The Download: cybersecurity’s next act, and mass protests in China

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

What’s next in cybersecurity

In the world of cybersecurity, there is always one certainty: more hacks. That is the unavoidable constant in an industry that will spend an estimated $150 billion worldwide this year without being able, yet again, to actually stop hackers.

This past year has seen Russian government hacks aimed at Ukraine; more ransomware against hospitals and schools—and against whole governments too; a seemingly endless series of costly crypto hacks; and high-profile hacks of companies like Microsoft, Nvidia, and Grand Theft Auto maker Rockstar Games, the last hack allegedly carried out by teenagers.

But while all these types of hacks will continue next year and in the near future, cybersecurity experts don’t believe next year will be all doom and gloom for cybersecurity. Read the full story to find out why.

—Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai

Take a look back over some of this year’s most thought-provoking cyber security stories:

+ Erik Prince wants to sell you a “secure” smartphone that’s too good to be true. MIT Technology Review obtained Prince’s investor presentation for the “RedPill Phone” back in August, which promised more than it could possibly deliver. Read the full story.

+ Hackers linked to China have been targeting human rights groups for years. A hacking group linked to China has spent the last three years targeting human rights organizations, think tanks, news media, and agencies of multiple foreign governments. Read the full story.+ The US military wants to understand the most important software on Earth. Open-source code runs on every computer on the planet—and keeps America’s critical infrastructure going. DARPA is worried about whether it can be trusted. Read the full story.

The must-reads

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

1 Chinese protestors are rejecting zero covid
It’s the widest demonstration of dissent that President Xi Jinping has ever faced. (Economist $)
+ News of the protests on Twitter has been deliberately obscured by pornography. (WP $)
+ Why demonstrators have been holding up blank sheets of paper. (BBC)
+ The protests are nationwide and multi-faceted. (FT $)
+ The protests have dealt Xi’s reputation a hammer blow. (Nikkei Asia)

2 Elon Musk has gone to war with Twitter’s advertisers
It seems a risky way to convince them that the platform is a safe and secure place to spend their money. (FT $)
+ Twitter users who criticize Elon Musk claim they’re being censored. (Insider $)
+ Musk is backing the fact-checking feature that’s corrected his own assertions. (WSJ $)
+ Republicans are gaining a lot of new followers. (WP $)

3 Bitcoin ATMs aren’t getting much use these days
Convenience store owners are increasingly unconvinced they’re worth the hassle. (Bloomberg $)
+ The Bahamian authorities are still investigating FTX. (Reuters)
+ Meet the crypto traders who actually benefited from FTX’s collapse. (The Information $)
+ It’s okay to opt out of the crypto revolution. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Encouraging self-harm online could be criminalized in the UK 
It currently falls into the gray area of ‘legal but harmful.’ (TechCrunch)

5 Cybercrime is sweeping across Africa
The rapid growth in internet connectivity has gifted criminals ample opportunities to scam new victims. (The Guardian)
+ There are plenty of scam emails circulating in the US, too. (Vox)
+ Fake reviews are (still) a huge problem too. (Fast Company $)

6 The high cost of Chinese electric vehicles
Nickel extraction is wreaking havoc on Indonesia’s environment. (Rest of World)
+ Chinese electric cars are becoming easier to buy in the US. (WP $)
+ China is betting big on another gas engine alternative. (MIT Technology Review)

7 What do DALL-E 2 and drug development projects have in common?
They’re both using generative AI. (Fast Company $)

8 It’s getting harder to hear what’s happening on TV
Sound mixing is often made for giant theaters. (WSJ $)

9 Singers are deepfaking their voices
Your favorite new artist could, in fact, be a vocal clone. (Wired $)
+ Inside the strange new world of being a deepfake actor. (MIT Technology Review)
+ A new AI is rendering computer graphics at impressive speeds. (IEEE Spectrum)

10 Deleting your entire inbox isn’t as traumatic as you’d imagine
Some might even recommend it. (The Atlantic $)

Quote of the day

“These kids who came from nowhere have more influence than Mickey Mouse.”

—Eyal Baumel, a strategist for YouTube personalities, explains how the Vashketov family became mega-famous on that platform to the Wall Street Journal.

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The big story

Technology can help us feed the world, if we look beyond profit

December 2020

We won’t easily forget how we worried about food in the first days of the pandemic: empty shelves, scarce products, and widespread hoarding became an alarming reality around the world.

The shock of the virus’s first wave exposed the inner workings of our interconnected system of food creation and delivery—and its weak spots—to many of us who’d never given it a second thought. There may yet be more unpleasant surprises in store. But it’s worth examining how we got to this point, and how to change things for the better. Read the full story.

—Fabio Parasecoli

We can still have nice things

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

+ This fun Twitter account documents the best and worst food available at football (or, if you prefer, soccer) matches around the world.
+ I think it’s high time I tried out the Pomodoro technique.
+ They weren’t kidding when they called it a giant goldfish.
+ Imagine the tunes this bone flute could have played hundreds of years ago.
+ Jumping on a trampoline covered in powder paint is every bit as messy as you’d imagine it’d be.

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