “a federal criminal of us all.” That’s to say that numerous acts committed on computers and databases unrelated to core job duties could have technically been illegal if the SCOTUS had decided the other way. 

  • Coney Barrett shared a similar sentiment in her ruling, saying prosecutors had overreached and if interpreted broadly could have criminalized “everything from embellishing an online-dating profile to using a pseudonym on Facebook." 

The Verdict 

This is one of the few times you’ll find civil liberties activists on the same side as Coney Barrett.

🤔 Facebook rethinks its policies with politicians, including Trump 

Facebook announced it will stop giving special treatment to politicians last week, but it still punted on a final decision about Trump.

  • Politicians previously had wider latitude to espouse potentially false or dangerous views that would get regular users kicked off the platform: But it decided to change things, in large part because of Trump.

  • Trump was booted after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot: After levying an indefinite suspension, Facebook’s version of the Supreme Court, a neutral arbiter, ruled Facebook had to make a final decision. Last week, Facebook made the decision to suspend Trump for at least another two years. 

So this isn’t really a final decision, then?

No. Facebook will be back to square one in early 2023. But it does mean Trump will be off the platform for the midterm 2022 election and that other politicians will have less wiggle room than before.  

The Verdict

Facebook essentially took the path of least resistance with Trump by punting for two years. Plenty of people will think the social network didn’t go far enough and others will say Facebook had no business banning Trump at all.

💥 The year of the ransomware attack

On Monday the federal government recovered most of the hefty, crypto ransom that had been paid to Russian hackers who targeted the Colonial Pipeline a few weeks ago. 

It’s a reminder that ransomware attacks are on the rise, affecting everything from tech companies to the beef industry.

  • Plenty of factors have led to this: A lot has to do with work from home lifestyles -- protective measures that had been set by I.T. departments no longer hold up. Alternately, people stuck at home have gotten bored and turned to hacking. There’s also crypto. Previously shy hacking groups now know they can be paid off in a way that is difficult to trace. 

  • This is also about Russia: It was a Russian hacking group that went after the Colonial Pipeline and JBS, the food processing company. And U.S. officials say the Russian government may actually be involved. 

What companies should do for protection

To avoid ransomware attacks, experts suggest updating software often and keeping a data backup handy (that way you could replace your system when a virus is uploaded). Hiring an outside consultant is always an easy step, too, if you have the money. 

The Verdict

 Ransomware attacks are up over 100% compared to the first six months of last year. This problem isn’t going away.  

💌What else we’re forwarding

Why tech companies are done paying for millennials: Uber and AirBNB want to make profits. That means the millennials who loved using them may find it harder to afford them.  

Dell gets sued for its marketing: Dude you’re getting a lawsuit. Dell said it had one of the most upgradeable laptops that would save money in the long run; the people who bought it said it was a false claim.

🎧 Music we’re working to

Today we’re listening to Abdou El Omari, a composer, and organist from Morocco. El Omari’s 1970’s work fused traditional Moroccan styles with contemporary funk and psychedelic sounds. He died in 2010 having put out one solo album, Nuits D’Été, but in 2017 a trilogy of Nuits records was released by the Belgian reissue label Radio Martiko. Nuits de Printemps is dedicated to spring and includes much more live percussion. Enjoy!

Nuits de Printemps - Abdou El Omari (40m, momentary vocals on track 5)
Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube Music / Amazon Music 

See ya next week,

🧐 Raad