🇨🇳 Hacking threat
Edition 61 of BWG
👋🏻 Hey, friends! Welcome to edition 61 of Basic Web Guy.
I started using the Kagi search engine a few weeks ago and it's now my default. If you haven't checked it out already, I recommend you give it a go!
🇨🇳 China-backed hacking campaigns are a major threat to America's critical infrastructure, say cybersecurity officials.
As political tensions between the two nations have increased, "China has shown a new interest in preparing and launching destructive cyberattacks against U.S. electricity systems, water utilities, military organizations and other critical services," writes Sam Sabin for Axios.
In January, cyber officials warned Congress of the threat, with Jen Easterly, the director of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, saying that "the threat is not theoretical."
"This is a world where a major crisis halfway across the planet could well endanger the lives of Americans here at home — through the disruption of our pipelines, the severing of our telecommunications, the pollution of our water facilities, the crippling of our transportation modes," she added.
Officials point to a Chinese-backed campaign discovered in May 2023 and carried out by hacking group Volt Typhoon as a prime example of the threats the U.S. is facing. According to a report by Reuters, the campaign was a "larger effort to compromise Western critical infrastructure, including naval ports, internet service providers and utilities."
While the FBI and the Justice Department recently received the legal authorization needed to disable the Chinese hacking operation, we may not always be so lucky.
Sabin notes that FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers that "[t]he number of China-backed hackers outnumber the FBI's total cyber and intelligence resources 50 to one."
"The PRC has a bigger hacking program than that of any major nation combined," Wray said, in reference to the People's Republic of China.
The U.S. is largely unprepared for such attacks, which also have to potential to go unnoticed for an extended period of time.
📦 Amazon Prime has been a darling among subscription services over the years, offering two-day (and at times one-day) delivery, access to Prime Video and Music, discounts at Whole Foods Market, and more.
But with the Prime subscription fee increasing to $139 last year and Amazon adding an additional $2.99 Prime Video fee last month to remove ads, some are wondering if Prime is still worth the price. The Wall Street Journal's Nicole Nguyen recently wrote that she decided to end her membership to Prime.
"When I quit, I realized I could get Amazon deliveries free of charge, without a Prime membership," wrote Nguyen. "They just arrive a few days later."
But while some may be considering letting their subscription expire, others may find value in the benefits, despite the higher rates. When speaking with an Amazon spokesperson, Nguyen was told that “members recognize the appeal of Prime’s shopping, savings and entertainment benefits, and we continue to see strong benefit engagement and high renewal rates."
Are you a Prime subscriber? If so, do you find value in the service? Do you plan to renew?
🛍️ In other Amazon news, the e-commerce giant recently launched Rufus, an AI shopping assistant.
Customers will be able to use the assistant via Amazon's mobile app to get product recommendations, search for products, and receive product comparisons. The AI chatbot has been trained on the company's product catalog, reviews, and even information from around the web, according to TechCrunch.
TechCrunch notes that Amazon build a new "internal LLM specialized for shopping to power this experience and then trained it on its data and “publicly available data from across the web.” It did not say if that data included other publicly available retail websites, however."
While the Rufus AI shopping assistant is currently in beta and is available only for certain users, it will roll out to more customers in the coming weeks.
🎧 Shared Spotify accounts are causing panic among friends and family members, according to a Wall Street Journal article, which kept me laughing until the end. 😂
"Couples, family members and friends who have access to each other’s accounts are accidentally—or intentionally—interrupting each other’s listening and throwing off the algorithms that recommend songs and form custom playlists," notes the article.
While I may have found parts of the article entertaining, experiencing this first-hand must be frustrating.
Nate Fakes, a Spotify customer who shares his account with his wife and 8-year-old daughter once had his music interrupted during a gathering with friends when a track featuring only cat meows began to play. 🙀
"I got some funny looks," he told the Journal. "It’s not even music. It’s literal cat sounds." And obviously a favorite of his daughter.
While Spotify does offer both Duo and Family plans for $14.99 and $16.99 a month respectively, many couples and friends still opt to share a single account.
As far as the interruptions and jacked up algorithms go, according to Fakes "It comes with the territory."
🌐💨 Zoom zoom, the web is faster now and Google feels that it's time to say goodbye to cached web pages.
Google's Search Liaison Danny Sullivan recently confirmed the change in a post on X, stating that while cached pages were one of Google's oldest features, "it was meant for helping people access pages when way back, you often couldn't depend on a page loading."
Despite the fact that cached web pages may no longer be needed, saving pages from the internet resulted in the usage of massive amounts of data.
"As the Google web crawler scoured the Internet for new and updated webpages, it would also save a copy of whatever it was seeing," writes Ron Amadeo for Ars Technica. "That quickly led to Google having a backup of basically the entire Internet, using what was probably an uncountable number of petabytes of data." And there are 1,024 terabytes in a petabyte. Wow!
1 fun thing
🛹🏙️ YouTuber Casey Neistat takes Apple's Vision Pro to the streets of New York.
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